Is anyone surprised that Tony Parker is doing this good (20.3 points, 9 assists) early in the season? Probably not. He’s been the best player for the San Antonio Spurs for a few years now. But Tim Duncan? At 36, you’d expect the greatest power forward of all time to take it easier in the regular season, but he’s off to a great start as well, averaging 21 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks per game.
Give Tim Duncan a center like Al Jefferson to play against every night and he’ll put up big numbers with ease. Duncan finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds as the Spurs dominated a team they had no problem with in the playoffs last season. Yes, there was that 24-5 run by the Jazz, led by Mo Williams (29 points) in the third quarter that brought them to a 79-79 tie before the 4th began.
Then Duncan went back to work, the defense intensity went up and the Jazz simply struggled getting shots up. Tony Parker, as expected, was big in the closing minutes, with six points and three assists in the final 5 minutes. He finished with 24 points and 10 assists, as the Spurs didn’t need a last-second shot to win the game for the first time this season, improving to 3-0 for the first time since 2007-2008.
Back to Duncan, who shouldn’t be looking this good at 36. But without the feet injuries that troubled him in the past and a good rest this summer, he’s looking fresh and All-Star good to kick off the season. How long can it last without trimming down his minutes remains to be seen, but he’s moving great on offense and it looks like his aggression and timing on defense, especially with his blocking is at the best that it has been for quite some time.
Again, expect his minutes to start dropping at a certain point; I’m pretty sure the plan is to make him play less than 33-32 minutes a night if possible, but that also means Tiago Splitter needs to start showing a bit more when he’s on the court, instead of matching his point number with the fouls he committed, finishing with 5 each against Utah. The Spurs’ bench added 31 points to the effort, compared with only 15 from the Jazz.
The biggest addition from the bench, emotionally at least, was Manu Ginobili, playing his first NBA game of the season. Can he ever have a campaign without any injury problems? Doubtful, but now he’s back, and he’ll probably be adjusting slowly to pretty much the same team that was here last season, be it as a starter or as a sixth man. For his 2012-2013 debut, Ginobili settled for 16 minutes and 8 points, shooting 4-7 from the field. Not bad for a rusty old man.
NBA starts are deceptive, good and bad. With the Spurs, because this team hardly changed anything from last season, you know where you’re standing. The premise is that it can only get better from here, but the need to give Duncan and even Parker the right amount of rest during the season is equaled by the need for Gary Neal & Tiago Splitter to contribute more while hoping that Manu Ginobili doesn’t miss anymore games.