Gregg Popovich didn’t like the fact that Tony Parker was sitting alone at home, nursing a bad ankle. So he gave Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili the night off, which didn’t really stop the San Antonio Spurs from beating the Golden State Warriors 104-102, as Tiago Splitter made the crucial tip in, a borderline goaltending violation, with only 2.1 seconds left.
A possession earlier Stephen Curry knocked down yet another three pointer, one of his six in the night, to tie the game at 102-102. The Warriors went looking for him instead of a wide open David Lee on the inbound pass after Splitter’s basket. The Spurs had two players all over Curry, who made a desperation shot that wasn’t even close to going when it should have.
The win for the Spurs is a perfect example of just how well this team is coached. There’s a system, before anything, and it caters to the abilities of the players. With Parker and Ginobili it’s obviously going to take into consideration their abilities in one on one situation, or the post up play of Tim Duncan. Without them? Nothing wrong. Great ball movement, great spacing, great screens. Result? The Spurs did turn the ball over 19 times, but they also hit 11 3-pointers and simply give players like Kawhi Leonard and Marco Belinelli the chance to show their offensive chops.
Belinelli finished with a team high 28 points off the bench, hitting 4-of-8 from beyond the arc. Patty Mills scored 20 points and Kawhi Leonard had 21, as a lineup that included Boris Diaw and Aron Baynes in it was good enough to beat the disappointing Warriors who fall to 14-13. Mills was one of three Australians on the floor when the game began (Andre Bogut and Baynes being the others), a first in an NBA game.
San Antonio was 1-2 last season when Duncan, Ginobili and Parker all didn’t play, including a loss to the Warriors late in the regular season. However, Golden State are missing something. it was Andre Iguodala until a few days ago, but clearly something about this team isn’t OK, or how they expected it to be at this point of the season. Stephen Curry had a 30-15 night, but needed 28 shots to get there. David Lee had 32 points and 13 rebounds, but that comes at the cost of some awful defense, with Iguodala still not playing at full strength like before his injury.
So while the Warriors try and think about what’s missing (defense, and Jermaine O’Neal off the bench is one way to go), the Spurs just carry on like nothing is wrong. The rest to their key players might cost Popovich some money, but he’ll live with that if it means his trio is rested for more important games.