If the San Antonio Spurs were worried that their 17-3 start to the season, their best record after 20 games since opening the 2007-08 season with an identical mark, might allow complacency to creep into their game, Wednesday's win over the Golden State Warriors might ease their concerns some.
It's not that the Warriors were some big test, but it was a loss to the Warriors after the 17-3 start in 2007 that triggered a skid in which the Spurs lost four of five. It quickly knocked some shine off the fast start.
Now that the pesky Warriors are behind them, the Spurs, now an NBA-best 18-3, need just two wins in the next four games to match the best 25-game start in franchise history. And the Spurs play three of their next four at home, starting with the Atlanta on Friday.
"In basketball, you're going to have ups and downs," Spurs guard George Hill said. "We can't just go to sleep now just because we have one of the best records."
Of course, the Spurs' Southwest Division rival Dallas Mavericks is doing a good job keeping San Antonio alert. The Mavs head into Thursday's game against New Jersey riding a 10-game win streak and just one game back in the standings.
SPURS 111, WARRIORS 94: The best three-point shooting team in the NBA kept it going Wednesday, making 12-of-26 (46.2 percent) with five players making at least two, led by George Hill's 3-of-4. Hill (17 points) was one of six Spurs to score in double-figures. Tony Parker led the way with 19 points and nine assists. DeJuan Blair had 15 points and 13 rebounds. Richard Jefferson had 10 points and Manu Ginobili had 12. San Antonio jumped out to a 10-point lead after the first quarter with 29 points and led by as many as 19 in the fourth quarter.
This is getting ridiculous and embarrassing for the Golden State Warriors. Their loss Wednesday night at San Antonio was their 27th in a row on the Spurs' homecourt. The last time Golden State won in San Antonio was nearly 13 years ago on Feb. 14, 1997. Overall in the series, the Spurs won for the 10th consecutive time. The Spurs move onto the next streak, a 12-game home win streak against Friday's opponent, the Atlanta Hawks.
Apparently the Spurs didn't like getting burned three consecutive times last season by Warriors guard Monta Ellis. The high-scoring guard put up 42, 39 and 35 points in the three games last season. But, after two games this season, his combined point total hasn't matched any one of those previous games. Last month, in Oakland, Ellis had one of his worst games of the season, scoring just 12 points on 6-of-16 shooting. Wednesday night in San Antonio, Ellis was ice-cold, just 7-of-24 from the field, for 19 points.
F Tim Duncan scored eight points against the Warriors on Wednesday night on 4-of-7 shooting. It's not much of a stat line, but the Spurs simply didn't need much from their big man, who played just under 18 minutes. That's a victory in itself for Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who is looking for any way possible to keep Duncan's minutes down to keep him fresh when April and May roll around. What's eye-popping, however, is that Duncan has now scored in single figures in eight games this season and is averaging 14.0 points a game, seven points below his career average.
G George Hill is heating up nicely. His 17-point game Wednesday night made it 10 games in a row in which he's scored in double-figures. Over his last seven games, Hill is averaging 16.0 points a game off the bench, which has pushed his scoring average into double-digit territory at 11.0 points a game.
C DeJuan Blair took advantage of the small-ball Warriors inside Wednesday, notching his third double-double of the season. Blair finished with 15 points, one off his season high, and a season-high 13 rebounds. He also racked up three of the Spurs' 10 steals in the game. Blair is also slowly raising his shooting percentage. It's getting closer to 44 percent, aided by his last four games in which he's made 14-of-21 shots.
G/F James Anderson suffered a stress fracture in his right foot on Nov. 10 and is expected to miss two months.
San Antonio's starting five of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Richard Jefferson, DeJuan Blair, and Tim Duncan have started every game this season, another advantage over the Blazers. They make liberal use of their bench to preserve their veterans. Guard George Hill and center/forward Matt Bonner lead the way but the Spurs regularly play 10 guys more than 15 minutes per. You can't get to them just by getting their starters to the pines. You have to attack with your second unit as much as your first.
San Antonio shoots a healthy 47% from the field and scores an even healthier 107 per game. They're near 80% from the foul line and right at 41% from the arc. There's nothing they can't do offensively. Duncan and Blair are good offensive rebounders. Everybody chips in on the defensive boards. The difference from years past is that the Spurs are mediocre defensively, sometimes downright bad defending the perimeter. They allow more fast breaks and points in the paint than they did in their heyday. Forcing turnovers and the aforementioned defensive rebounding are the only things to recommend their defense so far this year.
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