The bench came alive and the Spurs looked better in the comfy confines of the AT&T Center.
After a difficult four-game road trip that saw the Spurs go 1-3, they finally returned home for six straight games. It was a rough start with the Spurs relinquishing an early 19 point lead to the Warriors in an all-too-familiar scenario, but the Spurs finished the week with wins over the Hornets and Suns thanks to some adjustments and strong bench performances.
Perhaps the biggest development of the week was Patty Mills finally rediscovering his shooting stroke over the last two games after it had gone AWOL to start the season. Maybe moving to the starting line-up lit a new spark under him, but regardless he has brought more scoring and spacing to the starting unit to take some pressure off of LaMarcus Aldridge, while Dejounte Murray can play more freely off the bench.
Speaking of which, Pop has always preferred Mills off the bench to be the spark plug, but Bryn Forbes and Brandon Paul both had break-out games this week while filling in that role. The sophmore guard is looking to prove he’ll belong on the team before his contract becomes guaranteed on January 10 by averaging 17 points off the bench in their two wins. Paul, who scored a career high of 18 and was the lone bright spot in Boston while also contributing 11 points against the Suns, is looking more and more like a classic Spurs find with solid defense and sound decision making.
Things are still far from perfect for the Spurs, and it will continue to be a grind until they’re fully healthy again, but the more the role players step up and the better the bench performs, the easier the wins will come as they patiently await the return of Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, and Joffrey Lauvergne.
Week 3: Maybe the Spurs do need Kawhi Leonard – Injuries start taking a toll on the travel-weary Spurs.
Last week: 2-2 (94-108 @ Celtics, 92-112 vs. Warriors, 108-101 vs. Hornets, 112-95 vs. Suns)
John Schuhmann, NBA.com – 7 (last week: 5)
Their two best offensive performances have come in games in which they’ve assisted on less than half of their buckets, but the Spurs will take the offense any way they can get it as they continue to wait for Kawhi Leonard to make his season debut. Their new starting lineup (with Patty Mills at point guard) has scored 116 points per 100 possessions in its 41 total minutes and was largely responsible for their 31-12 start against Golden State on Thursday and a 34-point third quarter (with Mills shooting 3-for-3 from 3-point range) against Phoenix on Sunday. The Spurs have still seen the league’s biggest drop in effective field goal percentage (from 52.4 percent last season to 47.9 percent this season).
Pace: 98.7 (23) OffRtg: 100.6 (25) DefRtg: 101.9 (12) NetRtg:-1.2 (18)
David Aldridge, NBA.com – 4 (last week: 3)
This is 40.
ESPN Staff – 7 (last week: 3)
The Spurs let a 19-point lead get away from them in their loss to the Warriors on Thursday. San Antonio has lost its past two home games in which it held a 19-point lead and both have come against Golden State. The Spurs were 332-2 prior to those losses in the Gregg Popovich era.
Kenny Ducey, Sports Illustrated – 5 (last week: 4)
They dropped a couple games to good teams, picked up one over a bad team, and then beat the Hornets. Still treading water without Kawhi, the Spurs are doing a fine job in his absence thanks to some contributions from their youngsters. Like this, for example:
Manu, youngster, same thing. Look at that jam!example:
Chris Barnwell, CBS Sports – 10 (last week: 9)
There was some concern about San Antonio for a bit, but after the Warriors blowout, they fended off Charlotte and knocked around the Suns. They don’t appear to be in danger of sinking their season without Kawhi Leonard.
AJ Neuharth-Keusch, USA Today – (N/A) (last week: 5)
Source: Pounding The Rock