After 24 minutes of decent offensive execution with poor finishing, the Spurs’ third quarter was an explosion of contrasts. San Antonio’s inexplicable misses were made right again, and so were some of their lower quality looks, for that matter. The Spurs just went to that happy place, where every three-pointer is accompanied by candy raining from the sky, and each swift cutter left behind them the scent of freshly baked cinnamon buns. SanAn won’t be able to tap into this kind of nirvana on a nightly basis, but this is what the Spurs are capable of when the five on the floor start harmonizing.
It didn’t matter who hit the hardwood for San Antonio; Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Matt Bonner, Manu Ginobili, George Hill, Richard Jefferson, Antonio McDyess, Gary Neal…everyone clad in black, white, and silver just got it. We should expect nothing less from the Spurs after all this time, but this was a special combination of pitch-perfect execution and elite offensive talent, the latter of which has eluded the Spurs at times, even at the height of their powers.
It may not have even been the best third quarter of the night — New Orleans put on a hell of a show — but consider this your regular reminder that the Spurs are not only damn capable, but damn talented. They established an offensive rhythm in the first half even while they struggled to put up points, and when the time was right, it all came together, and the result was a nice 109.6 points per 100 possessions. There’s no question that when San Antonio has the capability to produce a run like this, they’re super-quasi-demi-contenders.
They push the pace when it’s appropriate (which is more often than longstanding Spurs fans might be used to), but more importantly, they continue to grind out teams with their ball movement in half-court sets. With the ball swinging and the right players making the right moves, it’s no surprise that San Antonio went off in the third. It’s just a bit shocking that it didn’t happen sooner.
San Antonio outscored Chicago 37-12 in that pivotal third frame, and though the Bulls would eventually make things interesting at times in the fourth, the Spurs coasted. They lived off the momentum they had gained a quarter earlier, and found sustenance in their rhythm and lead
But focusing too much on the third quarter (and the Spurs, for that matter) does a great disservice to what was a sturdy offensive outing by the Bulls. Derrick Rose taking 27 shots shouldn’t be a part of anyone’s game plan, but he was attacking the San Antonio defense in all the right places. Rose still steps into those long two-point jumpers more than he should, but on a night where he balanced long — but open — twos with an array of drives and floaters, I can hardly lambast him for trying to take this game over.
You can’t throw the ball down to Joakim Noah against Tim Duncan, even though he had a productive night to finish with 10 and 14. Luol Deng scored 18 points, but shot just 6-of-17 along the way. Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer gave the Bulls some nice play off the bench, but neither is a go-to option in any regard. No other Bull was creating quality shots, and many of Rose’s teammates (I’m looking at you, Taj Gibson) couldn’t even finish a few of their spoon-fed buckets. Rose did what he had to do, and though that led to satchel-full of field goal attempts and four turnovers, he wasn’t given all that many alternatives to a hero act.
The game itself may not have been as entertaining as some of the night’s other contests, but the message here is important. The Spurs executed defensively as they are ought to do, but they won this game with a deluge rather than their typical maelstrom. San Antonio may be a step removed from some of the league’s truly elite squads, but they can do it all, even when faced with a tough start against a quality team. San Antonio is still San Antonio, but their offensive potency in games like these should make us all wonder if they’re capable of being something more.