It took a while for Tiago Splitter to find his spot with the Spurs. The former Spanish League player of the year had to learn the NBA style of game and how to play next to Tim Duncan. But coming into this year he put it all together, and now provides the size and presence inside the Spurs have lacked the last few years.
So they are going to miss him against the Lakers on Sunday, and maybe for a number of games after that.
Splitter rolled his ankle early in the fourth quarter Friday in the Spurs Game 3 win over the Lakers. He was on the ground, pounding his fist on the floor in pain, and when he got up had to be helped, limping, directly to the locker room. He later left the building on crutches with an air cast around his leg.
After the game Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said it was a sprain but the X-rays were negative. He added Splitter will be out in Game 4 Sunday, later officials said he will likely be out about a week. Expect to see a lot of DeJuan Blair and Matt Bonner. (They will not have Boris Diaw back yet, he is expected to start contact work in practice next week.)
“Like we have done all season, we move things around and guys have to be ready to play,” Tim Duncan said after the game. “Matty and DeJaun have to step up and fill that position for us.”
This is the Spurs, no matter who they plug in it seems to work. And work well.
If the Spurs can close out the series Sunday in Game 4 (and smart money says they will after a 31-point Game 3 win) they will have about a week off in which Splitter can get healthy. Television dictates that most of the series start around the same time and the gams six and sevens of series are set for next weekend. So the second round will not start until then.
And by then, the Spurs could have Splitter back.