Tiago Splitter proudly passed his 7-month-old son Benjamin around the locker room after Wednesday’s 103-82 victory over Memphis.
Cradling an infant provided a stark contrast from his responsibilities over the previous few hours, in which he outperformed a player who puts the “power” in power forward.
Not only did Splitter score one fewer point than the rugged Zach Randolph (10 to 11), he had almost twice as many rebounds (nine to five). Splitter’s work helped the Spurs stave off an early onslaught on the glass to eventually outboard Memphis 33-32.
“He brings it,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Splitter. “He plays hard. He plays smart. Just a wonderful competitor, and I thought he did a pretty good job against a fantastic player.”
It was a clear triumph for the Spurs, who haven’t always been able to match up with Memphis physically in recent years, particularly their loss in the first round of the 2011 playoffs.
Splitter hardly played in that series, but the Brazilian’s role has changed drastically since. He’s now solidly entrenched as the starter at power forward, where he continues to provide efficient scoring while improving on defense.
Such was the case Wednesday, when he helped bother Randolph into a 4-for-11 night while converting 5 of 6 shots. More important was his work on the boards, where he led all players.
Randolph typically averages 11.7 per game — second only to Dwight Howard’s 12.6 — but he had less than half that against the Spurs, with none on the offensive end.
“That was a big key, don’t let him grab all the offensive rebounds and don’t let him be comfortable on the court,” Splitter said. Diaw on prowl:?
Reserve forward Boris Diaw didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary about his play Wednesday.
Not until he was told that he’d scored 14 points on 10 shots, an unusual display of aggression from a player typically content to facilitate for teammates.
“That’s a lot of shots,” said Diaw, who averages 3.9 shots per game. “I guess they left me open a lot.”
Even more startling was that 12 of Diaw’s points came in the second quarter alone, during which he sank 6 of 7 shots while the Spurs made 16 of 20. Eyeing 60:
With 30 victories in their first 41 games, the Spurs are on pace to win 60 games for the fourth time in the Tim Duncan era and fifth overall. Time to clean up:
Two days of practice made all the difference in the world for the Spurs, who had only 13 turnovers Wednesday after committing 74 in their previous four games. Spurs Nation