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Old 11-04-10, 10:08 AM
Eddy from Austin's Avatar
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Notes on a scorecard: RJ finally playing like Spurs always thought he would

Notes on a scorecard: RJ finally playing like Spurs always thought he would
Posted on November 4, 2010 by Tim Griffin

Richard Jefferson is looking like the biggest bargain in the NBA.

The rest of the NBA had their shot at Jefferson over the summer after he opted out of his contract with the Spurs. But considering his struggling play last season, no team was willing to provide his contract demands and he ended up back in San Antonio.

After four games, Jefferson has been the most consistent San Antonio player this season. His four fourth-quarter 3-point shots were the difference in the Spurs’ 110-106 victory over Phoenix, boosting him to a game-high 28 points.

The Spurs had 23 turnovers and it wasn’t the most artistic of performances, but Gregg Popovich won’t be too choosy. And neither will Jefferson, who had never beaten the Suns during a trip back to his hometown in his previous 10-season NBA career.

Wednesday’s game was one to remember for Jefferson, who is playing like a potential NBA comeback player of the year winner after the first week of the season. He hit all six of his field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter. And for the season, he’s averaging 20.0 points on 65 percent shooting through four games.

It’s still early. But Jefferson’s confidence in the offense is clearly a huge plus for San Antonio. He adds a fourth scoring element to the “Big Three” of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili that will be critical in matching up with teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami, Chicago or Boston.

But it’s what the Spurs expected when they signed him.

Here are few other observations after watching the Spurs win in Phoenix for the first time since Jan. 29, 2009, snapping a four-game losing streak to Planet Orange lingering from last season.

• San Antonio’s offensive balance was really impressive throughout the game. The Big Three accounted for most of the offense damage in the first half, with Ginobili being particularly big. Duncan was huge in the third quarter. Jefferson’s outside barrage catapulted them to the lead in the fourth quarter. And typically salty San Antonio halfcourt defense salted away the victory down the stretch.

• It was a vintage night for Duncan, who didn’t look like he was 34 years old – at least on offense. Duncan produced 25 points, 16 rebounds and three blocked shots on an impressive 11-of-13 shooting night. He hit six straight shots in the third quarter to get San Antonio moving, pushing him past George Gervin with 20,710 points – second-most in the franchise’s NBA history behind David Robinson.

• The Spurs found a way to win despite committing 23 turnovers. That’s usually a recipe for disaster on the road. But the Spurs were able to persevere down the stretch because of their sizzling fourth-quarter perimeter game and strong defense at the end. After missing eight of their first 10 3-pointers, the Spurs hit their final five from behind the arc, all in the final 6:59 of the game.

• The secret to San Antonio’s previous four championships has been lockdown defense. This group hasn’t played like that so far this season, allowing opponents to shoot 49.8 percent coming into the game. But it seemed like old times late in the game as the Spurs forced Phoenix to miss eight consecutive shots at one point to claim the comeback victory. For the game, Phoenix hit 44.6 percent from the field – San Antonio’s best defensive performance of the season.

• Tiago Splitter played in 15 minutes and got his most substantial playing time of the season, even teaming up with Duncan in the ballyhooed “Twin Towers” configuration for several minutes. Splitter showed strong fundamental rebounding skills, getting to the right place to attract three offensive rebounds and establish position that led to Phoenix fouls. Splitter finished with seven points, although two of his shots were blocked as he went to the hoop.

• Antonio McDyess got the key minutes down the stretch as Popovich turned the game over to his most veteran player. And McDyess delivered with nine points, seven rebounds and three assists in 27 solid minutes.

• DeJuan Blair snapped out of his offensive funk to score a couple of baskets during a span of about 2 ½ minutes midway through the third quarter. But after his struggles earlier this season, it might be his way of climbing out of the slump. Here are some numbers to consider. When the contributions of McDyess, Splitter and Blair are added together, the Spurs received 20 points and 17 rebounds from that position. Add that with Duncan’s 25 points and 17 rebounds and the Spurs got a big boost from their bigs.

• Ginobili carried the team offensive with 15 points in the first half, but deferred to San Antonio’s inside game in the second half. He still had a solid 18 points and five assists, but struggled at times when Phoenix’s backcourt was operating at peak efficiency.

• I liked what I saw from rookie guard James Anderson, who hit a big 3-pointer and had a nice steal and layup on defense. It’s a learning process for him, but it was notable that Popovich turned to him for 23 minutes without George Hill in the lineup.

• Phoenix really seemed to miss Amar’e Stoudemire in its offense. Stat was a scoring and rebounding machine against the Spurs last season and throughout his career. It was noticeable when Steve Nash was looking for entry passes into the lane to cutting centers. Unfortunately for Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry, players like Hakim Warrick and Robin Lopez aren’t close to Stoudemire. This Suns could struggle to make the playoffs as they try to compensate for the loss of their leading scorer and rebounder from last season – especially when they shoot in the mid-40s in field-goal percentage like on Wednesday night.

• The best indicator that the Suns are having trouble on offense could be seen in the 22 shots that Nash took. When Phoenix is most effective, the other players are involved in the offense and Nash is piling up the assists. He finished with 19 points, six rebounds and seven assists, but something seemed to be missing when he was running the team late in the fourth quarter.

• Spur nemesis Goran Dragic picked up where he left off during last season’s playoffs when he torched San Antonio for eight points and eight assists in less than 16 minutes. I’m wondering if Gentry might be willing to play Nash and Dragic at the same time and move Jason Richardson to the small forward. I know it would give them extreme defensive liabilities, but that’s Phoenix, isn’t it? It clearly would be their most effective offensive lineup.
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Old 11-04-10, 11:53 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2003
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Someone on FSSW said something that actually made sense. :shocked

They noticed last season RJ would say "The Spurs played well". This season he is saying "WE Played well". I suppose he didn't feel like he was a Spur last season.

This is a HUGE development, mentally, for him.
No Asterisks in this life, it's all about scoreboard - Ari Gold
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Old 11-04-10, 12:25 PM
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My blog about series
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