By Sean Kennedy
San Antonio 113, Philadelphia 91
I think one of the reasons a portion of the NBA fan base is turned off by the Spurs is the machine-like way their organization operates. Sure, they have their handful of hall-of-famers who are always around, but the rest of the pieces always come across as entirely interchangeable; you can shuttle nearly anyone in off the street and they’ll be making the extra pass and hitting corner threes in no time. Still, you have to admire the beautifully orchestrated system San Antonio has in place, perfectly illustrated by the night Austin Daye had against the Sixers.
The Spurs recently acquired Austin Daye in a trade that received nothing more than a collective shrug around NBA circles. Languishing on the Toronto bench all season, Daye’s season-high going into Monday night was a lofty 6 points. With Tony Parker, Danny Green, and Tiago Splitter all being sat to rest a variety of minor ailments (let’s face it, if San Antonio was playing Oklahoma City, those guys all take the court), Daye received by far his most playing time of the season and made the most of the opportunity. Daye went off for a game-high 22 points on 6-10 shooting from behind the arc, and was pivotal in a 19-0 Spurs run spanning the end of the first and beginning of the second quarter. That run gave San Antonio the big advantage they would never look back from on their way to a 14th straight victory and the 25th straight loss for the Sixers. Hopefully, Brett Brown can eventually bring a fraction of the structure to the Sixers that his mentor Pop has ingrained in San Antonio after all these years.
Of course, one guy that was actually on the scouting report going into the game was Spurs big man Tim Duncan and he did not disappoint. Duncan found every soft spot in the Sixers defense (of which there were many) on his way to 19 points on 9-12 shooting in just 23 minutes. Not only was Duncan terrorizing the Sixers on the court, but he did damage to the announcing team as well, crumbling up the notes of old pal Malik Rose at the scorer’s table. Philadelphia was just not equipped to deal with the efficiency of the Spurs offense; the Sixers were so concerned with defensive assignments on the wings that on two separate occasions, Kawhi Leonard and Patty Mills were just able to go to the basket completely unimpeded while bringing the ball up. The entire game was an example of San Antonio playing a game of three-dimensional chess while the Sixers were still learning the difference between the red and black pieces in checkers.
While the Sixers two main players struggled from the floor, as Thad Young and Michael Carter-Williams each led the team with 17 points, but on combined 12-40 shooting, Philadelphia did receive some scoring bunch from a couple guys off the bench. Byron Mullens was able to take advantage of Tim Duncan hanging back in the lane defensively, hitting 3 threes on his way to 15 points. Elliot Williams also broke out for 14 points on 6-7 shooting, but before we go lauding the contributions from these guys, let’s recognize that the Spurs bench unit made a couple huge runs against the Sixers’ second-group that was basically the difference in the game. The Sixers will have one final chance Thursday in Houston to avoid tying the worst losing streak in NBA history; I don’t see them avoiding that distinction.
- The announcing team noted during the broadcast that Henry Sims had become the first Sixer with back-to-back games of 8 offensive rebounds since Charles Barkley in 1991. Last night, the big man showed off a different part of his game, recording a team-high 7 assists as he operated effectively as the pivot man from the high post. The more we see of Sims, the more there is to like, and the team may have found a big man to keep around, even in times when they start winning games again.
- For as well as the Spurs played all game long, there was one moment early on when they definitely showed their age. On the fast break, Manu Ginobili tried to throw down a tomahawk dunk but was firmly rejected by the front of the rim. Manu, you’ve had a rejuvenated campaign this season but you might be getting a little too long in the tooth for that sort of throw-down; maybe just go in for the lay-up and leave the tomahawks on the old highlight reels.
The Sixers never quite rolled over and brought the deficit back to 10 points in the third quarter, but it still wasn’t the type of effort you might have hoped for given the absence of Parker and a couple other key Spurs. Guys like Austin Daye shouldn’t look like superstars and a couple nice shooting nights from Sixers bench players won’t change the bad taste left in the mouth from that poor defensive effort. In the big picture, Milwaukee lost yet again and the Sixers are still separated by 2 games from the Bucks. If Philadelphia loses over 30 straight games and still can’t finish with the worst overall record, that would be truly tragic. 3/5 tanks.