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Game #58: Bobcats @ Spurs — Convo w/ 48 MOH + 1-on-3

Who: San Antonio Spurs vs Charlotte Bobcats

What: NBA Basketball – Spurs Home Game

When: 8:30 PM ET

Where: Live at AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX

The Matchup:

Record Offensive
San Antonio 41-16 107.3 (6) 100.7 (5) 96.7 (14)
Charlotte 27-30 99.3 (25) 100.8 (6) 95.3 (21)


San Antonio: Tony Parker (OUT)
Charlotte: Brendan Haywood (OUT), Jeffery Taylor (OUT)

Starting Lineups

Spurs Bobcats
PG Cory Joshep Kemba Walker
SG Danny Green Gerald Henderson
SF Kawhi Leonard Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
PF Tiago Splitter Josh McRoberts
C Tim Duncan Al Jefferson
6th Man Manu Ginobili Gary Neal

3-on-3 TrueHoop NetworkToday’s preview is going to be a treat for everyone. Andrew McNeill, from 48MinutesOfHell.com and myself had an awesome conversation earlier on about tonight’s matchup and everything that’s been going on with the Bobcats and Spurs. This is some good stuff and I hope everyone enjoys it.

Our trusty QCH expert Greg Pietras also answers three vital questions leading into tonight’s tough road test in San Antonio.

Andrew:  So first and foremost for Spurs fans, how’s Gary Neal doing? Seems like he’s, at the very least, in a better situation than he was in Milwaukee.

me (Spencer):  There’s no question that he’s in a better place. He wasn’t happy in Milwaukee – not only did he make that known within the locker room there, but his play on the court made it loud-and-clear as well. Bobcats fans are very hopeful that he’ll bring an offensive boost to this roster and assist in the playoff push. Tonight will be his debut wearing a Charlotte uniform.

Andrew:  That’s good for Gary. Even though he could be considered slightly moody during his time in San Antonio, he was a well-liked person within the community. I never saw him re-signing with the team, and that’s worked out even better than I expected, but I think everyone wanted the best for him.

Now last time the Spurs and Bobcats played, Charlotte got out to a good start, forced a lot of Spurs turnovers, and San Antonio slowly chipped away and won the game. What went wrong?

 me:  Patty Mills happened. And you just don’t go over that scenario in the scouting report. I don’t anticipate that being a repeat occurrence tonight in San Antonio, but now the Spurs are on their home floor, and that obviously makes a huge difference.

Andrew:  Never underestimate Patty Mills.When I write the retrospective of this season “Patty Mills Happened” might be the subtitle.The 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs.

me:  That being said, Charlotte is on a  six-day break, so it’ll be interesting to see how that affects the team tonight. Could be a positive, could be a negative.

me: Hahaha. The guy can fill it up- there’s no question about that. There’s also that other guy named Gary Neal – he couldn’t ask for a better debut for his new team than against his former team of three years.

Andrew:  Oh, absolutely. Neal’s departure from San Antonio is one of the major reasons Mills is having the season he is. I don’t want to downplay the work Patty did in the offseason, including shedding a lot of excess weight, but the Spurs’ second unit needs a guy who can get off a shot, no questions asked. For a few years that was Gary, now that he’s gone Patrick Thrills has filled that void.

Let’s talk Kemba Walker. He’s on my fantasy team, but admittedly that means I probably still don’t keep up with him. How is his season going? How close is he to making “the leap,” and is that even possible?

me:  Look, Australia’s finest. Period. I’m admittedly a closet Patty Mills fan.

me:  Kemba has been fantastic this season. Having Al Jefferson around has really helped, taken scoring pressure off of him and significantly opened up the floor. On post-entries, the two have become very fun to watch with the combo of Kemba’s speed on cuts and Jefferson’s overall basketball IQ. Overall, Kemba has begun to come into his own for the past two seasons, but he’s proved this season just how efficient he can be with another big time piece next to him — he’s sporting a 17.50 PER this season.

me:  Andrew, have the Spurs been able to stay healthy this season? Update Charlotte on what the team looks like from an injury standpoint currently?

Andrew:  HAHAHAHA. Although, this is about the healthiest the Spurs have been in 2014.

Kawhi Leonard returned on Wednesday against the Pistons and looked good. Manu Ginobili hasn’t re-injured himself in anyway, although he did put a spectacular hurting on his shoe against Detroit.

me:  What’s the story with Tony Parker?

Andrew:  Tony Parker is close to returning to the lineup, but I doubt he’ll be available against the Bobcats. Basically, Parker hasn’t stopped playing basketball since the summer of 2012. He played all last season as the Spurs made a Finals run into late June. Then he went and led France to the Eurobasket title, got a couple of weeks off and then training camp started for this season’s Spurs.

He’s now squarely on the wrong side of 30, which is now making me fear my mortality, and injuries are going to happen for him. He needed a few days/weeks to get some rest, heal some bumps and bruises and refresh mentally.

Otherwise, it’s as healthy as San Antonio has been since New Year’s.

me:  Good stuff. I’d argue with anyone that Tony Parker is the smartest basketball player that I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching at the age of 26.

me:  Andrew, do you think that the Spurs have the best depth of any roster in the NBA? It’s so tough to play against a team that has 4-5 guys that can all come off the bench and get 15+ points on any given night – you guys have that.

Andrew:  I think it’s reasonable to say that the Spurs are the deepest team in the league. Although, sometimes I wonder whether San Antonio is really that deep of a team, or if the system is so strong and dialed in that Gregg Popovich can throw in anybody for a night and still be competitive. It’s a chicken or the egg thing. But, that being said, it’s hard to question the results. The Spurs win a lot of games that they shouldn’t because they can play anybody 1-15 for solid minutes at any given moment.

Here’s something I’ve been wondering. The Bobcats have Al Jefferson, right? He plays 34 minutes a night, correct? How in the hell is Charlotte the sixth best defense in the league?

me:  I could not agree more about the system and what Coach Pop breeds with any given body in San Antonio. He’s got the formula – there’s no negating that.

Yes and yes Andrew. Two words – Steve Clifford.

me:  He’s a Thibs disciple and has had the Bobcats playing as connected as any team in the NBA, defensively, all season long. Charlotte plays defense in a stance, on their toes and are always in the perfect athletic position to close out on shooters. I coach basketball, so that’s my coaching way to tell you that this is a team of mediocre defenders who have bought into a system – see, defense is an effort thing, for the most part.

It doesn’t hurt when you add a lockdown wing defender like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to the mix.

Andrew:  Right. And it’s the same personnel, for the most part, as it’s been in the last couple of years, right?

me:  And to really answer your question, Clifford hides Jefferson on pick-and-roll situations mainly – he sags low on most of PnR’s and Charlotte will help from the wings by being extra wary of gap defense.

Yes, that’s correct. Goes to show you how much coaching philosophy really matters.

Andrew: I need one random prediction from you for tonight’s game. Something that has nothing to do with the final score.

me:  Kemba goes for 30+. Typically, he’s good on extra rest and this is a statement game for a Charlotte team that’s currently on a four-game winning streak + grinding through a tough stretch of the schedule.
And yourself, Andrew?

Andrew:  Ah, the tables have turned.

Andrew:  My random prediction is that Tim Duncan and Al Jefferson will combine for at least 25 rebounds, but the cumulative height that they jump during the game is less than five feet.

1- Three weeks ago the Patty Mills show eventually put away the Bobcats in Charlotte, but it’s safe to say that San Antonio won’t have that to lean on again tonight. Charlotte’s 6th ranked defense will need a stingy performance tonight against the Spurs 6th ranked offense. How can the Bobcats limit San Antonio offensively tonight?

Greg: The Spurs thrive close to the basket, shooting 64.3 percent within five feet, good for third in the NBA. They still lean on the corner three as well, though the league has mostly caught up to them on that one. That mostly plays to the Bobcats’ strengths, as they’ve been good in both areas. While opponents hit a healthy 39.9 percent from the corners against Charlotte, they’ve done well at limiting those attempts. If they can lock down one area and force more mid-range jumpers and low-efficiency shots, they’ll be competitive in this one.

2- Gary Neal will make his Bobcats debut tonight against his former team that he played three seasons + in an NBA Finals with. I’d say you can’t ask for much better of a debut than that. Being said, what can we expect from Neal tonight?

Greg: I’m not expecting a ton right off the bat — maybe 15-20 minutes and 10 or so points. The starters have been the real strength of the team, and Clifford could use them a little more heavily tonight to get this road trip started off well. As this brutal stretch four-game stretch goes on, though, I’d expect Neal to earn solid minutes both as bench relief and as one more shooting option next to the starters. While I don’t think Neal himself is going to have a huge individual impact, the lineup flexibility he’ll bring could improve the team as a whole. Just having a reliable bench scorer and spacer would help, too.

3- PICK IT. Charlotte begins a brutal four-game stretch tonight. Do they get off on the right foot?

Greg: I think they have a better shot of winning tonight than they do against OKC, Miami or Indiana. Their extended rest should have given them time to incorporate the new pieces into the offense, and prep a few new wrinkles for San Antonio to worry about. I still think the Spurs win, but I think it’ll be another competitive game.

There’s a half-empty/half-full way to look at the upcoming stretch: On the one hand, they’re 0-7 against those four teams this year. But aside from two ugly, early-season losses to Miami and Indiana, they’ve been very competitive. Since Dec. 1, they have a four-point loss to the Spurs, a four-point loss against the Thunder, a five-point defeat from Indiana, and dropped a one-point squeaker and an overtime game to the Heat. That’s an average margin of defeat of 4.4 points, which is relatively encouraging considering those are the league’s top teams.

Maybe it’s setting the bar low, but even competing against the NBA’s cream is a big step up for this team. If they can go 1-3 over the next few games, it’ll be a big victory.