Well, that was a fun way to start a season. Going up against the New Orleans Hornets, a squad that seemingly always gives San Antonio a tough battle, the Spurs climbed out of an early hole and coasted to 113-96 victory. Most of the success came in the middle two quarters that saw the Spurs put 69 points on the board.
The run that iced the game came early. With the Spurs down 10-4, Manu Ginobili entered the game and helped spark a 25-3 run that basically ended the contest in the first half. The Hornets made a few small runs in the final two periods, however they were quickly snuffed out by the home team's rabid attack.
As for New Orleans, they look like a team at a crossroads. While their team is talented, the Hornets lack the cohesiveness and chemistry they exhibited a few seasons ago. Obviously, there is a lot of time for the Hornets to figure it all out but it wouldn't be hugely surprising to see their train derail.
All in all, the Spurs and their fans have to be extremely happy with how the season began. A lot of players performed well and despite the domination, there was still a lot of room for improvement.
22:23 minutes, nine points, 12 rebounds, three assists
4-for-8 from the field, 1-for-2 at the line
After a season in which his knees let him down as the campaign wore on, Tim Duncan was back for a new year with a new knee brace. He seemed to be moving well laterally and he illustrated a healthy amount of quickness, however his jumping ability looked to be lacking a bit. I'm not sure whether it was the brace restricting his movement or simply Duncan being cautious -- but obviously Spurs fans should hope it was the latter. Regarding his actual play, Duncan put in good work. He rebounded very well, made good passes and had a few aggressive moves in the post. It'll be very interesting to watch his health early on in the season and see if he can physically take it to another level when the situation calls for it.
23:34 minutes, 16 points, four assists
5-for-11 from the field, 2-for-4 on three-pointers, 4-for-7 at the line
During preseason, Manu Ginobili spent most of his playing time mired in unevenness. But once the bright lights of the regular season were turned on, Ginobili looked like his old self. He came out firing and putting his creativity on full display. I was very impressed from what I saw. Ginobili looked strong, confident and played hard on both ends of the court. He still can get in better shape but the best news is that he looks healthy and still can play basketball at an elite level.
26:17 minutes, 17 points, six assists
6-for-9 from the field, 5-for-5 at the line
Tony Parker quietly set the tone for the Spurs. He came out of the gates making the extra pass and not forcing the issue. In fact, his first shot of the season didn't come until halfway through the second quarter. Parker wasn't totally sharp offensively but he seemed to get better and better as the game progressed. With so much talent on this year's team, it'll likely take Parker some time to adjust to figuring out when and where he needs to pick up the scoring slack. Defensively, he wasn't spectacular but he did a good job of not letting Chris Paul cause too much havoc in the lane. Instead, Parker turned Paul mostly into a jumpshooter.
24:26 minutes, five points, five assists, four rebounds
1-for-7 from the field, 0-for-2 on three-pointers, 3-for-4 at the line
Richard Jefferson is still in the process of easing himself into San Antonio's system. He didn't shoot well and seemed to hesitate even when open but there were definitely glimpses of how he'll eventually help. His defense was mostly solid, he rebounded and, most surprisingly, he authored a number of very good passes. The Spurs will need him to become more demonstrative offensively as the season goes along but it's a good sign that Jefferson seems very willing to fill whatever role is deemed necessary.
20:41 minutes, 10 points, two assists
4-for-6 from the field, 2-for-4 on three-pointers
A member of the starting lineup, Michael Finley looks like the same player we saw last season. If anything, he appears to be in even better shape. He's getting great lift on his jumper and the confidence he showed in the preseason translated to the first regular season contest. He had a few forgettable plays defensively but overall it is difficult to be unhappy with how Finley played.
28:52 minutes, 11 points, three rebounds, two assists
4-for-9 from the field, 3-for-6 on three-pointers
Matt Bonner remains the starter at center -- at least for the time being -- and actually did quite well. His shooting stretched the floor and allowed for those around him to create. His dribble moves toward the basket were improved and his defense remains deceptively solid. There will likely come a point in which Bonner moves to a bench role but in Game 1 of 82, he was an asset in the starting lineup.
18:02 minutes, nine points, three rebound
4-for-5 from the field, 1-for-1 at the line
It didn't take long for the world to see why the Spurs went out and signed Antonio McDyess this past offseason. In the first half, he had nine points and three rebounds while looking like a perfect fit in the system. His jumper from long range will come in handy and his hustle and smart play allows him to be in the right spot at the right time. Once he completely learns his responsibilities on both ends of the court, McDyess is destined to become a vital cog in the engine of the 2009-10 Spurs.
Roger Mason, Jr.
22:23 minutes, 11 points, three rebounds
5-for-11 from the field, 1-for-5 on three-pointers
For the second straight season, Roger Mason, Jr. shook off a sub par preseason with an impressive showing in the first real game. Mason wasn't afraid to let it fly offensively and he appeared to be more engaged defensively than we saw last year. He continues to run some of the halfcourt sets -- with varying levels of success. As the team's sixth perimeter player on the depth chart as it stands, will Mason be able to carve out a consistent role? We'll find out. So far, so good.
21:43 minutes, nine points, four assists, two rebounds
4-for-7 from the field, 1-for-1 on three-pointers
Playing strictly as the team's backup point guard, George Hill began his sophomore season off on the right foot. He was aggressive both offensively and defensively. He got the team into its sets on time. He even made a number of quality passes and showed other signs of being able to fully convert to the point guard position.
22:33 minutes, 14 points, 11 rebounds, three assists
7-for-10 from the field
The excitement around DeJuan Blair continues to grow -- and for good reason. After exceeding all expectations in preseason, Blair came out and was a beast in his first true NBA action. A number of positive attributes stand out when watching Blair play including his touch around the basket, his much talked about rebounding prowess, his underrating passing ability and his fantastic feel for the game. There's just no denying that he's an immensely talented player who could make a major impact on a championship contending team right away. That said, he has a lot of room to improve defensively. The Hornets had much success attacking him in pick-and-roll situations and he also had trouble defending the rim. But with how well he can rebound, how well he can score and how much energy he provides right out of the box, there's no question that his positive outweigh his negatives -- even in the infancy of his NBA career.
You just had to smile when Gregg Popovich ignored conventional wisdom to begin the season. After last season's playoff failure, a lot of the blame was aimed at Michael Finley and Matt Bonner being forced into starting roles. What does Pop do to begin this season? Start Finley and Bonner, of course. As for the rest of the rotation, there weren't many surprises, though it was great to see Pop trust DeJuan Blair so much right out of the gates. Hopefully Pop gives Blair a lot of time to learn during the regular season so that he's ready to produce in the postseason. Living through the unavoidable ups and downs with Blair this season will likely go down as Pop's biggest challenge during the next 81 games.
After scoring only nine points in the game's first eight minutes, the Spurs exploded for 104 points in the final 40 minutes. Considering the many new parts, the offense was surprisingly sharp. Players were making the extra pass and wasted possessions were rare. For the game, the Spurs shot 52.3% from the field and hit 9-of-24 three-pointers and 14-of-20 from the line. San Antonio also had 29 assists and only ten turnovers.
It was a tale of two halves on the defensive end. In the first two quarters, the Spurs played above average defense. They pressured well out on the perimeter and closed off the lane against penetration. However, in the second half, the Spurs were very poor on the defensive end. They allowed the Hornets to score 57 points and shoot over 60% from the field in the third and fourth. The intensity dropped, the transition defense lagged and the basket wasn't protected. In fact, the Spurs finished the contest without a blocked shot and forced only ten turnovers. On the night, the Hornets shot 50% from the field and hit half of their ten three-point attempts. Thankfully, the offense was clicking and the Spurs were able to do fine work on the boards, outrebounding the Hornets 42-33. It wasn't horrible defensive performance overall but there is still a lot of work to be done on that end of the court.
Drive to Five
One down and everything is rosy in Spurs Nation. Let's hope that the team can stay healthy, keep improving and continue integrating the promising new parts. Next up is a quick trip to Chicago to take on the Bulls. A road win on the second night of a back-to-back would definitely keep the positive energy flowing in the right direction.