Spurs Roundup: Finding answers to the big stretch-run questions

Spurs Roundup: Finding answers to the big stretch-run questions

Credit: Dan Oshinsky / KENS 5

It's time for Tim Duncan and the Spurs to make their annual drive toward the playoffs.

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by Dan Oshinsky / KENS 5

kens5.com

Posted on March 3, 2010 at 12:16 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 25 at 8:38 AM

Inside this edition of the Spurs Roundup:

  • Farewell to thee, Michael Finley!
  • Sit courtside with David Robinson!
  • And when dunking on trampolines goes wrong!


But first:

I am sorry, because I do not have the answer to one key question just yet.

For 18 weeks, I've been writing this weekly Spurs Roundup. But in 18 weeks, I've failed to answer the simplest question about the 2009-10 edition of the San Antonio Spurs:

Are these guys any good?

We're 58 games into the season, and I feel like Donald Rumsfeld, whose June 6, 2002, Q&A at NATO headquarters seems oddly pertinent:

"There are no 'knowns.' There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know. So when we do the best we can and we pull all this information together, and we then say well that's basically what we see as the situation, that is really only the known knowns and the known unknowns. And each year, we discover a few more of those unknown unknowns.

"It sounds like a riddle. It isn't a riddle. It is a very serious, important matter."

I couldn't agree more with the former Secretary of Defense. So while I can't answer you the ultimate question, I can bring you the answers to a three key questions for this stretch run:

What happened to Matt Bonner?

For San Antonio's red-haired sharpshooter, Dec. 19, 2009, was the day everything changed.

That day, in a win over the Pacers, Bonner broke his hand. In the previous 23 games, he'd tallied double-digit minutes. He'd been a key part of the Spurs' rotation.

Bonner returned a month later, but he hasn't seen nearly as much playing time since. He tallied twice as many minutes against New Orleans on Monday (20:55 total) as he had in the previous three games combined. Since Februrary, he's played fewer than eight minutes six times.

The reason for Bonner's limited playing time: he's a three-point specialist who isn't shooting very well right now. In November, he shot 52 percent from three. In February, he shot 35.3 percent.

As long as his three-point shooting percentage stays below his career average (40.7 percent), expect Bonner's playing time to be limited.

Now that Tony Parker's healthy, what happens to George Hill?

Tony Parker's missed a few games over the last month due to a strained hip flexor, but now he's back to full strength. The potential loser: George Hill, who's having an excellent, under-the-radar campaign for the Spurs.

His numbers are much improved from his rookie campaign. Notably, he's shooting 6 percent better from the field and 5 percent better from three-point range. He's also improved as a point guard (he's dished out more assists this year than he did in 77 games last year).

But are the Spurs better with Hill on the floor?

The answer: sometimes.

Take Monday's game against the Hornets. In 44 minutes of play, Hill had one of his best games of the year (23 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists). When he was on the floor, the Spurs were +13.

In Parker's 28 minutes, the Spurs were only +1.

Of course, against Phoenix, the Spurs were +15 with Parker on the floor and -5 with Hill. (That's also a rarity: usually, when a team wins, players finish with a plus rating.) Over the last 10 games, Hill's plus/minus rating has been mostly positive.

Hill still deserves plenty of minutes, and the experienced gained as a starter during Parker's brief absence will make him a better player down the stretch.

Is Manu making a comeback?

If you look at plus/minus, the answer is a definitive 'yes.'

Let's look at the last 10 games:

Spurs 106, Hornets 92
Ginobili: +15 (led all Spurs)

Spurs 113, Suns 110
Ginobili: -1

Rockets 109, Spurs 104
Ginobili: +13

Spurs 95, Thunder 87
Ginobili: +9

Pistons 109, Spurs 101
Ginobili: +7 (led all Spurs)

76ers 106, Spurs 94
Ginobili: +2

Spurs 90, Pacers 87
Ginobili: -2

Spurs 111, Nuggets 92
Ginobili: +16 (led all Spurs)

Lakers 101, Spurs 89
Ginobili: -10 (worst among all Spurs)

Spurs 98, Clippers 81
Ginobili: +6

The overall picture: of late, when Ginobili is on the floor, the Spurs are a better team -- even in losses.

PLAYOFF WATCH

The Spurs are through the initial fire of the home stretch, and now they're getting into a nine-game stretch that looks good for Gregg Popovich and co. Here's the slate:

vs. New Orleans
at Memphis
at Cleveland
vs. New York
at Minnesota
vs. L.A Clippers
at Miami
at Orlando
vs. Golden State

The stretch breaks into three categories:

  • The Unwinnables: at Cleveland, at Orlando
  • The Suddenly-not-as-tough games: at Miami (the Heat are just 12-14 vs. the Western conference)
  • The Should-Be-Winnables: all the rest.

The Roundup's prediction: the Spurs need to go at least 6-3 to stay in this playoff race.


FAREWELL, MR. FINLEY

Our Joe Reinagel had an interesting take on Michael Finley, who was waived by the Spurs this week. (Expect the Boston Celtics to go after Finley.)

I don't have much to say about Finley, so I'll let Texas' own Willie Nelson share a few thoughts instead.


 

 

DUNK FAILURES

A warning to all: do not dunk on trampolines at NBA games. This is why.

SIT COURTSIDE WITH DAVID ROBINSON

David Robinson's offering you a chance to sit courtside with him at Friday's game. 48 Minutes of Hell talked to him about the offer and his academy. To donate and enter to win the seats, click here. And hurry: the offer closes Wednesday afternoon.

The Roundup is a weekly look at Spurs basketball and the NBA. Dan Oshinsky is a digital media producer at KENS 5. He can be reached at doshinsky@kens5.com.

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