Houston Rockets vs. San Antonio Spurs: Grading San Antonio Spurs' Performance
The Spurs did not look good defensively or on the boards, and just about the only part of their team in midseason form was Gregg Popovich, who trolled Craig Sager as only Pop can do.
San Antonio shot 35-of-88 in the game, just 40 percent, despite shooting a very respectable 7-of-18 from three-point range.
San Antonio elected to sit Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili against Houston, using a big and unconventional starting lineup of Tony Parker, Danny Green, Boris Diaw, Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter.
James Harden gashed the Spurs' defense for 22 points and 11 assists in just under 30 minutes of work, and a hot shooting third quarter from Houston ultimately proved to be the difference in the contest.
Facing a significant deficit, Popovich pulled his starters during the third quarter and the game turned into a battle of the benches for much of the second half.
The Spurs ended their preseason at 3-4, but don't worry, Popovich likely will not lose much sleep over it as San Antonio prepares for its season opener at home against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Point Guard: Tony Parker, C+
Parker logged just over 20 minutes against Houston as San Antonio opted to rest their starters down the stretch of this exhibition matchup.
Parker had a nice stretch shooting mid-range jumpers off of pick-and-rolls with Duncan in the third quarter, but by and large had a quiet night against the Rockets.
He posted eight points, three rebounds and four assists against one turnover on 3-of-5 shooting. He also finished with a plus-minus rating of minus-six.
Parker spent the offseason competing in Eurobasket with the French National Team, averaging 19 points and 3.3 assists, so it's not as if he really had time to develop much rust from the Spurs' Finals run.
His defense didn't look great and he did not go the rim quite as much as he is capable of, but Parker was clearly trying to conserve his body for what should be another long San Antonio season.
Shooting Guard: Danny Green, B-
Green hoisted 13 shots in just under 25 minutes, mixing his usual barrage of spot-up threes with some off the dribble work that is not quite his strong suit.
Green finished the game with 12 points, two rebounds, an assist and two steals while making 5-of-13 shots overall and 2-of-6 from beyond the arc.
With Ginobili and Leonard out Green had more opportunities on the offensive end, and though he did a decent job starting at the 2, Green did not look like the player who nearly became the most surprising NBA Finals MVP pick in league history.
Now that Gary Neal is a Milwaukee Buck and Ginobili is a year older Green will have to shoulder more of the scoring load, and that means he will need to improve his off the bounce game and become more than just a catch-and-shoot guard.
Green also did not do a great job defensively on Harden, who carved up the Spurs defense and was able to create shots for his teammates, get to the charity stripe and launch open jumpers.
This was not a horrendous performance for Green, he finished with a plus-minus ranking of plus-four, but the Spurs will need more out of him going forward if they hope to make another run at the title.
Small Forward: Boris Diaw, B+
The most memorable part of Diaw's night was his absurd travel in which he threw the ball straight up in the air. It practically looked like a self alley-oop.
Still, the big man managed to do a nice job of sharing the ball and scoring when he was asked to.
Diaw notched seven points, three boards, five assists and two steals in 27 minutes of work. He shot the ball just four times and managed to convert his only attempt from three-point range.
Diaw logged the most minutes of any San Antonio starter and remained in the game after Houston's run to provide some veteran presence and ball-handling. Despite his size Diaw is a crafty playmaker and showed that with his passing against the Rockets.
He had one particularly nice behind-the-back pass to Green in the corner that the guard simply failed to convert.
Diaw likely will not see huge minutes at the 3 during the regular season, but he's a key piece of the Spurs' rotation with Duncan's minutes once again being closely monitored.
If Diaw can play like this for much of the season then he should retain his role as the team's first big off the bench.
He finished with a plus-minus of minus-11, but that is not entirely Diaw's fault.
Power Forward: Tim Duncan, D
Duncan had a rough night against Houston, looking out of rhythm offensively and failing to make much of a positive impact in the contest.
He played 23 minutes and finished with six points, eight rebounds, one assist and one block but shot just 2-of-12 from the field.
Duncan, who sat much of the second half, could not find the touch on his jumper and was not able to take advantage of any opportunities in the post.
He was also not particularly careful with the ball, throwing one horrendously lazy pass in the third quarter that was easily picked off by Harden. The Big Fundamental finished with four turnovers in the game.
Duncan was solid on the glass, but he had trouble containing Dwight Howard and Omer Asik, who combined for 22 boards.
He also had trouble guarding the post against Howard, who shot 7-of-10 and finished with 15 points.
Duncan finished the game with a plus-minus rating of minus-five.
At this point in his career the preseason is meaningless for Duncan, he keeps himself in impeccable shape and knows that the NBA season is a marathon not a sprint.
While this performance was not particularly inspiring it is not a cause for concern as the 37-year-old big should find his rhythm on both ends as the season goes on.
Center: Tiago Splitter, C-
Splitter played a mere 18 minutes and made very little contribution, tallying seven points, five rebounds, two assists and a steal but shooting just 3-of-7 from the field.
Splitter struggled in his matchup with Howard, failing to keep the big man off the boards. Howard did commit four turnovers, but Splitter largely looked overmatched against the All-Star on both ends of the court.
The Spurs will need Splitter to step up in the regular season once more as they transition out of the Big Three era. He took a leap during the 2012-13 campaign after emerging as the starting center but was incapable of staying on the court against the Miami Heat in the Finals.
Splitter is an athletic big man with a decent offensive game featuring a nice floater and some decent post moves, but he failed to get anything going over Howard on the block and was not much of a factor defensively.
He finished the game with a plus-minus of minus-six and was essentially a non-factor in this contest.
The Spurs' bench showed some signs of life, going on a mini-run in the fourth quarter to tighten up the game thanks to the play of Aron Baynes, Marco Belinelli and Patty Mills.
Baynes looked like a monster finishing at the rim off of pick-and-rolls and ended the game with 16 points on 8-of-13 shooting with six rebounds.
He's still working on his finishing ability and his understanding of help defense, but Baynes looked good in 21 minutes of work and could be one of the most improved players on the Spurs' roster.
Belinelli, who got the start in the second half for Green, hit a number of tough jumpers and provided the Spurs with some instant offense. He finished with 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting in 20 minutes on the court.
Patty Mills drilled a couple three-pointers but was a little too shot-happy on his way to a 3-of-9 shooting night. The Australian wound up with eight points, four rebounds and six assists though, contributing in other ways and proving he could be in line to take some of Cory Joseph's minutes, who struggled mightily in this game.
San Antonio's bench has always been one of its strong suits and this unit once again looks like it will be able to score and hold leads, although it has a ways to go defensively.