Originally posted March 13, 2017
The Austin Spurs rolled into the 6 for an early March break tip-off (12 noon EST) against the Raptors 905 at the Air Canada Centre. Yours truly was there in press row to take in all the action. Welcome to the very first "not your traditional game recap" here on Spurs in the 6 - not your typical basketball blog.
Having previously covered the D-League Showcase (day one& two) with media credentials with the help of Project Spurs/ Spurs on Sixth, this was my first time with media credentialsfor Spurs in the 6, I was very excited.After getting my bearings and finding the media room, I tracked down a seat on the media court side row with the help of some helpful and friendly Raptors 905 staff. So far, so good.Speaking of the media room, it was located right next to the room the Spurs were using as their dressing room. After typing up my pre-game notes, I passed Patricio Garino on the trainers table getting his ankle tapped. This struck me as microcosm of the D-League road to the NBA (can you picture NBA players in a semi-public area as the media walks by). After settling into my seat and connecting with the power bar for my laptop and phone, I couldn’t help but notice some Spurs fans in the stands. I went over to introduce myself and met another Torontonian who has been a Spurs fan since the David Robinson and Sean Elliot years. We had a nice chat and traded Spurs stories. Spurs fans are everywhere (and are also awesome people)!
The first quarter got off to a quick start with Jakob Poeltl (on assignment from the Toronto Raptors) overwhelming Garino for the first bucket of the game followed by Cory Jefferson countering with a very nice turn around jumper. Jefferson was active to start the game,including a nice looking triple from the top of the key. Jefferson faded over the course of the game, finishing with 13 points and 4 boards on 6-14 shooting. Poeltl was also very active early on, clearly establishing himself as the best player (i.e., most NBA ready) on the court. Coach Ken McDonaldtook his first timeout after Poeltl’s third basket to try to cool him down. Pascal Siakkam, also on assignment from the Raptors, started the game along side Poeltl, but Poeltl was the more aggressive of the two and clearly looked more comfortable on the court (at least to me). Half way through the first, it looked like a summer league game with both teams flying up and down the court whilst (never thought I would use that word in a basketball post) throwing the play book out the window.Shortly after the summer league appearance, Coach McDonald tried to slow things down by going inside to his bigs. Jefferson responded with a strong move to the basketball that he finished with a (very) soft left hand. Check out the move around the 3:45 minute mark in the first quarter via Facebook game feed. It was even more impressive in person.The Spurs ran a solid set out of a timeout to get Livio Jean-Charleshis first basket of the game. A basket from a set play out of a time-out, because Spurs.One of the 905's D-League all-stars, Edy Tavares, did not check in until the 1:32 mark and only ended up playing 5:40 minutes for the entire game. I’m not sure if this was because of the presence of Siakam and Poeltl, match-ups, a nagging injury or all of the above.Whenever Ryan Arcidiaconowas off the floor, the Spurs struggled to get into their sets. When the 905 forced an 8 second violation, Coach McDonald was forced to respond by bringing Arcidiacono back into the game.With about a minute and change to go in the first, Jean-Charles registered his first block of the game, and it was a monster one (again, check out the game feed).Coach McDonald gives 110% out there on the court - one example: he was on top of the Spurs foul situation and was out of his seating shouting “one to give, one to give” as the clock ticked down to end the quarter.Speaking of which, 29-27 for the 905 after one with Poeltl leading the way.
After staring the quarter with a turnover, Coach McDonald immediately turned to the bench and signalled for Arcidiacono to get back in the game - can you spot a reoccurring pattern here?On that note, Jeff Ledbetter was inactive and on the bench in street clothes, not sure what the story is there (will have to catch up on my injury updates)...?Continuing his strong defensive play, Jean-Charles swatted two shots in the same sequence which seemed to spark the Spurs as they surged to a 6 point lead resulting in a 905 timeout with 8:44 to go.Sticking with Jean-Charles, he had an up and down game on the offensive end today. He finished with 15 points on 7-12 shooting. However, he still has a lot of room for improvement/development. In one sequence, he posted up and took three powers dribbles trying to back down his defender - his defender held his ground and did not move an inch, this is not optimal.On a related note, if you could combine Charles Garcia and Jean-Charles into one player, I'm convinced you would have an NBA level talent for sure. As the clock hit 12:45pm, there were still a lot of empty seats in the stands (more on this later). Orlando Johnson got a lot of run in the first half, but had a rough time going 1-7 in 20:14 minutes on the court. Yikes! This season (or a least when Bryn Forbes and/or Dejounte Murray are not on assignment), the Austin Spurs are an inside out team - they simply do not have anyone who can can consistently breakdown the defence and create easy shots for his teammates (spoiler alert: foreshadowing for the second half).At the half, the 905 led the Spurs 54-48.
Things went downhill for the visitors to start the second half.The highlight of the quarter for the Spurs would have to be another block by Jean-Charles that led to a slam by Garino at the other end.Brady Heslip, who was 3-4 from deep in the first half, continued his hot shooting in the second half. At one point Coach McDonald implored his players to stick with Heslip on D: “don’t leave him, don’t leave him period.” It didn’t work. Heslip finished with 33 points on 8-9shooting from deep.Once the Spurs start to fall behind, as they did in third quarter, they simply do not have enough offence firepower to get them back in the game.One of the loudest cheers of the games was for the t-shirt toss between the third and the fourth quarter, *sigh*.90-67 in favour of the home team after three.
As the ball was inbounded to start the fourth, I was interested to see whether the Spurs would pack it in or continue to compete. The Spurs did not give up. That being said, their first points of the quarter did not come until a pair of free throws by Daniel Nwaeleleat the 8:33 mark so you can imagine how things went.Coach McDonald used multiple timeouts during the quarter after defensive breakdowns, presumably to get some coaching momentsin.The attendance was announced at 18,099, a new D-League record. This number is consistent with the Ticketmaster sales leading up to the game (there were only small blocks of tickets available). That said, there were still a noticeable number of empty seats in the building - a number of people must have opted to stay home.Poeltl had a monster block with 5:12 to go in the fourth.The Spurs were flat for most the second half, perhaps the best indicator of this were the second chance points which were 24-7 in favour of the 905 until late in the fourth when the Spurs closed the gap to 24-17.Even though the Spurs were behind by a lot, they still executed set plays out of time outs, the last one freeing Maurice Boldenfor a nice bucket with 2:20 to go in the game.
From the Coach's Mouth
"They played some pretty good basketball this year." - Jerry Stackhouse on the 905 play in the third quarter."A coach is probably not suppose to have favourites, but he is my favourite." - Jerry Stackhouse on E.J. Singler. "What can you say about Brady... Brady is Brady, you know what I'm saying." - Jerry Stackhouse on Brady Heslip's 33 point performance."We didn't have much going on either end to be honest today." Ken McDonald when asked about the Spurs play in the third quarter. "The message today was just we're not playing our brand of basketball period, I don't care what the score is, let's go out and try to play hard on the defensive end and play as a team on the offensive end." Ken McDonald on the Spurs approach to the fourth quarter.
Jerry Stackhouse rocks a mean pocket square. Darn microphones were covering it post game.I would really like to see Jefferson play in an NBA game. As was evident in his D-League All-Star game appearance, he does not have a flashy game where he can always find his own shot. It strikes me that his skill set would shine more in a team environment, hitting threes of the ball and rolling to the open spot on the court.For an excellent write-up of the game from a Raptors 905 perspective check out Blake Murphy's article over on Raptors Republic.Jean-Charles had a block party once again, with five rejections during the game. If you haven't already done so, check out Michael De Leon's great articleon Spurs on Sixth that talks about Jean-Charles seven block game last week and his continuing push toward the NBA.Let's end on a positive note by reliving rejection (the Jean-Charles way) - Spurs in the 6, signing off.