Sometimes it really is as simple as it looks.
The extra pass, ball movement, check the egos at the door, place the team above individual accolades, etc., etc. That’s the way the San Antonio Spurs do it with coach Gregg Popovich and veterans like Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.
In the Spurs’ 109-85 victory over the Sixers on Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay), it was all right there for everyone to see. The Spurs didn’t just run a clinic on Monday night, they did it especially for the 76ers as if to send a message …
This is how it’s done.
“That’s the Spurs and that’s what we aspire to get to,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said.
Brown should understand it more than most. After all, his only other gig in the NBA was with the Spurs when he spent 12 years learning from Popovich the way an NBA team is best run. It’s a lesson he’s been trying to pass on to his young team as the Sixers begin the sometime painful lessons in a rebuilding season.
So as the Spurs went on surges to build leads of 18 points in the first quarter and 29 points in the third quarter, Brown could say to his team, “See, that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”
“What you saw was the extremes of a team that has been together and move the ball and shared the ball and moved freely versus a team that became static and stagnant and tried to do it individually and really had no rhythm to what we were doing,” Brown said.
“It’s played the right way. Everyone talks about play the right way. What does that mean? To me it means you share the ball. As simple as a concept as that is, it’s really hard at any level because you get egos involved and other factors are involved. Its impact is far reaching to other aspects of the game. That’s the essence of offense -- sharing it.”
Actually, the Sixers weren’t as awful as the final score indicated. They committed just 15 turnovers and four of them were by big man Spencer Hawes. The Sixers also continued to get buckets in the paint, pouring in 52 points from up close. The Sixers blocked nine shots and did a decent job at keeping the Spurs off the offensive glass.
Plus, Evan Turner scored 20 points for the seventh time in eight games while Hawes notched his fifth double-double of the season with 17 points and 13 boards.
There was some good stuff for the Sixers in the loss. Sometimes a team just goes up against a buzzsaw, even with future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan taking the night off.
“They have so many ways to beat you, and the chemistry is unbelievable,” Hawes said. “Even without [Duncan] in there, they have so many weapons.”
In a season that will go down as one big learning experience, Monday’s loss to the Spurs might end up hitting harder than most games. After all, Brown brought along the Spurs’ offense and ethic when he was hired for the Sixers’ job and likely won’t have to explain too much in the postgame film session.
It was all right there in streaks of black and silver racing up and down the court.
“The biggest thing we took from tonight from seeing it first hand was the unselfishness on both ends of the floor,” Hawes said. “They sell out for each other on defense and they get excited when they make the extra pass. Whenever we play the Spurs it seems like they only shoot threes and layups.
“We run the same offense. But look at how they did it and how we did it.”
They also run opposing players ragged. Though the Spurs were playing the second game of a back-to-back, rookie Michael Carter-Williams struggled to keep up with Parker. But it wasn’t like Carter-Williams was too slow or far out of position.
The Spurs just move the ball that fast.
“They throw the extra pass and it’s really hard to cover,” Carter-Williams said after his 2-for-11 shooting night.
And it isn’t just the offense for the Spurs, either. The Sixers shot 41 percent from the floor in the loss, marking the second time this season they failed to shoot at least 47 percent.
But as Brown explained, the Spurs’ offense spreads to all aspects of the game. The Sixers struggled to get out on the break and when stuck in a half-court offense, they didn’t get much ball movement.
“It spills over into many areas and facets of the game where the ball sticks and people don’t get touches. It’s deflating,” Brown said. “Then you go back to the other end and the ball is moving and you have to chase them around and it’s like ping-pong. They make the passes and they find the right people and they can shoot. It’s what we aspire to get to. That’s what we saw.”
The lessons learned in the loss to the Spurs will be put to the test on Wednesday night when the Sixers host the Houston Rockets. After that, the team hits the road for its first extended streak of the season with games in Atlanta, New Orleans and Dallas.