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Monday, October 09, 2006

San Antonio Spurs Defeat Maccabi Tel Aviv, 97-84

The San Antonio Spurs built a 24 point second half lead and cruised to a 97-84 victory over perennial Euro League power Maccabi Tel Aviv in an NBA Europe Live Tour game played in Paris, France. Tony Parker enjoyed returning to his native land, leading the Spurs with 27 points on 10-16 field goal shooting and 7-7 free throw accuracy. He added five assists, four rebounds and two steals, showing no ill effects from the broken finger that prevented him from playing for France's national team in the FIBA World Championships. Tim Duncan had 15 points and 11 rebounds. Jaime Arnold led Maccabi with 15 points and Nikola Vujcic added 14.

Maccabi actually started two American players--Will Bynum and Rodney Buford--while the Spurs started three non-Americans--Parker, Manu Ginobili and Fabricio Oberto. The Spurs took command of the game from the opening tip, racing to a 16-4 lead. Duncan had eight of those points and was very active on defense, swatting or altering several shots and then corralling the rebounds. After Maccabi scored to end the Spurs' initial run San Antonio delivered an 8-0 burst to go up 24-6. By the end of the quarter, the Spurs led 34-17, with Duncan scoring 11 points.

The Spurs went to their bench in the second quarter and did not score for five minutes, enabling Maccabi to get within nine, 35-26. Parker's floater at the 6:59 mark began another Spurs run, quickly followed by a Francisco Elson fast break dunk off of a Parker feed and another Parker drive, putting the Spurs up 41-26. The Spurs led 48-32 at halftime, with Parker scoring 17 points.

The Spurs extended their lead to 58-36 early in the third quarter and then Parker provided a moment of (unintentional) levity. He got the ball on a one-on-none fast break and decided to dunk. Unfortunately, his legs did not get the message, providing insufficient lift, and the rim blocked his attempt. Parker atoned for his gaffe on the very next possession by nailing a jumper. NBA TV commentator Chris Carrino noted that he had wondered if Parker can dunk and Jim Sparnarkel quipped, "We still don't know." San Antonio enjoyed a 74-52 lead at the end of the third quarter.

Duncan and Parker sat out the start of the fourth quarter and Maccabi made some inroads. Vujcic put on a mini-highlight show, firing a pass between Elson's legs to hit a cutting Arnold for a layup, delivering a nice interior pass and displaying some nifty post up moves plus the ability to knock down the face up jumper. Duncan and Parker returned midway through the quarter but did not seem to have quite the intensity that they showed at the start of the game. Maccabi made the final score a bit more presentable but the outcome was never in doubt from the opening minutes of the game. San Antonio shot 51% from the field and had commanding advantages in fast break points (17-2) and points in the paint (56-40).

Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich made some interesting comments in the postgame press conference. Asked if he thought that any of the Euro League teams would be good enough to qualify for the NBA playoffs, he said that he had "no idea" and that anything he would say in that regard would be "speculation." He complimented the talented players and coaches on the Euro League teams and said that it is "fantastic" to compete against them. Is the NBA Europe Live Tour a good thing for NBA teams to participate in during training camp? Popovich acknowledged that some teams may not like the rigors of international travel but "I think there is a definite benefit in the sense that it is a great chance for camaraderie and for a team to get to know each other away from home." He added, "I think it pays dividends down the road." What about the NBA and FIBA getting together and devising one set of rules that both would use? Popovich is all for it: "It would be better if everyone understood the rules and was used to them when they played each other." He mentioned that Maccabi has added some players and recently changed coaches and suggested that these factors, plus the hybrid rules employed in the game, gave the Spurs an advantage over Maccabi. He did not explain, nor did anyone ask, why the rules were not advantageous for the 76ers and the Clippers, each of whom lost one game on the Tour, but one could surmise that the answer lies in the fact that those teams do not have the continuity that the Spurs have--or international players of the caliber of Parker and Manu Ginobili.

posted by David Friedman @ 2:21 AM

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