Highest plus/minus: Nick Young (0).
Lowest plus/minus: Caron Butler (-22).
Oh well. Life goes on. San Antonio's a much better team than us, particularly offensively, where they simply haven't gotten enough credit in past years. Tony Parker proved why he should be in the discussion as the best point guard in basketball, Tim Duncan continues to do his thing, and Manu Ginobili is playing as well as ever. Throw in great three-point shooters and the underrated, unselfish play of Fabricio Oberto, and you have an offensive juggernaut. Our biggest defensive weaknesses are stopping penetrating point guards, defending the three, and dealing with big teams, so what you saw shouldn't have been a surprise.
Defensively, San Antonio is slipping a bit, but are we really beating them at their own game? Tonight's game proved there's more to playing defense that preventing your opponent from shooting a good percentage. The Wizards shot 46.7 percent from the field and 53 percent from three, and that could have been better had they not struggled in the second half. So what happened? San Antonio didn't foul (13 fouls the entire game), held the Wizards to one shot (only 6 offensive rebounds for one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the league), and took away Butler and Jamison by bodying them and daring them to drive, which is the one thing both struggle with at times. San Antonio's been doing all those things this year, which explains why, despite allowing teams to shoot a high percentage, they're still an above-average defensive team. Could they be better? Sure, but they're still better than us. Much better.
This was a good game for Caron Butler to grow from. When he shot the ball, he was his typical self, scoring 16 points on 5-9 shooting with two threes, but you could tell that he was frustrated by Bruce Bowen's off-ball defense. Bowen's always been known as a great on-ball defender, but he doesn't get enough credit for his off-ball defense, and it showed tonight. Even when he got the ball, Butler was content to mostly shoot over Bowen, since he was so exhausted from having to free himself. So far, Butler's improvement has come from his improved range, but now that the secret it out, he needs to respond better to bodying tactics. That means driving to the rim when defenders play close, and finishing over big men.
As for Antawn Jamison, I think this was one of those games where he should have played less than 39 minutes. San Antonio's best offense, besides turning Tony Parker loose in the open floor, is their spectacular high-low game with Duncan and Oberto. This is why Oberto is so key for them, because few big men pass as well as he does. The key is stopping Oberto from catching the ball, and if he does, disturbing his range of motion. Jamison, quite simply, isn't going to do that, both because he isn't capable and because he won't try. It would have been nice to replace Jamison with Blatche and go with the big frontcourt, if only to better match up with San Antonio's big lineup. Jamison was struggling offensively anyway, and Brendan would have picked up the slack, considering how effectively he was scoring in the post.
That was one minor Eddie blunder. The other, though far less serious, was playing Roger Mason over Nick Young. Young was a little out of control when he played, but even then, he provides more than Mason, who really is just a three-point shooter. The problem with playing Mason is San Antonio is the best in the league as forcing opponents off the three-point line, so they basically render guys like Mason useless. Young has a better mid-range game, and that's the shot the Spurs will give up, so playing Mason over Young reeks of "experience over talent."
In the end, though, San Antonio's just better. Nothing Eddie could have done would have changed that. I'm happy with getting a split on the Texas trip.