Great, great effort from all the guys tonight. As bad as we were in Europe, we were that good in this game. I wouldn't worry too much about the late comeback, since San Antonio was jacking threes and our young guys were getting a little sloppy. A few quick thoughts:
First, four factors.
The story of this game has to be our defense. It looked so much sharper than before in the preseason and, for that matter, last season. Rotations were really strong, everyone was cutting off the pick and roll well and jumpers were contested. Etan started the game and mostly did a good job, but so did Blatche, Songaila and McGee. That might be one thing that improves without Haywood, because for some reason, Eddie always made him hedge out to the three-point line when he's too important to leave the paint. Etan's at least better suited to do what Eddie/Ayers want.
Offensively, we were hitting our shots, but that FT/FG number is really concerning. Caron and Nick Young were both great, but all they did was shoot jumpers. They went in tonight, but what happens if they don't go in another time? That's where Gilbert's really missed, and without him for a good chunk of the season, Caron needs to be more aggressive instead of being content to launch threes.
As far as the young guys go, Nick was great, though he didn't play any differently than usual. JaVale was also really solid; he made some mistakes, but you can tell he's playing smarter on defense. On one play in the second quarter, Matt Bonner drove on him and pump faked, but instead of jumping, JaVale just kept his arms straight up and made Bonner shoot some ugly running hook. Blatche really struggled though, he's got to pick his play up.
The scary thing is that when our jumpers aren't falling, we can't turn to one guy to create a high-percentage inside shot. Not having Haywood in there hurts even more, because Etan can't finish around the rim like Brendan. But all that's a problem for another day. I'm happy that our defense seems to be in prime form after sucking for most of the preseason.