x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

San Antonio Spurs go from C+ to A- in Popovich’s eyes

Before Sunday's 120-89 thumping of he New York Knicks, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said his team was winning because of 'good fortune' and that they were 'older than dirt.' After, he said 'I thought we played a good, solid, B+, A- game.'

Tony Parker scored 17 points for San Antonio on Sunday. Maddie Meyer / Getty Images / AFP
Tony Parker scored 17 points for San Antonio on Sunday. Maddie Meyer / Getty Images / AFP

NEW YORK // Even with his team leading the Western Conference, Gregg Popovich said Sunday morning his San Antonio Spurs were playing C+ or B- basketball, adding there was “not much” he liked about their start.

The Spurs, he said, were winning because of “good fortune,” “corporate knowledge,” and because “they’re older than dirt.”

Apparently Pop is as tough on his pupils as he is on those sideline reporters, though a 120-89 rout of the New York Knicks bumped up their grades.

“I thought tonight we played a good, solid B+, A- game,” Popovich said. “There were some good things out there.”

Just not from the team in orange. Coach Mike Woodson said the Knicks played with no pride, even with one of the NBA’s marquee franchises making their lone visit to Madison Square Garden.

Danny Green had 24 points and a career-high 10 rebounds in the Spurs’ fourth straight victory. Kawhi Leonard scored 18 points and Tony Parker had 17 in a game that was close for about 3 minutes. San Antonio scored the first 10 points, led by as many as 37, and was in complete control in between.

“It was embarrassing for us to come here on our home court and lose a game like this,” Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony said. “It wasn’t about losing the game, it was just how we lost the game. We didn’t compete today and it showed out there on the court.”

Tim Duncan took just four shots but finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds as San Antonio (6-1) shot 54 percent.

The Spurs spoiled the season debut of Knicks guard JR Smith, last season’s Sixth Man of the Year. Suspended the first five games of the season for violating the NBA’s anti-drug program, Smith shot 1 of 9 and scored five points in 20 minutes.

Anthony and Andrea Bargnani both scored 16 for the Knicks, who were outrebounded 51-33 and fell to 2-4 after a 6-0 start last season.

“I’m not worried but we do have to figure it out,” Anthony said.

The Spurs scored just 76 points in a victory over Golden State on Friday, but had everything working offensively right from the opening tip Sunday.

Green hit two 3-pointers in the 10-0 start, Marco Belinelli’s three made it 17-4, and the Spurs hit 13 of 18 shots while opening a 35-17 lead after one quarter, matching their highest-scoring period of the season.

“We just played our game and we made shots,” Parker said. “When you make shots it helps, and the ball movement was great.”

By the time Smith made a 3-pointer with 8:43 left in the third quarter for his first basket, the Knicks trailed by 26 points. The Spurs went up by 30 a few minutes later on another 3 by Green, and fans loudly booed when Amare Stoudemire missed both free throws with a little less than three minutes left in the period.

The Knicks won both meetings last season, sweeping the Spurs for the first time in 10 years. But with center Tyson Chandler sidelined with a broken leg, New York looked defenceless against the Western Conference champions.

It was such a laugher that Popovich had Duncan, a career 69 percent free throw shooter, take the shot when Woodson was called for a technical foul in the third quarter. Naturally, the way this one went, Duncan made it.


Thunder 106, Wizards 105 (overtime)

Forward Kevin Durant scored 33 points to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to an overtime victory over the Washington Wizards.

With 3:19 left in the fourth quarter, Thunder guard Russell Westbrook and Wizards center Nene were ejected from the game after receiving double technicals during a scuffle that saw Westbrook push Nene.

The incident seemed to spark the Thunder (5-1), who were trailing by 10 at the time but rallied to force overtime.

Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 34 points and Serge Ibaka had 25 and 12 rebounds for Oklahoma City.

Timberwolves 113, Lakers 90

The Timberwolves rolled to a blowout victory to end a 22-game losing streak to the Los Angeles Lakers. Minnesota’s last win over the Lakers was a 117-107, double-overtime victory in March 2007.

The Timberwolves had little trouble hammering the Lakers on Sunday, though, bolting to a 28-point lead in the first quarter and coasting the rest of the way.

Guard Kevin Martin scored 27 points and forward Kevin Love finished with 25 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Timberwolves (5-2).

Guard Steve Blake led the Lakers (3-5) with 19 points and eight assists.

Suns 101, Pelicans 94

Eric Bledsoe collected 24 points and six assists, Markieff Morris continued his hot scoring with 23 points off the bench, and the Suns continued their surprisingly strong start to the season.

The Suns, picked by many to battle for the No 1 pick in the NBA draft, are now 5-2 overall.

Center Jason Smith scored 22 points, and guards Jrue Holiday and Anthony Morrow had 16 each for New Orleans.