The San Antonio Spurs suffered what most would call a minor setback during their 106-101 overtime loss to the Golden State Warriors. It was the Spurs’ eighth of their nine-game Rodeo Trip, during which they are now 6-2. Earlier during the trip, San Antonio discovered that it can lean on its Other Big Three–Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Gary Neal–and that it really has a primary Big Four in Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Leonard. Although Parker has been doing most of the heavy lifting during the trip, he dialed it back on Friday night by design, but the Spurs’ experimental game plan didn’t work out the way they would have liked, so the loss was a learning experience for a veteran team on a mission this year.
Parker has averaged nearly 30 points per game in the month of February–his highest in any calendar month stretch–while putting up at least half a dozen assists each night as well. He only had 18 and three against the Warriors and while the Spurs were fine in the scoring department with six players in double figures, they actually moved the ball too much.
That doesn’t seem possible, especially to an old-school basketball mind, but it is, especially when a team has developed a new identity recently like the Spurs have. Parker doesn’t need to carry the Spurs, but the offense needs to flow through him while he’s on the floor. His presence, whether he’s passing or cutting to the basket, creates open looks for San Antonio on offense, which results in superb ball movement. Parker tried being a little more passive against Golden State, so Duncan and Ginobili naturally took on more of a scoring load than was necessary. This has been habit for them in the past, but not anymore now that the Other Big Three has emerged.
In short, the adjustment is so minor that no one besides die-hard Spurs fans will notice it at all. Most folks will just chalk the loss up to a you-can’t-win-them-all situation, which is true; San Antonio has won 16 of its last 18 games now, including nine on the road, so it’s not like there’s anything wrong with the Spurs. They’ll bounce back in the final game of their rodeo trip on Sunday night against the lowly Phoenix Suns.