It feels so uncommon to start the whole new season with so few games -- and so many day-offs in between. Just as uncommon as watching a 0-3 record to start the season, first since that some of the 70s seasons; also 0-3 at home since seasons ago (though i believe it's still not very long ago, in 2002 to quote the running text at the Heat game). The Big Three are downed to Big One, leaving only the Big Fundamental, while the other pillars are limping off the court with problems. The Heat game was the first testimony of how the Spurs would battle themselves out of this heavy burden.
Then it came the Knicks, with their new perspective from their new coach D'Antoni, after sending Utah Jazz down to earth from their 6-0 start. Still, the Knicks had to find a way to contain Duncan inside, while Duncan tried to save his team from drowning early 0-4 at home this season. The latter seems to have the last laugh.
Starting with George Hill to replace Parker, Pop also made some adjusments by playing Roger Mason, Jr. and Ime Udoka earlier, instead of Michael Finley and Bruce Bowen. The latter had been a starter for all of the game when his name was on the list for the Spurs. All but this time; yes, there is always the first time.
Hill answered the challenge well, as he drove several times to the basket early in the game, a feat not followed well by Mason and Udoka, who shot a combined 8 field goal, all missed. Then Finley and Bowen came in to replace them, and Finley quickly answered with a basket and a 3-pointer to keep a tie at the end of 1st period, 20-20.
Udoka continued his shooting slump to the second period, as all the guards who handled the ball the most had zero assist combined, while Duncan had 4. Knicks take the lead when Jamal Crawford hit a 3-pointer at the last minute made it 41-38.
After a brief rest, Udoka started the second half with a pair of basket, including a 3-pointer. Mason also made his first shot in this period. With a steady performance by Finley and Bowen -- maybe they should come from the bench, just like Pop usually does with Manu --, and with a little luck from Bowen, whose three landed just half a second before the buzzer, Spurs gained their lead into the final period, 67-64, a lead they never surrendered 'til the end. The 92-80 win also brought memories back to D'Antoni, the losing ones.
Bowen and Finley combined for 27 points, a productive effort followed by Hill, who scored 12 in his debut as a starter. Fabricio Oberto also made a quiet solid contribution by 6 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists.
Well, it's a lineup Popovich would never think of, or even dream of, but in the end, at the emergence of losing his precious duo, the team showed him what are they made of.
Tomorrow, let's taste a bit of Bucks when they visit Milwaukee. Hope it's still a way up to the peak.