Boris Diaw had played only 24 minutes in two meaningless games with Charlotte over the last 2½ weeks.
For a competitor like Diaw, playing with the struggling Bobcats had gotten old very fast.
So when he started weighing different playing options around the league, San Antonio was attractive for reasons other than his friendship with childhood friend Tony Parker.
Even if it meant starting his Spurs career with three games in his first three nights with the team.
“Yeah, I looked at the schedule and I said OK,” Diaw said. “They tell me when to come and I came.”
Leaving the league’s worst team for one of the best will make a player take some drastic steps sometimes.
Diaw played 16 mintues against Dallas barely 24 hours after arriving in San Antonio Friday night. He played 11 more minutes in New Orleans Saturday before topping it with 27 minutes in the Spurs’ 93-76 victory over Philadelphia on Sunday.
“I’m learning to play with them and I didn’t get a chance to practice. And I played right away with three games in a row,” Diaw said. “But that’s the NBA. We know that and I’m just glad we took care of these three games.”
With all of the Spurs’ shooting threats around him, Diaw doesn’t need the ball to be happy. He does the little things and had a box score chocked full of them Sunday night. Diaw took only three shots and scored two points. But he grabbed seven rebounds, had two assists and three steals.
He’ll be a handy piece for the Spurs during the rest of the season.
And he seems to be happy playing with the Silver and Black — even if it meant starting with one of those hated back-to-back-to-backs.
The Spurs claimed their seventh victory in their last eight games Sunday night with Diaw being a big part of it.
Here’s how they did it.
The game, simply stated: Despite playing in the final game of the dreaded back-to-back-to-back, the Spurs played lockdown defense again in the second half to cruise to an impressive victory against a playoff-quality foe in the Atlantic Division-leading Sixers.
Where the game was won: After Thaddeus Young’s layup pulled the Sixers within 68-63 with 3:33 left, the Spurs hit them with a 20-4 spurt over the next 10 minutes to blow the game open. DeJuan Blair kick-started the surge with six of the points in an 8-2 run that closed the third quarter. And they put it away with a 12-2 blitz at the start of the fourth quarter with all of the points coming in the paint. Philadelphia was limited to one field goal during a span of 7:04 as the Spurs’ defense kicked in.
Philly’s early jump: The Sixers jumped into control with a run of 16 consecutive points late in the first quarter and into the start of the second quarter. The biggest reason was strong Philadelphia defense that caused the Spurs to miss eight straight shots and commit seven turnovers during a period of 5:06.
Weren’t they supposed to be tired?: The Spurs jumped on Philadelphia late in the first half with an 11-2 run capped by a driving layup by Ginobili that gave them a 29-18 lead with 1:28 left in the first quarter. Highlights included a 3-pointer by Matt Bonner and an 18-foot pull-up jumper by Justin Dentmon.
Player of the game I: Tony Parker always seems to get up for the Sixers and Sunday night was no different. Parker produced game-high totals of 21 points and seven assists and limited Jrue Holiday to 10 points on 5-of-14 shooting.
Player of the game II: DeJuan Blair dominated inside for the second straight night as he produced 19 points and six rebounds and gummed up the passing lanes to provide three steals.
Player of the game III: Kawhi Leonard provided his usual defensive lift and notched 11 points and 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season. He was particularly active when the Spurs defense picked up in the second half, as well as scoring seven points and grabbing seven rebounds after the break.
Most unsung: Diaw only scored two points, but he showed continued growth in the offense with two assists, three steals and also provided seven rebounds.
Attendance: Military Appreciation Night brought out more than just the helicopters and USAA executives to the ATT Center Sunday night. Another sellout crowd of 18,581 attended. It was the Spurs’ 18th capacity crowd in 24 home games this season, including 15 of their last 17 home games and 11th in a row. Their last non-capacity game came Feb. 2 against New Orleans.
Did you notice I: Ginobili said after the game that Popovich wasn’t too pleased with Duncan’s technical foul late in the second quarter. Maybe the Spurs’ coach had something to do with Duncan’s listing in the official NBA box score available online. It listed the reason for Duncan’s absence as “DND (did not dress) — OLD.”
Did you notice II: Newest addition Dentmon showed some offensive pop in his first game by draining an 18-foot jumper barely a minute into his playing time late in the first quarter. But he also committed a cardinal sin in the Spurs’ philosophy when he lost the ball out of bounds with an absent-minded play with 34.9 seconds left. The game was settled, but a player on a 10-day contract can’t ever take anything for granted.
Stat of the game I: The Spurs limited Philadelphia to 76 points. In each of the three games of the back-to-back-to-back, the Spurs held their opponents to less than 90 points.
Stat of the game II: After missing 13 consecutive 3-pointers Saturday at New Orleans, Matt Bonner snapped the streak with San Antonio’s first 3-point attempt with 8:53 left in the first quarter.
Stat of the game III: The Spurs are 24-1 at home against the Sixers since the start of the 1986-87 season, winning the last eight. The 76ers’ last win in San Antonio came on Jan. 3, 2004.
Stat of the game IV: Philadelphia was limited to a season-low 11 points in the fourth quarter on 19 percent field-goal shooting and six turnovers.
Stat of the game V: Spurs’ opponents have struggled shooting in the last three games. Dallas was limited to 31 percent shooting in the second half on Friday. New Orleans hit 38.5 percent in the second half, including 27.8 percent in the fourth quarter. And Philadelphia went 31.6 percent in the second half with 14 turnovers the Spurs turned into 19 points.
Stat of the game VI: The Spurs rang up a 54-46 edge in paint points. Since a loss against Denver on March 4, the Spurs have reached at least 50 paint points in eight of their last 10 games.
Stat of the game VII: San Antonio’s 15 steals were a season high. And the 21 turnovers by Philadelphia, who leads the league in fewest miscues, was a season high.
Stat of the game VIII: The Spurs are the fifth NBA team to sweep a back-to-back-to-back this season.
Weird stat of the night I: Tim Duncan was whistled for his third technical foul of the season, but his first in his career while wearing a sportscoat and slacks.
Weird stat of the night II: Bonner scored eight points in the first 8 ½ minutes of the game, but only two afterwards.
Weird stat of the night III: Philadelphia missed its first seven 3-pointers before Jodie Meeks hit one with 3:17 left in the game.
Weird stat of the night IV: The Spurs produced 15 steals and they were shared among eight different players. Only Parker and James Anderson failed to produce one.
Not a good sign: Maybe it’s tired legs, but the Spurs’ league-leading 3-point shooting has disappeared the last two games. Over those games, San Antonio is hitting 19.1 percent after hitting 9 of 47 behind the arc. It’s the Spurs’ second-worst two-game stretch this season after hitting 7 of 42 (16.7 percent) against Orlando and Sacramento on Jan. 18 and Jan. 20.
Best plus/minus scores: Bonner was plus-23, Parker was plus-21 and Blair and Green were both plus-16.
Worst plus/minus scores: Dentmon was minus-9, Anderson was minus-3 and Stephen Jackson was minus-2. They were the only Spurs with negative scores.
Quote of the game: “I don’t think people are talking enough about the Spurs as far as being a championship team,” Philadelphia coach Doug Collins, who said this before the game. The Spurs then notched a 17-point win over Collins’ team – permitting 11 points in the fourth quarter on the back end of a back-to-back-to-back with their two top centers out of the lineup.
How the schedule stacks up: The Spurs have approaching road games Tuesday at Phoenix and Wednesday at Sacramento before returning home Saturday against Indiana. The Sixers have games Tuesday against Cleveland and a back to back Friday at Washington and Saturday against Atlanta.
Injuries: Duncan (rest), Tiago Splitter (mid-back spasms) and Gary Neal (left mid-foot sprain) did not play. Philadelphia played without All-Star guard Andre Iguodala, who missed his first game of the season with left patella tendonitis.