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The Daily Six Shooter January 22, 2013

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1. The last time Charles Barkley and the TNT crew called a San Antonio Spurs game was when Gregg Popovich sent Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili home for the team’s game in Miami against the Heat. This time around the San Antonio Spurs were in Philadelphia to take on the 76ers and while Ginobili didn’t play, Duncan and Parker did. And they were the big difference. In the absence of a significant contribution from the bench, the starters carries the Spurs to a 4th quarter comeback win, pulling out their fifth straight victory 90-85.

That shooting slump that Duncan was on is clearly behind him. The rest he got in the team’s win over Atlanta this weekend certainly helped. He’s 28-50 (56%) in his last three games and if you combine the stats from those three games, he leads the team in scoring.

But this game wasn’t about how well the starters played, it was about how the bench really struggled with a shorter bench because of Ginobili’s injury. I’m surprised the Spurs played the way they did. San Antonio played big, which allowed them to grab more rebounds, but the 76ers bigs stretched the court by pulling the defender away from the basket so that the guards could attack. This resulted in a higher shooting percentage and more points in the paint… particularly when the starters were out.

The other problem is that Matt Bonner and Boris Diaw are perimeter shooters and don’t play well in the paint. DeJuan Blair is better suited to bang underneath. The problem is that… he’s not very good. Other teams should take notice to the way the 76ers played the Spurs last night, but with the way teams are always trying to impose their own game plan on opposing defenses, it’s doubtful that we’ll see this strategy take shape in the future.

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2. If you can believe it, there’s a grass roots, indie rock movement that’s trying to get San Antonio Spurs three-point specialist Matt Bonner into the three-point shooting contest during all star weekend in Houston. It’s being led by David Hartley from The Wars on Drugs and Arcade Fire has also gotten behind the movement.

We’d love to see Matt Bonner in the three point shootout if only because we’d hope that he could make a new Coach B video during all star weekend.

It says a lot about how deep the Spurs are as a team that one of the best three-point shooters in the league is relegated to garbage time throughout most of the season. Early on Bonner saw a lot of playing time, but he’s a defensive liability and isn’t great at doing much else except shooting three-pointers. That’s why he’d make such a great addition to all star weekend.

3. The Houston Rockets finally got a win and ended that seven game losing streak last night. While we expected that they’d beat the Charlotte Bobcats, we didn’t expect it to be so close as Houston only won the game 100-94 and they had to come back from a 10 point deficit in the 4th quarter. They trailed through most of the game.

The Rockets really struggled throughout most of the game to get the offense going. It didn’t help that Omer Asik struggled, but what I don’t understand is why Toney Douglas has seen his minutes cut back. The Rockets were at their best when they were getting production out of Jeremy Lin, Carlos Delfino, and Douglas. And yet Douglas hasn’t had an impact in weeks.

Getting five players in double figures and having James Harden score 29 points should be the kind of game where Houston wins more easily. Harden only made five shots all night, so it looks like the Rockets still have a lot of work to do.

4. One thing we haven’t been paying too much attention to has been college basketball. And why? Because there are no teams from the state of Texas ranked in the top 25. There are barely any teams getting votes. In fact, the only Texas team receiving votes in either the AP or USA Today Coaches poll is Stephen F. Austin.

Stephen F. Austin is tops in the Southland Conference, but the Baylor Bears are on the rise in the Big 12 and the UTEP Miners are off to a 3-1 start in Conference USA. Still, it’s unlikely that any Texas team will make a big impact come tournament time. But there are some young squads that could make an impact next year.

5. The one team that has a chance to make a big impact this season is the Baylor Bears, who are led by the Big 12’s leading scorer Pierre Jackson. We had high hopes for this Baylor team after last season mostly because of Jackson’s ability, but the real reason that Baylor is playing so well right now is that freshman phenom Isaiah Austin and junior forward Cory Jefferson are dominating in the paint right now.

They both are good for close to 30 points per game and close to 20 rebounds per game between the two of them. Throw in the fact that Jackson works really well with the ball in his hands and is still a score-first point guard, and you’ve got the makings of a team that is going to give Kansas a run for the conference title.

Last night, Baylor beat the Oklahoma State Cowboys 64-54. Their only conference loss has been to the #4 Kansas Jayhawks, whom they get to play one more time at home in their regular season finale. Their next big test will be against the Oklahoma Sooners next week.

6. OU easily dispatched of the Texas Longhorns last night 73-67. That six point margin was as close as the Longhorns got all night as there were times late in the game when they had a chance to pull closer, but just couldn’t do it.

As good as the Texas defense has played all season, they just don’t have the scorers to win. The Longhorns have solid big men and will rarely be out-rebounded, but their offense just doesn’t know how to attack opposing defenses. Not everyone can be Sheldon McClellan. The guy plays with heart and is always aggressive on offense. You’d almost think that Texas would be better off with five of him, sacrificing a true point guard and the big men that help make the Longhorns one of the best rebounding teams in the country.

The Longhorns are now 8-10 overall and 0-5 in the Big 12. McClellan is only a sophomore, Myck Kabongo is set to come back and likely to stay another season, and the defense and bigs playing well, you’d think that the Longhorns were on the verge of major success, but Rick Barnes has wasted talented squads before and based on his recent history, it’s doubtful that he’ll do anything significant with the one he’ll have next year.

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About Javi Perez

Javi Perez is a contributing editor with Playmaker Magazine heading up the sports desk, as well as covering the San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans, Texas Longhorns, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, film, and TV. He currently lives in San Antonio.