Video: Durant, Thunder snapped Spurs’ 3 game win streak

For most of the night rookie Kawhi Leonard was assigned to defend one of the NBA's best scorers in Kevin Durant. (Photo via Spurs Nation)

The Oklahoma City Thunder were supposed to be a tired team playing their third game in three nights of a back-to-back-to-back set.

Add the fact that one of their key player off the bench Eric Maynor was lost for the season Saturday night in Houston with a knee injury, the San Antonio Spurs were supposed to be the ones taking advantage.

However, even without one of their major contributors on Sunday night, the Thunder have jumped to a 54-48 halftime lead over San Antonio and pulled away in the second half by outscoring the Spurs in third period 37-21 that extended their lead to 22 points entering the final period.

The Spurs tried to comeback in the fourth quarter but eventually waived the white flag with a little over seven minutes left in the game.

With the game already out of hand, coach Gregg Popovich decided to give rookie Kawhi Leonard a trial by fire by assigning him to defend Oklahoma’s Kevin Durant for most of the night.

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Video: Game Recap – Green, Jefferson leads Spurs over Nuggets

With Manu Ginobili out for at least six weeks, the San Antonio Spurs are relying on their collective efforts to get some wins.

On Saturday night against the Denver Nuggets, the Spurs opened the first period on a high note scoring a season high 37 points while holding the Nuggets to 25 points.

However, the Nuggets used a solid shooting performance to claw back into the game and made things interesting in the final period but Richard Jefferson and Danny Green wouldn’t let things get out of hand.

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Spurs’ team effort produced back to back wins minus Ginobili

When Manu Ginobili injured his shooting hand against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the San Antonio Spurs’ chances to compete at a high level took a big hit.

Spurs' Danny Green had the unenviable task of guarding Monta Ellis and Jasont Terry on two consecutive nights.

They eventually lost that game in Minnesota as the team looked slow without one of their main offensive weapon.

However, since Ginobili’s injury, the Spurs bounced back and produced a pair of wins on back-to-back nights against the Golden State Warriors and the Dallas Mavericks.

It was not surprising to see the Spurs rally around without Manu, the team after all, have a good mix of veterans, leadership and young talent to win games, but the manner in which they won those games is something to look forward to.

With Manu out, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Richard Jefferson are providing much of the offensive load, but the bench have also responded well in Ginobili’s absence.

Against the Warriors, San Antonio seem a step slow for three quarters until two role players provided the spark they badly needed in the final quarter.

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San Antonio gave Dallas a Texas Beat Down

On the second night of back-to-backs and their first season game against their rival the Dallas Mavericks, the San Antonio Spurs used a scorching perimeter game to jump out to a 29-11 lead during the first quarter and finished the opening period with 31-17 advantage.

Tony Parker attacks the basket against Lamar Odom and Dominique Jones.

Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd injured his lower back in the first quarter,   checked out with 24.7 seconds left in the period and did not return.

Meanwhile, the Spurs hardly missed Manu Ginobili as they won their second home victory in two nights without the wily Argentine.

San Antonio made a season-best 16 three-pointers and shot a blistering 48.5 percent from beyond the arc (16-33 ) as they blow the game wide open in the first quarter as Dallas never recovered.

Matt Bonner led the Spurs with 17 points including five 3-pointers, Richard Jefferson had a great all around game with 16 points, seven rebounds, three assists and one steal, Gary Neal made the most of his first start of the season finishing with 12 points, five rebounds, two steals and one assists in 20 minutes of action.

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Spurs adds Backcourt depth; Big men rotation remains thin

Richard Jefferson and Manu Ginobili will play a huge role in San Antonio's success this coming season (Photo via Spurs Nation)

The San Antonio Spurs are one of the teams that will parade the same core of players in the upcoming season. After a week of flirting with other small forwards and some news coming out that Richard Jefferson will be amnestied, the Spurs will open the preseason with Jefferson still on the roster and the remaining three years and $30.5 million on his contract still on the team payroll.

While a handful of teams landed big name free agents, the Spurs opted to upgrade their roster in a more subtle manner.

They added depth on their backcourt by signing T.J. Ford who should be a good backup point guard behind Tony Parker and signed rookie Cory Joseph who might learn a lot from San Antonio’s bevy of backcourt veterans that includes Manu Ginobili. Also Gary Neal can handle some spot duty at point guard when the need arises.

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Amnesty cuts: Who could be on the chopping block?

Last week, it was reported that an amnesty provision could be a part of the new labor agreement. With that in mind, it would be interesting to talk about on which players should be released by their NBA teams once the provsion takes effect.

Here’s how each Southwest division teams could use their amnesty clause.

DALLAS MAVERICKS

Brendan Haywood. The Mavericks are set to pay Haywood $45.4 million through 2016 for being a backup center.

Tyson Chandler has done a great job on the middle, helping the Mavs win their first NBA title. With former Spur Ian Mahinmi in tow, I believe Haywood is dispensable.

SAN ANTONIO SPURS

I don’t hate Richard Jefferson, but should the Spurs elect to use their amnesty provision this one is a “no-brainer”, Jefferson should be the one to cut. He is set to make $9.3 million, $10.1 million, and $11 million over the next three years.

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Sources: Amnesty provision could be part of new labor agreement

John Canzano of the Oregonlive reports an amnesty provision could be part of the new labor agreement.

If an amnesty provision is to be given, the San Antonio Spurs could choose to release swingman Richard Jefferson.

“Two NBA sources told me Tuesday that they believe there’s consensus among owners on a few important lockout issues. One of those issues being an amnesty clause that would give NBA teams the ability to release one player, pay his salary, take no luxury tax liability, and also, not have that player count against the season salary cap. “

“This is different from the last round of amnesty, which didn’t give the cap relief. And if true, it would likely allow Portland to strongly consider releasing three-time All-Star Brandon Roy, creating an additional $15 million in cap relief next season. Which is only to say, the Blazers need a general manager in the chair now, as this develops, if they’re going to fully maximize the advantages of making such a powerful play.”

If reports are accurate and the provision pushes through, it would provide some serious cap flexibility league-wide. This will be good news for all the teams, not so much for the players.

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Richard Jefferson stays prepared despite lockout

With the NBA lockout still in effect, a lot of NBA players have opted to represent their home countries over the summer. The others have participated in some summer league exhibition games while some are considering to play overseas as the lockout drags on.

Meanwhile, San Antonio Spurs’ Richard Jefferson is working out in the facility named in his honor after he donated $3.5 million to the University of Arizona athletic program – The Richard Jefferson Gymnasium.

The purpose of the weekend was a reunion of players who share a common bond of Arizona basketball, but Jefferson managed to get in some gym time, just because you never know when – or if – there’s going to be a settlement to the NBA’s labor stalemate.

“You have to approach it like the season is going to start on time,’’ said Jefferson, a regular at the annual gathering of former players to celebrate the past and embrace the future of Arizona basketball. “That’s what I am doing. Usually, you’re getting in shape right now, and then after Labor Day you start to kick it up a notch.’’

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Is Jefferson a liability on the Spurs’ offense?

Bleacher Report’s Adam Fromal made a list of the least effective offensive options for each NBA team. The list includes players that averaged at least 20 minutes per game during the 2010-11 regular season.

For the San Antonio Spurs, Fromal thinks Richard Jefferson deserves the dubious distinction.

Here is what he had to say:

“Something tells me that this is not what the San Antonio Spurs expected from Richard Jefferson when he became a member of the team back in 2009.

The small forward may have averaged 11 points per game this past year, but he was on the court for over 30 minutes per contest, so that should be expected. He was careless with the ball and really struggled to create any offense for himself.

On a championship-caliber team like San Antonio there is really no place for a player with Jefferson’s offensive disabilities to be getting the minutes he’s getting.”

Fromal may have a point, to validate his claim, I used some stats among other Spurs players to compare his production last season.

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ESPN talks about the Spurs

Last season the San Antonio Spurs finished the regular season with the West’s best 61-21 record.  Despite that, San Antonio only lasted one round in the postseason, becoming the second No. 1 seed ever to lose to a No. 8 in a best-of-seven format by losing to the young, gritty and energetic Memphis Grizzlies in six games.

For the next six weeks, ESPN aims to tackle a new team each weekday, and in this edition of their 5-on-5 roundtable, they talked about the Spurs with a six man panel that includes Timothy Varner, Jesse Blanchard, Graydon Gordian, and Andrew McNeill of 48 Minutes of Hell, along with Darius Soriano of Forum Blue and Gold and Zach Harper of Daily Dime Live.

Here are some of the questions and responses of the six-man panel.

Fact or Fiction: The Spurs’ title window has closed

Jesse Blanchard, 48 Minutes of Hell: Fact. NBA championships are built around elite players, and the Spurs’ aspirations were always tied to Tim Duncan’s ability to provide dominant play on both ends. Their roster is littered with role players who make sense around such a player. But with Duncan in his twilight, slim thoughts of contention revolve around Manu Ginobili’s occasional, too inconsistent flirtations with MVP-quality play.

Graydon Gordian, 48 Minutes of Hell: Fact. The offense is still a well-oiled combination of effective penetration and consistent outside shooting, but Duncan’s decline, although slightly overstated, has been significant enough that the Spurs should no longer be considered contenders. He no longer draws the double-team effectively and lacks the movement necessary to be the otherworldly defensive presence he was for nearly a dozen years.

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