Splitter Lets Spurs Go Big





SALT LAKE CITY – A year ago as a rookie, Tiago Splitter got a very small taste of his first NBA playoffs as the Spurs were getting pushed and shoved and banged around and eventually eliminated in the first round by the Grizzlies.

So when Splitter took a hard fall and landed on his left wrist in the first quarter of Game 1 against the Jazz this time around, he had a flashback and a bad feeling.

“When it happened, yes, I was scared,” said the 6-foot-11 power forward. “Thank God it’s not serious so that I cannot play. I thought it was going to be the end of the season. I was lucky it was nothing, just a bruise.”

Turns out it was the Jazz who were not so lucky. After an MRI revealed no structural damage and Splitter was held out of the second game as a precaution, he returned for Game 3 and played a key role in the 102-90 victory.

Splitter scored 10 points, grabbed eight rebounds and played strong on defense against the Jazz big lineup when Utah was making its last bid in the second half. First, Splitter was able to give Tim Duncan needed rest late in the third quarter and then he eventually joined Duncan in tandem when the Jazz’ Derrick Favors began to do fourth quarter damage in the low post.

“I thought Tiago was huge for us,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. “When he was out there and Tim was on the bench, he rebounded really, really well. He scored for us. Then when Timmy came back and we were having a tough time with Favors down there, we brought Tiago back and I thought the combination of the two of them really helped us on the boards.”

It’s been a steady progression for the 27-year-old Brazilian, who had starred in Europe before joining the Spurs prior to last season. He suffered a strained heel injury at the start of his first NBA training camp that cost him valuable time adjust to the new league and team and wound up playing catch-up all season.

When the Grizzlies were beating up and going through the Spurs big men last spring, Splitter was mostly a spectator and didn’t get much playing time until near the end of the series. He played only 51 total minutes in the entire six-game set.

“All I remember was that Memphis played very well against us, very aggressive,” Splitter said. “Zach Randolph made a helluva playoff and that’s all I remember.

“The thing is I didn’t play that much all season, so he (Popovich) doesn’t want to change that much in the playoff, the way that we play. This year I play more during the season, so it’s different.”

Splitter played 19 minutes per game this season, averaging 9.3 points and 5.2 rebounds. He’s quick, crafty and efficient around the hoop, shooting at a clip of 61.8 percent and plays aggressive on defense.

With the Spurs holding a 3-0 lead on the Jazz, it’s not too soon to start looking ahead to San Antonio’s semifinal series. Whether it turns out to be the Clippers or Grizzlies, one of the challenges will be to again match up with size on the front line against either Blake Griffin or Randolph. Splitter gives Popovich another option in the matchups.

“Yeah, I feel more comfortable,” he said. “Playing more minutes is the way to learn things. When you’re on the court you start to learn. When you make mistakes you learn. So that’s what happened this year. I played from the tipoff to season and just feel more comfortable on the court. It’s not that I’m different player.”

Just one more reason why this year’s Spurs are deeper than an oil well and gushing.

20 Comments

  1. dew says:

    like the improvement of splitter this year. he will be ready to start next year i think. i like diaw starting for the playoffs. he can guard any center or pf in the league right now. matched up great with jefferson, favors and millsap on utah and now matches up well with either griffin or deandre jordan. diaw is a bit physical which disrupts the clips bigs at times. splitter needs to learn now how to be just as physical with the bigs to be a complete player. i am sure with time, he will get there. offensively, splitter is great right now. i have not seen anyone able to quite figure him out when he has his back to the basket in the post or off the pick and roll with ginobili. great to have another post weapon this year which we did not have last year and truly needed in that memphis series a season ago. i like blair off the bench as he brings energy and can pretty much dominate any other teams backups right now in the playoffs due to him starting all season and getting the experience against starting quality players. he did well throughout the season. blair also plays better with ginobili and stephen jackson for some reason. quite a defensive force out there. loving the spurs bigs this year and even duncan is coming up huge in this years playoffs. hopefully the wheels keep turning and looking forward to the remainder of the playoffs for the spurs.

  2. The spurs have the best TEAM in the league and Tony OS getting it done this year..I like them to win the champ this year: http://mindofmattman.com check the podcast

  3. duro says:

    Dear Spurs’ fans, don’t worry about the lack of hype for the team. Hype is made by the NBA and the media to sell more show to the large public of culture-less fans, those who stay in awe of slamdunks and fast blocks (ever wondered why they introduced such an absurd thing like the record of dunks or why they usually award the Defensive POY to the best blocker?)
    Those who understand the game (coaches and players) KNOW what is what and would probably die for a coach like Pop, a management like the Spurs’ and players like TD, Parker, Ginobili and also the other guys in the team.
    One can talk to the end of time about LBJ or Durant being the MVP but the real, important thing is: who won lots of rings in the last 10/15 years? Spurs and Kobe’s Lakers did it. That’s it. Undoubtly dinasties finally come to an end but Spurs’ management is demonstrating that they know how to go ahead without dramatic falls (look at the long years of misery of the post-Bird era Celtics).
    Maybe the after-Duncan/Parker/Ginobili Spurs won’t be so dominant but the won’t probably be a Bobcats-type team either!
    Only problem with SA is that it’s not a glamour place and that’s not appealing to some stars (like Howard). But intelligent players will always prefer a winning franchise to a loser in a big city. And intelligent players do win championships, sooner or later.

  4. wayne says:

    Blineberry, we appreciate the detailed articles about the Spurs and at least your voice is starting to tell the NBA how dominant the Spurs have been the last three months. A couple things that you didn’t point out that I think are worth noting: In the current 13 game winning strreak the Spurs averaged winning 113 – 95. Thats an average margin of 18 points. Thats insane. Who’s ever done that. On the road the Spurs have won 20 of their last 23 and two of those losses were giveaways without the big three playing. Thats insane. 22-1 on the road (23-1 after the playoffs) Who’s ever done that? They’re 41-7 since Jan 30 as you pointed out. Thats over 85% and translates to a 70 win season on a full 82 game schedule. Remember two of those losses were giveaways> Based on that adjustment they’re 43-5 (90%) or a 74 game win season. Who has ever done that???

    • david says:

      Exactly. And isn’t it ridiculous that they do not get any hype for it? Very little respect simply because Spurs are not flashy (well actually see Parker and Manu) and they aren’t called Heat or Thunder.

      • alex_td21 says:

        never worry about the hype fellas, Pop and the guys only care for one thing – CHAMPIONSHIP TROPHY and the FIFTH BANNER. And here is what’s key: Big Fundamental’s leadership. Where can you find a more selfless superstar than TD21? Go Spurs GO!

  5. John says:

    I noticed Splitters game improvement this year as well. Last year, I found myself thinking… Splitter needs to beef up and be more physical. He is much improved this year and will play an important role in the Spurs run to another Championship. I like his speed, he just needs to hit the weights and eat.

  6. heat fan, but the spurs are ballin out

  7. The spurs get to the west finals they will lose to the thunder.

  8. Manuel Pineda says:

    I’ve been seeing Splitter since he debuted on Spanish League (I’m from Spain in case you have any doubt) and I can say one thing: He is one of the betters centers I’ve seen in my life. It’s true that playing in the NBA and playing on another league are quite different worlds, but the intelligence he has and all the years learning from Scola since he was 16 about how to make plays with the point guard (pick and roll and etc) and about how to move in the post make him one of the better interior players at the moment. Like Paulo said he’s feeling more comfortable progressively to show what he’s able to do, and that’s great news for San Antonio fans, not so great for the rest of teams.

  9. Mohd Eesa says:

    Starting center on Spurs should be Tiago Splitter and not dejuan blair, blair should go to the philippines and there you can play center not in nba. 6’7 is not for center position…

  10. emerson - Brazil says:

    Splitter took his time to adjust to NBA game play. He was MVP in Europe league before his 1st season at Spurs. Others, like Ricky Rubio just got into the pace since the first moment at Timberwolves. I believe Splitter must prove now what he is capable for during playoffs. Or just go back to Europe, where other players make a good reputation like him. NBA is a special place for a very special game where only the best of the best can stay. Time is ticking for Splitter. I hope he could help Spurs to go further on playoffs, at least at the West conference finals.

    • ChrisTx says:

      Bon Dia,

      We love him here in Texas, he has a bright future and we know what we he can do.

      Obrigado,
      chris

  11. rexb says:

    go Spurs! if the big 3 stays healthy that Championship is coming to San Antonio!

  12. BFoulds says:

    The 2011-12 NBA Champions, SPURS!

  13. Paulo says:

    I´m from Brazil, and I really know that Splitter has a great potential and he can do a lot better than he´s doing now. Before going to NBA, playing for the Brazil National Team, I think he was more important and efficient for us than Nenê and Varejão, he´s quicker, smarter, has great shooting skills and good defense. It´s a matter of time for him to feel more confortable and confident, and I´m sure that he can do great playing longside Tim Duncan. Great expectations for this playoff!! Go Tiago!!

    • ChrisTx says:

      Doesn’t hurt playing one of the best big man to ever play this game, The man we call the Greatest Power Foward of all time.