No one could've thought the San Antonio Spurs would come out firing in a blowout against the Washington Wizards on Monday night after a double overtime game against the Toronto Raptors. With an older "Big 3," most might have expected the Spurs to fold this game and give the Wizards their first win (now 0-12). Instead, they come out energized as if they had a day off the day before. In a game where no Spur touched the 27 minute mark, the typical fan might have thought the box score may be a balanced one with no one really standing out. Then we have Tiago Splitter.....again. It might have been the lowly Wizards, but Tiago topped his performance against the Boston Celtics with 15 points, 12 rebounds, and 7 assists. That's impressive, but this is the stat line that makes it extremely impressive: 7-8 on free throw shooting.
Coach Gregg Popovich attributed Splitter's overall success this year to his confidence coming from his free throw shooting. It might not be a pretty shot (not worse than Shawn Marion's anyway), but it goes in and that's all that matters. This active Tiago Splitter is the big man the Spurs and its fans wanted when they signed him. His big games take the burden off of Tim Duncan's shoulders (and at times ailing knees). With Boris Diaw and Matt Bonner having outside shots, Splitter has the paint to himself to do work and is a good passer in case of double teams. His balancing of offense and defense can also give more options for a small ball lineup, a lineup that's successful with Duncan on the court as the center most of the time.
While this game is certainly a bright spot for Splitter, it also will burden him with expectations.
We've seen what he can do, one against a worthy opponent and another against the worst team in the league. Either way, both teams have NBA quality players that are some of the best in the world at their craft. The Orlando Magic are going to host the Spurs on Wednesday night, which shouldn't be too much of a challenge for San Antonio without Dwight Howard protecting the basket. The game Tiago's supporters and his doubters will be looking at will be the following night where the Spurs travel to Miami to play the Miami Heat. The game will be a back to back, but we've seen what he can do during the second game of one. Now the ball is on Splitter's court and how he will respond against the defending NBA champion Heat with the league's most valuable player in Lebron James.