Even with his team leading the Western Conference, Gregg Popovich said Sunday morning his San Antonio Spurs were playing C+ or B- basketball, adding there was ”not much” he liked about their start.
The Spurs, he said, were winning because of ”good fortune,” ”corporate knowledge,” and because ”they’re older than dirt.”
Apparently Pop is as tough on his pupils as he is on those sideline reporters, though a 120-89 rout of the New York Knicks bumped up their grades.
”I thought tonight we played a good, solid B+, A- game,” Popovich said. ”There were some good things out there.”
Just not from the team in orange. Coach Mike Woodson said the Knicks played with no pride, even with one of the NBA’s marquee franchises making its lone visit to Madison Square Garden.
Danny Green had 24 points and a career-high 10 rebounds in the Spurs’ fourth straight victory. Kawhi Leonard scored 18 points and Tony Parker had 17 in a game that was close for about 3 minutes. San Antonio scored the first 10 points, led by as many as 37, and was in complete control in between.
”It was embarrassing for us to come here on our home court and lose a game like this,” Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony said. ”It wasn’t about losing the game, it was just how we lost the game. We didn’t compete today and it showed out there on the court.”
Tim Duncan took just four shots but finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds as San Antonio (6-1) shot 54 percent.
The Spurs spoiled the season debut of Knicks guard J.R. Smith, last season’s Sixth Man of the Year. Suspended the first five games of the season for violating the NBA’s anti-drug program, Smith shot 1 of 9 and scored five points in 20 minutes.
Anthony and Andrea Bargnani both scored 16 for the Knicks, who were outrebounded 51-33 and fell to 2-4 after a 6-0 start last season.
”I’m not worried but we do have to figure it out,” Anthony said. ”Whatever it is we have to figure out quickly, but as far as being worried, I’m not worried about that. But we need to figure it out.”
The Spurs scored just 76 points a victory over Golden State on Friday, but had everything working offensively right from the opening tip Sunday.
Green hit two 3-pointers in the 10-0 start, Marco Belinelli’s 3 made it 17-4, and the Spurs hit 13 of 18 shots while opening a 35-17 lead after one quarter, matching their highest-scoring period of the season.
The lead grew to 24 points in the second, the Spurs repeatedly moving the ball to an open player before the Knicks knew what was happening. San Antonio was making roughly two of every three shots for much of the first half and took a 61-45 lead into the locker room after shooting 62 percent.
”We just played our game and we made shots,” Parker said. ”When you make shots it helps, and the ball movement was great.”
Smith, who ended the postseason in a miserable shooting slump, opened this season the same way. He missed all five shots in the first half, unable to shake the rust after appearing in just one preseason game following summer knee surgery.
”I didn’t feel rusty at all. I just missed a lot of shots, didn’t get to the basket like I wanted to and overall I didn’t have a good game,” Smith said.
By the time he made a 3-pointer with 8:43 left in the third quarter for his first basket, the Knicks trailed by 26 points. The Spurs went up by 30 a few minutes later on another 3 by Green, and fans loudly booed when Amare Stoudemire missed both free throws with a little less than 3 minutes left in the period.
The Knicks won both meetings last season, sweeping the Spurs for the first time in 10 years. But with center Tyson Chandler sidelined with a broken leg, New York looked defenseless against the Western Conference champions.
It was such a laugher that Popovich had Duncan, a career 69 percent free throw shooter, take the shot when Woodson was called for a technical foul in the third quarter. Naturally, the way this one went, Duncan made it.
NOTES: Popovich will face one of his former assistants Monday when the Spurs visit the Philadelphia 76ers, coached by Brett Brown. … Metta World Peace scored 13 points for the Knicks.