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News » Blair's burst locks up Spurs victory

Blair's burst locks up Spurs victory

Blair's burst locks up Spurs victory MIAMI - About 20 seconds remained in a timeout called with 3:02 remaining in Sunday's Spurs -Heat preseason game, but DeJuan Blair couldn't wait.

Veterans from both teams leaned against the scorer's table, waiting for the referees to whistle them back, but Blair walked to center court and stood, hands on hips.

Nobody could blame the Spurs rookie for being eager for the game's resumption. If his pose seemed moderately defiant, well, he had earned the moment.

The precocious rookie from the University of Pittsburgh had scored 13 of the Spurs' previous 15 points, dragging them from a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit to a three-point lead with 3:02 remaining.

If anyone thought him guilty of unearned hubris, he followed by punctuating his performance with a basket that provided the Spurs their margin of victory in a 95-93 win. His game-winning layin, off a nice feed from Malik Hairston, gave him his 27th and 28th points of the game.

By the time he headed to the locker room to receive a dose of instant humility, delivered by coach Gregg Popovich, Blair had scored 15 of the Spurs' 33 fourth-quarter points, all in the final six-and-a-half minutes.

Sunday's fourth-quarter explosion produced the second set of eye-popping statistics of the 6-foot-7, 265-pound post man's preseason. In the first preseason game, against the Rockets, he scored 16 points and grabbed 19 rebounds.

Drafted in the second round because the Spurs believed him a legitimate NBA rebounder, Blair got a none-too-subtle reminder from Popovich that rebounding must remain his forte.

"He had a tough night," Popovich said, straight-faced. "He only had one defensive rebound."

Then, Popovich failed to suppress a grin as he told reporters from Florida, "He's really going to enjoy reading that in the San Antonio paper."

In truth, Popovich was thrilled with the way Blair stayed within the Spurs' offense to earn his scoring opportunities. As impressive as his shooting was, Popovich was equally stirred by Blair's ability to create for teammates.

"He threw some good passes to people out of the post, so it wasn't like he caught it and shot it every time," Popovich said. "He had a pass to (Michael Finley) for a 3-point basket and another pass for a basket out of a double-team in the post.

"I thought he played a very good all-around game - except for the one board."

Blair has proved a quick study since training camp began two weeks ago. His teammates praise his willingness to seek advice and then to apply lessons taught.

"I'm getting a lot more comfortable," Blair said. "My teammates are putting a lot of trust in me. I'm still here for rebounding. The points will come from what they come from each night.

"The rebounds weren't falling my way today. I know (Popovich) said, 'He only had one defensive rebound today,' but if you look at the tape, they hit every shot."

In fact, the Heat missed 39 of their 75 shots, so Blair will get a reminder of his shortcomings on the glass when the tape rolls.

"I can't wait until the film session," he said. "It's going to be fun. But that's just me being me."

Popovich is apt to be Popovich during the viewing, too, but he made it clear that Blair has had a great training camp thus far, despite his tepid results in tracking down misses on Sunday.

"He's a real mobile, agile player, even though he's got the girth that he has," Popovich said. "He has great quickness, so it's a heck of a gift, along with that rear end he was given."

Blair's teammates already value his physicality and aggression. They remain perplexed at his availability to the Spurs in the second round of the 2009 draft.

"He listens," said 35-year-old veteran power forward Antonio McDyess, "and he's a good guy. He's different that way than a lot of young guys that come in the league.

"Plus, he's a beast. A lot of teams need to kick themselves in the butt. He's a heck of a player."

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: October 13, 2009


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