Game 17: Spurs 106, Timberwolves 91
What can I say, I've been crazy busy. There are lots of things to discuss, but let me start with the most important thing and work my way down.
Tim Duncan's Injury
I never saw it. And by that I mean I didn't watch it live and I didn't watch it on tape. I saw the ESPN highlight of the game but I totally blanked and totally forgot the Spurs had a game on Sunday. For whatever reason I thought they had two days off between the Minnesota and Portland games instead of two days off between Portland and Dallas.
Considering what transpired in the game, I don't have much of a desire to relive it. I'm just gonna take game 18 off, if it's alright with all of you.
Obviously I'm relieved that the injury isn't as serious as it appeared initially, but I'm sure frustrated by the timing of it. Two weeks ago would've been a lot better, no? We've got a brutal six game stretch coming up against every one of last season's western conference playoff teams except the Rockets. I don't know how many games Timmy's gonna miss, but the west being what it is, I don't think I'm being too pessimistic thinking that we'll be underdogs in each game. Just to be clear, I'll reiterate: I would be surprised if we win any of the next six games if Duncan doesn't play. Tony and Manu will still be able to make the offense go, but I dread what our already shaky defense will look like without the big fella back there. Let's just say that I have my doubts as to whether ol' Mr. Potato Head would be much of a Defensive Player of the Year candidate without Timmeh; and I don't even want to talk about the rest of the guys.
Shifting gears for a second, FIFA conducted the group draw on Sunday and the road won't be easy for my homeboys, no sir. In fact, I dare say we're in the second toughest group. Here's the quick breakdown:
Group A: Czech Republic, Portugal, Switzerland, Turkey
Yikes. The good news is that we'll get a chance to avenge our '06 World Cup qualification playoff loss to the bastard Swiss. The bad news is that they're the tournament hosts, along with Austria, so even our "easy" game is really a roadie. Finding a reason to dislike Portugal won't be a problem as I live in Half Moon Bay, CA (just trust me on this one). The Czechs will be a very tough nut to crack, but at least their best player, Kurt Cobain lookalike Pavel Nedved, retired. Realistically speaking, it would be a surprise to see us finish in one of the top two spots here and advance to the second round, but I'll take it as a good omen that we play on the first day of the tournament against Portugal. Greece did just that in '04 and wound up winning the whole enchilada.
Group B: Austria, Croatia, Germany, Poland
The creampuff group, by far. Germany will waltz into the second round while the Croats and Poles, two physical, offensively-challenged squads, will battle it out for the second spot. At least give the schedule makers credit for making their game the last one of the group, as it'll likely determine who stays and who goes.
Group C: France, Italy, Netherlands, Romania
And here is your counterpart to Group B, the so-called "Group of Death." Italy and France must be sick of each other by now. They played in a memorable World Cup Final, marred at the end by Zinadine Zidane's unforgivably stupid ejection for headbutting, and then they clashed twice more in Euro 2008 qualifying. At this point pairing them up again must seem like a sick joke. I don't think the French will be quite the same without Zidane however so I'll pick the Dutch to squeak by here along with Italy.
Group D: Greece, Russia, Spain, Sweden
Manolis argues that this group is tougher than Turkey's, and I say bullspit to that. We've got two clubs clearly better than ours in our group, he's only got one. They're favored to come out of the group and we're not. "Well that doesn't prove anything, because we're the better team," he says. Whatever, jerkass. We played head-to-head twice in qualifying and I do believe the aggregate was 8-3 for the Turks. "Who won the group," he asks. Go have sex with your mouth, that's who. Stupid choking England ruined this group by not making it into the tournament. It'd be a lot more intriguing with them in there instead of the Russians. And then I'd agree with Manolis that his group is tougher.
Stop me if you've heard this one before. We don't show up against an inferior team, play no defense whatsoever for the better part of three quarters, and then we run away with it late thanks to Manu's energy, Tim finding himself in the fourth quarter and Tony passing it to wide open guys for an avalanche of three pointers. What'll they think of next!
By now you all know the story. We were down 80-66 with a little over a minute remaining in the 3rd quarter. We ended the period on a 8-0 run thanks to a Timmy and-1, a Gino three (one of seven he'd can) and a Gino lay in off Timmeh's offensive board. Going into the fourth at only 80-74, after dominating that whole 3rd quarter, we all knew Minny had no chance. I mean zero. We quickly pulled even with a couple of bombs and from there Timmy slowly tortured them into submission before they started doubling him again only to be put away for good by more threes. Pick your poison indeed.
What ultimately wound up costing Minny the game was Randy Wittman's odd decision to give Greg Buckner a spell as his point guard for the resting Sebastian Telfair late in that 3rd quarter. One could argue that he didn't have a choice, what with Randy Foye missing the game with an injury and Marko Jaric (who is somehow dating this lady ) and being unavailable after the 1st quarter with a foot ailment. To that I say, tough beans for Telfair, suck it up and play the whole way. There is never, ever an excuse to have Buckner initiate your offense. Pop smartly countered by staying big and playing Manu at point with the second unit and he pressured Buckner into a couple of turnovers and the T-Pups never again got their offense going.
Here are a few quickie observations:
1) Unless the Celtics win a ring in the next three or four years, they will be lambasted by basketball historians for the Garnett-Jefferson trade. Jefferson is already the superior offensive player (Duncan couldn't do much with him) and is poised to be one of the dominant power forwards in this league for another decade. Trading just the two of them straight up would've been an even deal, but Boston had to throw in a bunch of other guys to make the cap numbers work. The Celtics will regret giving up the 1st round picks though.
2) Tony's defensive work against Telfair in the 3rd quarter was flat out embarrassing. He let him go wherever he wanted and let him have whatever shot he wanted. He rebounded by having himself a good 4th quarter, but Parker was flat most of this game.
3) Ditto for Bruce and Fab. The better they play offensively, the worse they get defensively. It's maddening.
4) Michael Finley checked in with another 1 for 11. It's getting to be comical at this point how terrible he is. I don't know what's worse; that a championship contending club starts such a miserable player or that starting is the least way he can hurt us, just to have a body out there for the first six minutes of each half.
5) Boy that Mark Madsen sure has developed into quite the puke since his days as the Lakers mascot, hasn't he? I was surprised he was still in the league considering he's by far the least talented player in the NBA and all, but he managed to get under Duncan's skin and provoked him into a technical with a couple of hard fouls. Here is where statistics lie a bit though: The Mad Dog (or simply "Dog" as the Wolves prick announcers referred to him) finished the game a team best +12 in his 12 minutes of play, but he angered Tim to the point where he dominated in the fourth against Jefferson and co. Those guys suffered directly because of Madsen's actions, yet it's Madsen who wound up smelling like a rose in the box score.
6) Pop should've given Matt Bonner a chance in that 3rd quarter before resorting to Tinyball. I fail to understand how Finley is a better option. If your three swingmen are Bruce-Manu-Brent, it's one thing, but if you want to keep Fin in there instead of Bruce then why not just stay big? I keep waiting for Pop to stumble into the Duncan-Bonner-Ginobili-Barry-Parker line-up. And waiting...
7) Let's see if the fellas can turn on that defensive light switch because Timmeh or no Timmeh, we won't be winning any of these next half dozen games with 40-11 runs after loggygagging for 34 minutes. It'd be nice for RoHo to step up here.
Fun with Plus-Minus
I spent a bunch of time this weekend poring through every box score of this not-so-young anymore season and looking at the +/- figures. I don't know why, the mood just struck me. I've decided to keep track of every time a player finishes +25 or higher or -25 or lower in a game. I've got a Word file on the computer at home and everything. Here are some of the more relevant results I've tabulated, before Tuesday's games. A warning, they make Rayneesha appear better than he actually is. I think the guy landed on the right team. Or just played too many minutes against the god awful Knicks.
Here is your top 20, so far...
Top Individual Players
Player 1 Team + - +/- Minutes +/- Min G
R. Allen Celtics 1,331 -1,133 198 631:19 .313 16
M. Ginobili Spurs 1,161 -964 197 516:19 .381 18
K. Garnett Celtics 1,237 -1,044 193 583:13 .330 16
A. Kirilenko Jazz 1,536 -1,360 176 652:59 .269 19
P. Pierce Celtics 1,271 -1,102 169 602:46 .280 16
M. Camby Nuggets 1,399 -1,236 163 604:58 .269 18
D. Howard Magic 1,721 -1,558 163 768:45 .212 20
R. Lewis Magic 1,744 -1,595 149 787:40 .189 20
C. Billups Pistons 1,065 -918 147 497:18 .295 15
K. Perkins Celtics 874 -729 145 411:35 .352 16
T. Prince Pistons 1,235 -1,093 142 585:24 .242 17
G. Hill Suns 1,461 -1,324 137 632:13 .216 18
S. Nash Suns 1,486 -1,354 132 622:14 .212 18
T. Duncan Spurs 1,244 -1,113 131 580:32 .225 18
T. Parker Spurs 1,323 -1,196 127 622:40 .203 18
A. Iverson Nuggets 1,582 -1,461 121 694:50 .174 18
D. Williams Jazz 1,614 -1,493 121 710:01 .170 19
C. Boozer Jazz 1,461 -1,341 120 629:19 .190 18
J. Nelson Magic 1,299 -1,181 118 585:09 .201 19
R. Rondo Celtics 1,069 -956 113 520:57 .216 16
You may notice that Gino's figure of +.381 per minute far and away leads the league. He's on a pace for a +897 season, playing less than 30 minutes a night. I don't know what the word to describe that in context is, but I don't think it exists in the English language.
And this is the part where I actually did work...
Most Times +25
1. Marcus Camby Nuggets 4
1. Allen Iverson 4 Nuggets 4
3. Andrei Kirilenko Jazz 3
3. Rashard Lewis Magic 3
3. Jameer Nelson Magic 3
6. Ray Allen Celtics 2
6. Carmelo Anthony Nuggets 2
6. Chris Bosh Raptors 2
6. Tim Duncan Spurs 2
6. Kevin Garnett Celtics 2
6. Rudy Gay Grizzlies 2
6. Kendrick Perkins Celtics 2
6. Paul Pierce Celtics 2
6. Tayshaun Prince Pistons 2
6. DeShawn Stevenson Wizards 2
Most Times -25
1. Kevin Durant Sonics 3
2. Carmelo Anthony Nuggets 2
2. Allen Iverson Nuggets 2
2. Bostjan Nachbar Nets 2
2. Michael Redd Bucks 2
2. Gerald Wallace Bobcats 2
Highest + in any game
1. Ray Allen Celtics +45 11/29 vs. NY
2. Chauncey Billups Pistons +36 11/21 vs. NY
2. Juan Dixon Raptors +36 11/2 @NJ
2. Jose Calderon Raptors +36 11/2 @NJ
5. Manu Ginobili Spurs +35 11/30 @Min
5. Richard Hamilton Pistons +35 11/9 vs. LAC
5. Rasho Nesterovic Raptors +35 11/1 @Chi
8. Leandro Barbosa Suns +34 11/21 vs. Sac
8. Chris Bosh Raptors +34 11/2 @NJ
8. Kendrick Perkins Celtics +34 11/29 vs. NY
11. Marcus Camby Nuggets +33 11/9 @Was
11. Kevin Garnett Celtics +33 11/7 vs. Den
11. Allen Iverson Nuggets +33 11/20 vs. Chi
14. Carmelo Anthony +32 12/2 vs. Mia
14. Rudy Gay Grizzlies +32 12/1 vs. Min
14. Dirk Nowitzki Mavericks +32 11/13 vs. Phi
14. Brad Miller Kings +32 11/6 vs. Sea
18. Carmelo Anthony +31 11/9 @Was
18. Tim Duncan Spurs +31 11/11 vs. Mil
18. Grant Hill Suns +31 11/31 vs. Sac
18. Steve Nash Suns +31 11/6 @Cha
18. Paul Pierce Celtics +31 11/29 vs. NY
18. Mickael Pietrus Warriors +31 11/20 @NY
18. DeShawn Stevenson Wizards +31 11/20 vs. Phi
18. Shawne Williams Pacers +31 vs. Uta
Lowest - in any game
1. Eddy Curry Knicks -36 11/29 @Bos
2. LaMarcus Aldridge Trailblazers -35 11/2 @NO
3. Brandon Roy Trailblazers -33 11/2 @NO
3. Antoine Wright Nets -33 11/19 @Uta
5. Udonis Haslem Heat -32 12/2 @Den
5. Quentin Richardson Knicks -32 11/29 @Bos
5. Gerald Wallace Bobcats -32 11/6 vs. Pho
8. Jamal Crawford Knicks -31 11/29 @Bos
8. Andre Igoudala 76ers -31 10/20 @Was
8. Michael Redd Bucks -31 11/27 vs. Phi
8. Antoine Walker Timberwolves-31 11/30 @SA
8. Earl Watson Sonics -31 10/31 @Den
13. Carmelo Anthony Nuggets -30 11/29 @LAL
13. Ben Gordon Bulls -30 11/20 @Den
13. Stephon Marbury Knicks -30 11/29 @Bos
13. Bostjan Nachbar Nets -30 11/2 vs. Tor
13. Michael Redd Bucks -30 10/31 @Orl
18. Carmelo Anthony Nuggets -29 11/7 @Bos
18. Lamar Odom Lakers -29 11/30 @Uta
18. Jason Richardson Bobcats -29 11/6 vs. Pho
I don't quite know what these stats mean, outside of the fact that the combustible Denver Nuggets always seem to be involved in blowouts, good or bad. The Hawks, Celtics, Mavericks, Pistons, Warriors, Rockets, Pacers, Magic, Spurs, Raptors, and Wizards haven't had a player finish -25 or worse yet this season and I'm comfortable stating that your Finals representatives will come out of this group. Meanwhile the Bulls, Cavaliers, Timberwolves, Knicks, Trailblazers, and Sonics haven't had a single +25 performer among them and I'm also comfortable saying all of these teams are lottery bound, except maybe Cleveland.
I have no point.
Your November Spurs MVP
To no one's shock, I declare Manu Ginobili your Spurs MVP for the first full month of the NBA season. Tony Parker gave it a strong push in the final two weeks, but overall you have to Opus the nod for his inspirational, game-changing play night in and night out. The guy is 2nd in the league in both +/- and PER and while it might be easy to dismiss one of those two stats as a fluke, I'm not dumb enough to ignore both. The Hustlemaker is indeed having himself a career season; and we can only hope that he somehow keeps it up for the next six months. He may very well have to as by my count, we have a half dozen players who are actually contributing whatsoever to our wins and another half dozen who are either merely along for the ride in best cases or more commonly, openly hurting us whenever they step on the floor.
Opus scoring another two against the prospect Simmons described as being "like Manu Ginobili, but a better defender." Oy vey.
(AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Your 3 Stars
3. Brent Barry - Had all eight of his points and two of his three helpers in the fourth quarter, when we blitzed the hell out of them. His first bomb brought us all the way back and capped a 14-0 run and the second made it a ten point game and left the announcers muttering.
2. Tim Duncan - Jefferson had his way with Timmeh for most of the night, but Duncan, like the great champion that he is, finally found his pride and his game in the 3rd and finished the night with a solid 20-14-4. We're gonna miss him mightily, methinks.
1. Manu Ginobili - I loved that play with about four minutes left in the 3rd where he did three clever things with the ball in about three seconds. First he swiped it from an unsuspecting T-Puppy by batting it the opposite direction of where his momentum was going, second he made this fancy behind the back dribble that somehow wasn't a travel, and finally he dished it to Tony in the last possible moment so he could finish off the 2-on-1, even taking a elbow to the face from that punk Telfair for his trouble.
Like I said, I didn't see the Portland game, but I'll take a shot and guess that the three stars were something like
3. Fabricio Oberto
2. Brent Barry
1. Tony Parker
Am I off the mark?
Up Next: Vs. Dallas Mavericks
I fucking hate these guys. Why do we have to play them now? Goddammitgoddammitgoddammit.