Well that was fun. Matthew covered most of it. I will say that I thought it was mighty stupid of him to not play the big three a little bit in game 82 just because they happened to be playing the Nuggets. Oh we're so worried they'll know our plays. Gimme a break. Everyone knows our plays. We've run the same shit for years. If you execute, it can't be stopped, it's just a matter of picking your poison. That's the whole beauty of it. Our guys needed some live action and looked terribly sluggish for most of the game. Tim, Manu and Tony are all rhythm players. They're not Robert Horry. They can't just hibernate for six months and then be great. They need to play constantly.
Before anyone panics though, let me just share one stat with you:
After 8 playoff games, the NBA postseason leader in +/- is Matt Barnes, at +23.
The worst is your future MVP, Dirk Nowitzki, at -20..
It's just one game, please don't freak out.
Let's get it over with...
Game 1 Denver @ San Antonio: Nuggets 95, Spurs 89
We just had a total bizzaro world, nightmare game, from start to finish. Our good players were crap, our crappy players were above average, and our defense got progressively worse as the game went on instead of better. The only comfort, besides the possible return of Big Shot Bob, is that our big three played as poorly as they could possibly play, and their big two played as well as they're going to, and it was still a tight game.
T, M & t were just god awful. Unimaginably awful. 7 of 33 in the first half awful. Aggression wasn't the problem. They all attempted a number of lay ups. The ball just didn't go in. Our stars were sluggish and rusty. Still, we were down only two at half thanks to spirited play from Horry and Oberto (3-3, 6 pts, 3 rebs) and 10 points from Fin on offense and a lot of forced turnovers on defense. We had 17 more shot attempts than Denver, partly because we had an uncharacteristic strong half on the offensive glass, with 10 pulls, but also because we only had four free throw attempts in the first 24 minutes. Either we weren't doing enough to draw fouls, or the refs weren't calling them.
The third quarter should have been where we ran away with the game. We shot 73% in the period, (8-10 for the big three) but had only 15 attempts in the 12 minutes thanks to the turnover bug catching up with us. After only three giveaways in the first half, we had six in the 3rd quarter. Denver shot 45% in the quarter and was outscored by just one point.
In the fourth, I thought we were in great shape. Not only did we survive the first 3:30 with Duncan on the bench, we thrived, outscoring the Nugs by two to take a one point lead. Ironically as soon as he came back in for what should have been the closing kick, we just let it get away from us. Tony and Robert were the only guys who could hit anything down the stretch, Carmelo and A.I. caught fire and we gave up 28 points in the fourth and were significantly outhustled.
Individually almost everyone was culpable.
Tim had a shitty night on the defensive glass, wasn't aggressive enough with the ball and was far too hesitant and tentative most of the night. He made some good passes, but offensively he didn't have much going except for the 3rd quarter. He got manhandled by Nene on quite a few occasions. It's like he has to work up hatred for an opponent every series.
Tony started badly but ended up having a so-so offensive game when it was all said and done. Yeah 19 points on 20 shots isn't great, but he did have eight assists and I don't think he made too many selfish or poor decisions. My main issue with him is that he was atrocious defensively, especially in the second half. I know A.I. isn't an easy assignment, but often Tony wasn't even in the picture with him. He's got to stop treating his own end of the floor as a place to catch his breath. Can't do that against these guys.
Manu took a few questionable shots in the first half and it looked like he was a little too hyper to get the team going after a very slow opening six minutes. I guess he wanted to get the team going or the fans yelling or whatever, but he tried to take over the game instead of letting it come to him and rushed a few opportunities. Just because he didn't get to the line, it doesn't mean he didn't drive though. He had six lay up attempts, but only two makes.
The problem, it seems, is that he was so discouraged by his first half (2-12) that he shut it down mentally in the second half, taking only three shots. He hardly touched the ball the last 24 minutes and it didn't appear that Pop called any plays for him. As I've written before, when he drifts, he's useless. When you see him floating either force feed him some plays to snap him out of his funk or sit his ass on the bench. Don't just let him jog up and down the floor in a pout.
On the surface it appears Horry played rather well, and he did lead the team with a +8, but the dude had one rebound in 25 minutes. That's one thing if he's playing small forward, as he's done most of his career. However we're playing him at power forward and that's not gonna cut it. He has to be tougher down low or sit because despite today's anomaly, the '06-07 Spurs got along just well, thank you offensively without his contributions.
Ditto Michael Finley. Good offense, terrible defense. 34 minutes is a ridiculous total for him considering we didn't play a lick of smallball. How could he not grab a single rebound?
Bowen played the majority of his 19 minutes in the 1st quarter and appeared to be doing a good job on AI, (0-6 in the 1st) but he picked up his second foul late in the quarter and Pop was loathe to use him the rest of the way. I just don't understand how Pop's brain works. The whole year he preaches defense, defense, defense, and then he goes into the postseason and tries to play the most offensive combinations he can think of. How can Bruce get less than 20 mins when the other team has two of the top three scorers in the league? It's inexcusable.
By far our worst player though was Francisco Elson. -11 in 13 minutes. 0 points, 4 rebounds. If he doesn't show up in Game 2, Pop will probably start Horry in Denver. I can't believe how out of it he was.
Guys who need to play more (besides Bowen):
Fabricio Oberto - He was our best player in the first half and had 8 and 6 in 15 minutes. He rebounded well enough to stay on the floor.
Jacque Vaughn - Pretty much the only guy who got physical with Iverson. Denver's offense ground to a halt when he was in there.
Brent Barry - Now that Beno's out of the rotation, Brent's back to being Pop's whipping boy. Coach seems to be oblivious to the fact that the team plays well when he plays, even if he's personally not doing much. He moves the ball.
Two lineups I'd like to see:
Oberto-Duncan-Bowen-Ginobili-Vaughn - might be our best defensive unit at this point.
Duncan-Horry-Barry-Ginobili-Parker - I think we'd have a lot of good looks here if we need points in a hurry. Lots of veterans who know what they're doing here.
It's just one game, they threw an "A-" at us and we were a "D+." I won't panic just yet. The big three will play a lot better and Pop has a hundred different offensive looks he can throw at them. I don't think we're gonna get only 10 FT attempts in one game again. Everyone relax and take a breath. Dallas lost too, shit happens.
Your 3 stars
3. Nene Hilario - 13 and 12, did a solid job on Timmy. 8 offensive rebounds.
2. Carmelo Anthony - 30 points on 18 shots. We don't really have anyone who can guard him. Might be time to consider a pure zone and pack the lane. Make them shoot it.
1. Allen Iverson - 19 of his 31 came in the second half and he torched Tony repeatedly. We couldn't abuse him defensively as much as I'd hoped either.
In other news... um... I didn't really watch any of the other games. I had to watch a Margaret Sanger documentary at the school library in the afternoon and chose Sopranos/Entourage over Golden State/Dallas. I was too frustrated with the Spurs and didn't feel like any more basketball. So I'll do these all of the box scores, if you don't mind. At least I won't lie to you and pretend I watched the games.
Game 1 Washington @ Cleveland: Cavaliers 97, Wizards 82
Are you fucking kidding? I wouldn't watch this even if I didn't have a million other things to do. Washington's best two players are hurt, what's the point? I don't like these teams when everyone's healthy. The box score indicates nothing weird happened.
You know, unless you consider Zydrunas Ilgouskas finishing a +21, "weird." Also, I see that Antawn Jamison finished 10 of 27. Last time a power forward had that shooting line in the playoffs, they gave him a Finals MVP, right boss?
3. Zydrunas Ilgouskas - 16 and 8, team best +21.
2. Larry Hughes - 27 points on 17 shots, legitimate second banana performance.
1. LeBron James - 23-9-7. His hot start got them a lead and they coasted from there.
Game 1 Los Angeles @ Phoenix: Suns 95, Lakers 87
So you're telling me that Kobe Bryant got off to a scorching hot start but faded badly at the end? I don't believe it! LA blew a nine point half time lead, scored only 10 points in the fourth and Kobe shot 1-10 in the final period. Yikes. Big Chief Triangle managed to goad the Suns into playing at the Lakers' slower pace, and it worked for a while, but they either didn't have enough weapons to pull it out or Bryant did a poor job of finding said weapons.
95 isn't a bad total against the Suns. That's a winning number. The Lakers' offense has to be better without sacrificing defensive energy or intensity. It appears that Kwame Brown was their best big man, and he does have some postseason experience. Might be time to ride him and junk the Andrew Bynum experiment for now. I see that they benched Smush Parker and started Farmar. That's a smart move that will work out in the long run, if not this series. Parker's awful. Judging by the box score, it looks like the game came down to free throws. The Suns shot 24, the Lakers got only 11. Phoenix should never have more attempts than anybody. They're the least physical, most jump shootingest team in the league. Kobe's ratio of 33 shots to 7 free throws is pretty crappy. I'm guessing he took a lot of wayward jumpers. Am I way off?
Offensively nobody really stands out for Phoenix. Barbosa's 26 points looks flashy, but it took him 22 shots to get it. Ultimately it comes to this - The Suns have a bench weapon, LA doesn't. If Radmanovic is healthy enough to play Jackson should give him a shot, even if he was terrible the whole year. The guy can hit some threes when he's right. Either that or LA has to drive to the bucket more.
3. Leandro Barbosa - Lakers outscored him 10-9 in the fourth.
2. Kobe Bryant - 39 points is 39 points.
1. Amare Stoudemire - 23 and 12, team best +14. Beat up on LA's soft underbelly.
Game 1 Golden State @ Dallas: Warriors 97, Mavericks 85
A welcome sight to all Spurs fans ready to jump off a bridge. The MVP was 4-16 and an NBA playoff worst -20. Sixth man extraordinaire Jerry Stackhouse was 0-6 with 5 turnovers. Devin Harris, the supposed best defensive point guard in the NBA needed 18 shots for his 19 points and got treated like a total bitch by Baron Davis. The Big Bug was their best player and he scored 21 on 21 shots.
In other words, the greatest team in the history of basketball is looking for that fifth gear. My theory is that they misplaced it in Atlanta during a February road trip. Perhaps Howard tipped a skank at the Gold Club with it. I dunno.
But can we please cool all the "Avery Johnson is a coaching mastermind talk" please? Not only is he a lucky, hot-headed dope, but he's a transparent weasel as well. The whole week he's going on and on about how his centers will be the key to the series and he starts neither. Pop doesn't pull that shit. He doesn't necessarily volunteer his game plans, but he doesn't outright lie. He didn't tell the media that Rasho was gonna get a lot of run against Dallas.
I mean, what is this, high school? What professional coach thinks this way? Does he think Nellie is a total idiot? The ironic part of it is he outthought himself. If Avery just did what he said he was going to do, the Mavs might have had a chance. Instead he played small, right into the Warrior's hands. When you put Dirk at center, his weenieness gets exposed. I didn't watch the game, but I'm going to take a wild guess here that Golden State got a lot of lay ups.
39 minutes of smallball. Idiots.
Dirk and Diop played together for 11 minutes and Dallas was a +8. Well done, AJ, well done.
Also, I see the Mavericks had all of four bench points. Gotta love that depth.
Obviously a ton of credit has to go to the Warriors' defense. Harrington must have done a hell of a job on Dirk and I see that J-Rich punked Harris pretty badly on a lay-up attempt late. Good, I hate that fucker. Tons of credit has to go to Matt Barnes who did a little bit of everything and was pretty much the only reserve in this game who was worth a piss.
The stud of not just this game but the whole opening weekend though was Baron Davis. 33-14-8, always making the big play when the Warriors looked like they were on the brink of blowing their lead or losing their composure. Not only did he hit more than half of his three pointers (very rare for him) but he pulled down a game high 14 rebounds. For smallball to work your smalls have to rebound. Ours don't, for the most part. But the Warriors have some guys, Davis-J-Rich-SJax- who'll bang in there.
Kudos to the Warriors. At least Cuban had a shittier night than we did.
3. Matt Barnes - 10 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, weekend best +23.
2. Stephen Jackson - 23-5-4-2-1, hit a couple of big threes late. Outplayed Howard.
1. Baron Davis - His 33 points, 14 rebounds and 8 assists weren't just team highs, they were game highs. Fuckin' incredible.
Alright, Pistons-Magic and Jazz-Rockets Game 2s tomorrow. Expect a decent analysis of the latter and a scant mention of the former. Chins up gang, we'll be ok.