The fact that a believer is happier than a sceptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality.
--George Bernard Shaw
Two themes dominated this game. The first was injuries to both stars and lesser players on both teams. Manu and Tony were out for the Spurs. Williams and Boozer for the Jazz. The Jazz were also without Kyle Korver and Jarron Collins' 6 fouls.
The second theme was the Spurs front office decisions this summer. The much-maligned George Hill draft choice, the Plan B (or Plan C) signing of Roger Mason, and the re-signing of Michael Finley.
Playing the role of both the drunk and the believer for the Spurs so far this season, I am without a doubt happy. But, even the skeptics and sober ones have to be happy with George and Roger -- and give the front office their due. For this one game, at least.
The Jazz jumped out to an early 20-11 lead on 9-11 shooting fueled by Mehmet Okur's 11 points. Then a funny thing happened. George Hill entered the game. He replaced Roger Mason who had started at point guard.
In the 5 minutes and 13 seconds he was in the game, the Spurs erased the 9-point deficit and went up by 5. George scored 10 points, on 4 possessions, and assisted on two Matt Bonner 3's, accounting for 16 of the Spurs 18 points during the run. He also had 2 steals during the stretch (note: the official stats only gave him credit for one because he got fouled on the second steal. Bush league I tell you). The Spurs ended the first up 29-24.
The very first shot George took encapsulates everything I like about him and every reason why he isn't Beno. George caught the ball on the baseline just outside the paint and went up for the dunk. Okur stuffed it right at the rim. But George didn't quit on the play. He didn't sulk. He didn't do anything but keep playing basketball. The block bounced out to the Spurs. George kept his head and ran to the corner. Finley hit him with a pass and he drained the 3. I attached the highlights at the end of this. Watch the play for yourself. The guy is aggressive and confident. Eager to learn. Not overly proud, but not meek.
"Seriously, how am I supposed to guard a guy with cubits like that?" -- CJ Miles
In the second quarter, the Spurs extended their lead with the continued hot shooting of one Michael Finley. Yes, you read that right. Michael Finley can shoot again. Finley hit is first 4 jumpers of the second quarter. Two each sandwiched around a pair of Roger Mason 3-pointers. At this point, the Spurs were 8-9 from 3-pt land. The Spurs lead grew to as much as 14 before the Jazz, with an endless procession to the free throw line -- 16 total in the quarter, chipped their way back into the game. George again had an impact in the quarter getting to the line 6 times himself with aggressive play. Roger Mason hit a driving layup to push the Spurs lead to 8, 61-53, at the half. We were shooting lights out. Our best offensive first half of the season, by far, left us up by only 8 thanks to some fairly sorry defense.
The first half gave us 4 players in double figures: Tim - 12, Mason - 11, FinDog - 13. Hill's 17 in 10 dominating minutes were definitely the highlight.
Matt Bonner in a gay bar: Rubbing on one guy with his ass while getting his package grabbed by another all the while pretending he doesn't like it. We know better Matty.
The third quarter belonged to one man. Roger Mason. From the 11:02 mark of the third to the 10:22 of the fourth, Mace Windu scored 18 points. He hit everything. His 7th 3-pointer of the game sent him to the bench with the Spurs up 25. Yes, you read that right. I wrote one sentence with 2 incredible facts in it. Roger Mason hit 7 3-pointers and the Spurs had a 25 point lead.
Mason's 7th 3-pointer ended his night, but it's the way he ended the 3rd quarter that killed the Jazz. The Jazz were hanging around in that 12 point deficit range with 2:00 to go in the third. Roger hit a 3, a pair of free throws, a Bowen 3, and a LONG Mason 3 at the buzzer capped an 11 point run to end the quarter.
The Spurs game total at the end of the third quarter showed them shooting 12-19 from 3-pt, 58% from the field, and out-rebounding the Jazz 26-21. Game. Over.
Mace Windu shoots a layup after slicing the head off his opponent with his lightsaber.
The Fourth - aka Garbage Time
Nothing of serious interest happened after Bonner and Mason opened the quarter with 3-pointers putting the Spurs up 25.
Anthony Tolliver showed some great passing skills with a pair of superior passes to Kurt Thomas. He has shown some flashes of an uncanny ability to feed our post players. Always a good thing when you have Tim.
Tolliver hit a late 3 to give the Spurs an astounding 15-25 from downtown.
"When I take a picture of myself like this, my arms look as long as George's." --Tim Duncan
Your Three Stars
3. Tim Duncan - Always a safe pick. Tim's 18 points -- 6-10 FG, 6-6 FT --, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists were very solid. Those watching the feed last night might remember a series of defensive possessions in the second half where Tim was yelling "got a piece" on a couple of Jazz shots. It was interesting to me because I had never heard him saying that before. It was very interesting for me to see the box score and note that the Spurs had zero blocked shots last night.
2. George Hill - Most nights George would have been first star with his effort. But, since I'm not a cracker, he gets second star. His first quarter and second quarter stints changed the complexion of the game. Positively. He finished with 23 points on 7-13 shooting. 2-2 3pt, 7-10 from the line. 4 assists, 3 steals.
1. Roger Mason - Mace dropped 29 on the jazz. 10-17 FG, 7-10 3pt, 4 reb, 2 assists. Roger owned this game. He created his own shot. He hit drives, he hit off screens, he hit on kick outs. He did it all. Just think, our BACKUP GUARDS put up 52 points.
I think George Hill will be a great backup for Tony. He'll come in to play aggressive defense and make plays. He won't have to worry about fouls because he won't be playing enough minutes to force him to back off. It may also make Tony play more aggressive, hounding defense. I think Roger and Manu will be great together. I really see us having 4 guys consistently scoring 14-18 points per game. That balance offensively will be very good for us. Another guy who is showing something is Tolliver. He had a wonderful hustle play in the second quarter where he broke up an alley oop and saved the ball going out of bounds for us. Combinded with his passing, he'll be a great guy for 10-12 minutes per game if he gets his shot falling.
It's easy to have a good feeling after a beat down like that game. But the players that did it and the way they contributed really spoke to the front office decision making.
You can watch the highlights from the NBA yourself.