I've been lurking on PTR since a mention on the Express News' website during the Suns series last year. Since then, I've read every major post while appreciating this site tremendously. From Stampler to Powell, to AusTechSpur, LatinD, rick2g, and the rest of the regulars, you guys have heightened my enjoyment of being a Spurs fan. Now, the last few weeks have been trying due to a) the Spurs up and down play, and b) some people getting a life outside of sports, but … you take what you can get when you're married with four kids (all under nine yrs old) a full-time job and starting a small business -- but I signed up last week and I'm posting when I can.
I was beginning to wonder if anyone was going to post a recap of the best Game One of a first round playoff game I've ever seen, so I started writing this when I saw Stampler's monster post over at Spursdynasty -- I figured that I'd put up the things I'd written that hadn't already been discussed.
Starting with the end of regulation; Suns with the ball and a 3 point lead -- did anyone notice that the 24-second violation was due to Shaq taking his sweet time coming up the floor? It took him 10 seconds to cross halfcourt and another 4 to get down to the post. Which of course left 10 seconds to actually try to run a play. This is the kind of thing that happens when a team adds a player to the mix at the end of a season. The Suns had played at a quick tempo for such a long time, I'm sure Nash was used to the amount of time he's used to having to set up a play. He's usually very in control of himself, the possession, the shot clock, etc. But obviously, handling all of that in addtion to the pressure of the situation and having to deal with fitting a new cog into the works (especially one who slows down the works as much as Shaq does) was just too much to keep track of it all and they didn't even come close to taking a shot. If Shaq's goaltend changed the game as Stampler said, then getting a stop on this possession kept the Suns from changing it back.
I don't think I'll ever forget Nash just standing there, dribbling the ball above the three point line, waiting and waiting and waiting for the Big Delay to get into the offense. This was the big argument that most of the media had against Shaq-for-Marion, that he'd slow them down too much. It's the reason that the first time ESPN.com posted the trade rumors, I yelled "DO IT!!" at my monitor. At crunch time, when they had the chance to put us away in regulation, Shaq dragged their offense to a crawl. Thank you very much.
This was the kind of game that Horry used to win for us, and it's as much a testament to the player he used to be as it is to the way Buford has filled out the team this year that it took three players to do the job he used to and make the plays he used to make. Kurt Thomas's defense and charge taking; Finley's dagger three to send it to OT; Duncan's three to send it to the 2nd OT -- that's what the Fresh Prince used to do for us. Good news: we're still getting it done. Sad news: Horry seems to be too old to still be doing it. Of course, the playoffs aren't over yet. You never know.
Popovich really did have a braniac of a game. Between hack-a-skinny and hack-a-Shaq, changing the pick-and-roll defense in the 4th to trapping Nash (which led to the Sickness' steal of Amare and the resulting foul), calling the play for BO's three, and for Duncan's three (we can give Pop credit for that can't we? *smirk*) as well as the coaching job necessary to make sure that everyone knew what do to (and what not to do, like taking a timeout) after Nash's amazing three. You have to give credit to the ol' whitehaired guy. Nobody screwed it up and Manu calmly walked the ball up the court.
Then came the game winner. Which is what I really want to talk about. Tie game in double overtime. What did Manu have to say about it afterward? "It’s what every player loves doing. The adrenaline at that point is huge." Love it. He's there with Bell on him, waiting for the clock to wind down and BLOG gives him a fake drive and stops. Raja runs backward before he realizes that it's just a fake, but now there's about 4 feet of separation between them, and when Manu starts his real drive, he's able to really accelerate without Bell using his body or his forearm to slow him down. As a result, Manu's in control of the entire drive and is able to get almost right to the rim. Then came the amazing: when he finally pulls up for the shot, his body control was such that it looked almost effortless even though he had to get his left leg completely horizontal in order to have the release he wanted. Beautiful.
Finally, the post-game comment from the visitor's locker room. No, not Shaq's pot/kettle foot/mouth tirade -- I'm thinking about what Nash said. Now I'm not one to read too much into one thing someone says, but let's go ahead at this point and pretend that the things people say mean something -- that there's a reason they say what they say, and it tells us something about them. With that mindset, what to make of it when Nash says, "We feel like we're going to be really difficult to beat." Hmmm. Nash doesn't say that the Suns will still win the series or that they're still confident of victory or that it's a tough loss, etc. He says that they're "going to be difficult to beat." Well, if it's a choice between it being difficult to beat them or actually losing to them, I'll choose the difficulty and being alive to continue on to the next round. It's similar to the logic of someone who says that they're ready to die for their country, and the smart response is the line: The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the enemy die for his. So, Nash and the Suns can have their wish, they can be tough to beat as long as we're the ones doing the beating.