As usual, I'm a day late with the recap. So here on the eve of The Great Laker Game, I'll go ahead and post this for discussion.
I suspect we will view this game (vs. Magic) very differently based on how the boys fare against the Lakers Wednesday night. If we beat the Lakers, the Magic game will simply be a loss to a team that shot the lights out for one night. If we lose to the Lakers, then this game suddenly becomes Exhibit A (and the Lakers game Exhibit B) in how the Spurs won't win the chip because the Can't Beat Good Teams. And Can't Win the Big Games. In reality - win or lose against the Lakers - I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle. It's January people. No one wins the chip in January. But it can be lost in January. And at 2nd seed in the West, I just don't think that's where we are yet.
Anyway, the Magic game:
We started the game with a SWEET pass from Tony to Tim on the pick-and-roll, which got TD a layup. In fact, Timmeh had 6 of our first 8 points and I thought he would roll for 30. Dwight Howard is a major physical presence and is becoming a polished offensive player, but his defense is still suspect. He leaves his man too often, but not to double, just to roam in Richardson-land (named after Jason Richardson for the Christmas Day drift in between two players, but guarding neither). He also leaves his feet a lot for the shot block and when he doesn't get it, it becomes a layup. But everything settled down and the teams traded buckets for much of the quarter.
Two patterns emerged in this quarter that were consistent for much of the game:
1. The refereeing was incredibly, unconscionably inconsistent. Not unfair or unbalanced, but wildly varying based on what part of the floor you were on and which ref was in position to make the call. By the 6:00 minute mark of any game, a player ought to be able to know at that point what will be called and what will not. Into the 4th quarter, I don't think players on either team had a clue when contact would be called and when it wouldn't. If you watched the game, you saw how frustrated and confused the players were in the 4th.
2. The Magic hit a few early 3s and the Spurs missed their early 3s. And then the late ones too.
Highlight of the quarter: Bonner bricks a three that is headed out of bounds baseline. Manu grabs it and as two Magics are harassing him, he drives baseline, then out to the top of the key, but not before a no-look dropoff to Fin, who lays it up over his head facing midcourt. Very nice....
But we were so worried about Howard that we doubled on every touch and our defensive rotations to 3-point shooters SUCKED. So at the end of 1, Magic: 34, Spurs: 28.
Nice start - Mason jumps a passing lane, steals, and passes ahead to a streaking George Hill for a pretty dunk. Albatross can fly when he wants to.
The rotations on the 3-ball improved this quarter, but the Magic kept hitting shots. Tony owned this quarter offensively, but KT played well also. He only had 6 points in the period, but he was incredibly active, he rebounded, and made Howard pay every time he left to double a penetrating guard (basketball is such a phallic game to describe....). The end of the quarter sucked. Tony got a nice layup with 9 seconds left, then we gave up a 3 on the other end from Jameer Nelson with a second left. It looked like there was confusion about who was guarding him and Manu went under a screen, which gave Nelson a wide open look. It was the poop floating in the pool of our otherwise decent first half. Magic: 55, Spurs: 50.
TP had 18 and 6 in the first half. Howard had 13 on 5-7 shooting. The Magic were also 8-11 from 3-land, while the Spurs were 0-3. When was the last time you saw the Spurs only take 3 3-balls in a half? I'm thinking it probably goes back to when Larry Brown was coaching... SA shot 55% in the first half and were losing by 5. Yeah, that percentage is going to last....
This is the quarter that the officiating got under everyone's skin, on both sides, but it seemed to especially affect Tim. He was clearly frustrated on a number of occasions and he looked like he stopped being aggressive for a while because he did not think he would get a call. I'm not one to cry about reffing very often - I tend to be the guy that waves off the call at the playground - but some of the calls in this quarter were pretty ridiculous. But again, the weird calls went both ways and you have to play the game you're given.
Tony continued his hot streak - 5 minutes into the quarter, he was up to 25 points.
It was a frustrating quarter. Every time the Spurs would get a lead of 5 or 6 points, the Magic would sink a three and close the gap. End of the third - Magic: 74, Spurs, 72. Held them to 19 points, but only scored 22. The Magic are 10-15 on 3-balls, and we are 1-6. And Tony has the one. Go figure.
I really don't even want to rewatch this quarter, because it pissed me off when I saw it live. But for you, my dear PtR friends, I suck it up and press on. Orlando starts the 4th with 3 straight three point attempts, two of which go in. Both covered pretty well, just good shots. Let's be honest - if Keith Bogans is going to jack up a three at the end of the shot clock, you can live with that, right?
We took the 86-85 lead at the 6:23 mark on a Mason-dog 3-ball (our first and only non-Tony / non-Manu 3 of the night). Tim smoked Howard a few moments later with a pump-fake, up-and-under to tie it at 90. Tony hit a jumper with 4 minutes left to tie it at 92 (for his 31st point ) and that was it. Neither Tony nor Tim scored again. Meanwhile,Nelson hit back-to-back shots (a 3 and a 2) and gave them a 5 point lead and the rest was basically free throws. Tony missed two shots at the end of the game but they weren't bad shots - open floor, on the break, just did not go down. Manu and Fin both had looks at a 3 and nothing would fall in the last 3 minutes of the game. Tough breaks.
Final - Magic: 105, Spurs: 98.
Random Stats / Thoughts:
- Orlando was 63% from 3-point in this game. That's not a typo. 14-22 from the arc. You don't beat many teams that shoot like that. Ever. They were only 22-52 inside the arc. Wow. (Spurs finished 3-13, btw).
- Tim and Manu were -13 and -19 respectively. Let that sink in for a minute....
- Our only plus guys were Fin and Bonner at +3 each and KT at +6.
- Yeah, Tony was a little selfish and shot too much tonight. He was 13-22 and no one else got more than 14 shots (Manu). But if he had not been on, this would have been a blowout in the 3rd quarter.
- The Magic are a team that is built to beat our defensive system. They take a solid big that almost demands a double team and surround him with 4 shooters (if you count Jameer Nelson, which tonight he was, but I'm not a fan). Too many bodies for our guys to cover after a kickout pass from the post if they are hitting outside.
3. Tim - Because he always goes in here somewhere. Finished 18-10-5-3.
2. <vacant, apply within>
1. Tony - For all the crap he takes, I still take him over Jameer Nelson and all but about 3 other point guards in the league. Especially as long as Pop and Tim are around to keep him straight.
I think this was just one of those games. The other team could not miss, SA could not hit a 3, and the weird officiating took the guys out of their game for part of the 4th quarter. It would be easy to look at this and say that the Spurs can't beat a good team at home, but a team shooting 14-22 from 3 is just ridiculous. Some of the defense could have been better, but it was not horrible either. Just one of those nights. We'll see how it all looks after Wednesday night.
I'll go on record now in predicting a Spur win against LA. They are playing on 2 days rest, they'll have a bad taste in their mouths from this game, and it's at home. SiMA, does that screw with mojo? I don't know all of the mojo rules.....