Battling for the Bruce Cup - A recap of the Utah Jazz game

OK, so this is a picture I just snapped off with my cell phone. Can you tell? Its grainy and the lighting is poor. But once you get past that, you will see a tattered old Taco Cabana cup featuring Bruce Bowen on my desk here at work. It is one of my prized possessions.

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Three to four times a day, I fill it with water to drink. I take it to meetings to fuch with a bunch of my fellow Ohioans. Its really funny to see some people crane their neck trying to understand just what the heck it is…because you see, we have no Taco Cabana in Cincinnati – and of course, we have no Bruce Bowen. This is what we know.

What we don’t know is just how much water is in the cup. Is it half full or half empty? This is kind of where we sit as Spurs fans right now. For fans of most teams, a second place spot in the conference, a 30-14 record and a road win over a play-off bound team all seem like great things to bank on.

From another perspective, the Jazz are banged up, they killed us on the boards in the 3rd and they shot almost 50% for the game. If they can give us this kind of game without Boozer or Kirilenko, then what does that say about our Spurs? Further, our guys just got washed on National TV by the one team above us and we have played down to the competition in many games leading up to that drubbing. So which is it half-full or half empty? Now, let’s look to the Jazz game as an indicator of the choppy year it has been thus far.

The game starts with Timmy absolutely burying leather in the mug of Utah’s Paul Millsap. But then, Millsap comes right back with a sweet cross-over move followed by a step-back nylon brusher. Whoa.

Tony hits a rare three only to be immediately replaced by George Hill. Fab Oberto is even getting some early minutes…and in the ultimate irony, Oberto is on the receiving end of an alley-oop. Does it count as an alley-oop if Oberto doesn’t dunk it?

So just what in the hell is going on here?

The choppy first half of the quarter is quickly replaced by a furious last four minutes where an 18-15 game turns into a 28-25 Jazz lead after one. So far, Manu has logged about six minutes and they are not very noteworthy. He is called for one offensive foul, but does execute a nice pick and roll with Fab-O for a deuce.

The second quarter begins with the Jazz maintaining the energy they had to end the first, scoring 8 quick in the first four minutes. A Bonner 3-ball and two Duncan baskets are keeping the Spurs right there. Right about now, any serious Spurs fan is really starting to get annoyed with the performance of CJ Miles, Ronnie Brewer and Paul Millsap. Millsap has 12 and Brewer 10 thus far. They are doing everything for the Jazz right now. We have yet to hear from many of the players on Stampler’s guys that matter list from the other day….except for Timmy of course. On his second bucket of the sequence, Tim weathered a bunch of body blows and rose above the fray to collect and deposit. It looked like Godzilla in downtown Tokyo. When everything else that you expect breaks down, it seems that you can always count on Tim to lend some order to the madness.

Middle part of the quarter sees Gino go out for Ime Udoka and the PtR natives are getting restless. What’s up with this guy? Tony’s not passing him the ball, he’s not looking for his shot. Again, what the hell is going on here?

Play is starting to get really ragged on both ends, but Timmy gets a hoop, Tony some free throws and another long one by the Super Bon Bon put the Spurs ahead 41-38 with just over two and a half left. Bonner now has 11 and he scored on Gino’s 3rd assist. Bonner will get one more right at half’s end to firmly cement himself as "on fire." Matt finishes with 20 points and 7-10 shooting.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that Utah cans a trio of 3-balls and a long two by Okur to end the half shooting over 54%. Where would we be without Duncan and Bonner in the first half? Tim has 16 and 7 at the break and Bonner has 4 of the Spurs 6 treys. Spurs are shooting 6-10 from distance thus far, and are down 21-19 on the boards.

Spurs come out of the break with gun-powder on their ass. Bonner and Mason both can a pair of three-pointers and Tim gets a pair of hoops to run the Spurs lead out to 10 at 68-58 with 6:47 left in the third. OK, so we’re looking half-full right now….we are doing all this, basically without Manu who hasn’t yet played in the second half, hasn’t yet scored, and frankly hasn’t been real involved on either end of the floor to this point.

Ready for the half-empty? Spurs don’t get a rebound between 6:27 and 1:02 of the third. And the one we got at 1:02 was a "Team Rebound," which basically means that Paul Millsap clanged one and it bounced around before being knocked out of bounds by a Jazz player. Manu finally claims a rebound by the Spurs in the final seconds of the third. This, my friends, will turn a 10 point lead into a tie ball game. Manu does get points 2 and 3 at the line, but the Spurs inexplicably allow Ronnie Brewer to run coast-to-coast in the last five seconds of the third to tie the game and cap a 31 point quarter by the home-standing Jazz. I’m ready to kill somebody, I’m sure old Coach Head Stitches is ready to kill somebody….and I’m not even gonna re-hash some of what you all said on the live game blog by this point…..

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Uh-oh. Out of water. Better get a re-fill. Bruce, where you at my, man?

Not sure what to make of this game just yet. The first three periods are marked by high tempo sequences, only to be followed by slower bumper-grinder ugly type stuff. And its not like one team is benefitting from one style here. Both teams have used the fast paced action to take an advantage (Jazz to end the first half and the Spurs to start the third). Both teams have used the slower ugly stuff as well (Spurs early in the second and Jazz to end the third).

Under the radar, Tony Parker scores 9 points in the last half of the third to keep the Spurs in it.

One thing is for sure so far, the Jazz players that don’t matter, really matter tonite. Brewer, Millsap and Miles end up with for 53 of the Jazz 100 points on a combined 21 of 43 shooting. Spurs are also shooting a dismal 9-17 at the line so far.

So, back to my favorite cup……….Bruce comes into begin the 4th and promptly drops in two baskets. Somewhere SiMA is jersey popping that #12. Is it a coincidence that the Spurs defense picks up here as well? Our favorite old guy ninja draws Mehmet Okur and locks him up.

Ragged ragged ragged play in this sequence. Hacks, clangs and a body pile up are around each corner. Is it also a coincidence that these are also Bruce Bowen minutes? Roger Mason hits a biggie at the 8:40 mark to give the Spurs a an 88-82 lead. Spurs get two offensive rebounds and Manu begins to show himself by pulling down 4 defensive rebounds in 5 Jazz possessions. Jazz get only two FGs in first four minutes of the period and the Spurs take advantage by hitting six of their first nine to take a 92-84 lead.

The Jazz will get as close as one point on a couple of occasions, but never fully recover from this pivotal Spurs run. Manu re-enters after a brief rest to dominate ball handling the rest of the way and basically exert his will on the game without scoring more than one basket. In one short stanza, Manu has went from not being involved to being Option 1.

Manu gets a big steal on Millsap just inside the two minute mark by somehow poking the ball straight up in the air and gathering it in after it bounces around in a sea of arms and legs. That’s the Manu we know and love. Then, he promptly makes too aggressive of a drive to the hole and drops the ball off for a Utah run-out. Yikes. Oh Manu.........

As if all of this Manu were not enough, he finally gets it right. Timmy feeds Gino for a wild, twisting, back-handed lay-up to put the Spurs up 96-93 on a great cut to daylight. On the ensuing Jazz possession, Ginobili makes one of the greatest rakes I have seen in a long time, victimizing Ronnie Brewer. Spurs ball.

Manu gets himself to the line an eye-popping 4 times in the last minute of this game and sinks all 8 attempts. Spurs right the ship with solid defense down the stretch, making 12 of 15 free throws in the quarter and managing to play even on the boards. Manu is also key to this point by pulling down 6 of his 9 caroms in the 4th. Jazz had only 6 bench points. Spurs had 25, 13 of them belonging to Manu.

Your three stars:

Bruce Bowen. Look, a case can be made for Tony (9-18, 24 points) and Matt (6-7 long ones and 20 points) can be made here. Tony was kind of under the radar and Matt didn’t score after the first few minutes of the third period. I went with Bruce because he came in and helped stem the tide of a hot Jazz end to the third period. The first half of the fourth is one of the places where this game was won. Bruce tied up Mehmet Okur (0-4) during this stretch and scored 4 points of his own. Besides, he’s on the cup, man!!!!!! He’s the cover boy to this recap. I can’t leave him out in the cold after he’s been there for me day in and day out.

Manu Ginobili. Do I really ever have to justify giving Manu a star? He ran the game at the end with steals, free throws and an impossible make at a key time for his only basket. He hit all 8 free throw attempts in the fourth folks. Bet the folks in Utah are tired of seeing that. Manu may have been 1-5 from the field, but he added 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals. Most of this was done in crunch time.

Tim Duncan. He had 24 points on 10-16 and a +16. He also had 9 rebounds, 8 assists and three blocked shots. As always, he was the man. He steadily performed whjile everything else around him was chaotic.

So how much water was in that dang old cup anyway?

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As for now, I'm really thirsty. Gotta run.....

This is fan-created content on The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff at Pounding the Rock.

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