Tonight the Spurs lost to the Celtics 83-90. All in all, it was a good game, one I'm sure I would've enjoyed if my sports happiness weren't so closely tied to the fate of the guys in black and white. There was (some) defense, hustle, bloody noses, a monster unleashed and even a close 4th quarter that kept us hoping against hope.
This is a game that I'm sure that we (and by "we" I mean PTR, 48MoH, Project Spurs, everyone) will analyze to death in the following days, but in the meantime let's try to take the good out of our first real test of the season.
There's a short but intense rant after the jump. You're welcome to join us and vent at will.
Our first half was downright horrible, an exercise in futility. Our second half started just as bad, continued even worse, and finally threatened to thrust us into a bottomless pit of despair until our second unit (led by one DeJuan Blair and Tony Parker) brought us back within arm's reach. In the end, just like for the entire game, we couldn't overcome the 10-point cushion they built during the first quarter.
There will be a full recap tomorrow, but in the meantime let me list the more obvious positives and negatives of this loss.
Why so negative?
Richard Jefferson has already played 16 games as a Spur, and beyond a couple of good-to-great nights, he's shown very little. He looks lost at times, unsure of his role, timid. Even worse, he makes very lazy passes that often lead to turnovers and easy points for our opponents. Some recommend trying to get him going early, considering he's used to being the franchise player, center of his team's universe and be-all end-all of their basketball hopes. Personally, I think he should just stop being a ninny and play. Maybe I'm crazy, but I think that the player with the second highest salary in the team needs to adapt to that team's needs, and not otherwise.
Basketball Reference describes four factors that determine the outcome of a game (this is something I believe Graydon Gordian always looks at when recapping games): shooting, rebounds, turnovers and free throws. It was the last two that spelled our doom. We had 18 turnovers, and some of them were ridiculous, symptoms of an overall sloppy offense. There's also no excuse for our free-throw percentage - in a close game like this one, shooting 7-17 from the line simply won't cut it.
Last but not least, I would like to mention the inexplicable decision by Popovich to keep Manu out of the game in the 4th quarter, until the very last desperate gamble. At this point I'm almost hoping that Manu told him that he wasn't feeling quite right, because choosing a cold Mason over him is madness.
As inconsequential as RJ was, Blair was essential. Every one of his best qualities was on full display tonight: his soft hands, his relentless approach to rebounding, even his beyond-his-years post moves. His impressive outing is even more meaningful when you consider what kind of start he had to overcome: in his first minutes on court he tried to grab a defensive rebound with only one hand and scored a beautiful layup on the Celtics' hoop. It was that kind of night for the Spurs, but Blair didn't let it get him down for long.
Blair moves without thought: when he's on, everything's automatic for him. Grab ball in a position to score, turn and shoot the layup. My flawed description compartmentalizes something that Blair performs with a fluidity that can't be taught - Blair is a Brownian ratchet in the flesh, and his continuous effort energized the team tonight and was nearly enough to carry us to victory.
Our bench as a whole did its parts - it was the starters that failed to rise to the occasion. They'll have their revenge.
Your three stars
3rd. Tim Duncan - His 6 TOs were daggers that gave the Celtics their 10-point lead back after our BAM had put us within 3, halfway through the second quarter. Regardless, 8-17 FGs, 16 points and 15 rebounds (7 offensive!) in 32 minutes prove that even in his off nights, Tim always plays well enough to get the team in a position to win the game.
2nd. Tony Parker - He had some painful TOs and misplays in the fourth, but looking at the boxscore you also notice he had quite a game. 8-15 FGs, 4 rebounds, 7 assists and only 2 TOs, good for 17 points. Tony Be Good.
- 1st. DeJuan Blair - The beast was beastly tonight, shooting 9-11 FGs and grabbing 11 rebounds (5 offensive), 2 blocks and a team-high +10 +/-. He also did all that in only 21 minutes, too. What else can I say about this guy?
That's it, fellows. You can start panicking now if you want.