I'd like to start with a confession: The Spurs put me to sleep.
It wasn't their fault of course. Because of the Giants World Series game, I didn't pop in the Spurs game on the DVR til 12:30 a.m. I made it through half time, but after that I was out. It would've been different if it was live and I didn't know how it was going to end.
I think. I hope that's it. Maybe it was the collective "bleh" of the Pacers. Maybe it's that I'm *really* not ready for the season to start. We'll see what I'm like in two weeks.
Anyway, before we get into the Spurs, you might recall this bit of frustration about the Giants from a few days ago...
Screw the Warriors. There's only one Bay Area team that matters, baby. Giants WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!11!!!1
These guys have given me a heart attack practically every day for the past three months.
THEY CAN'T HIT.
CAN. NOT. HIT.
Like at all.
So naturally they shelled the Rangers' Cliff Lee, who came into the game with a career 7-0 record and 0.75 ERA in the postseason. Of course they did. What was supposed to be a 2-1 game ended 11-7 to the good. My guys are just three away.
I realize for Spurs fans the championship round has been a mere formality, but it hasn't been so for the Giants. In fact, Game 1s have never been the problem. The Giants are 8-0 in their last eight postseason Game 1s, not having dropped one since 1997, when the mercenary Florida Marlins did the honors. It's Game 2s that have been their bugaboo.
More specifically, they've won one Game 2 since 1987.
They lost @ Chicago 9-5 in the 1989 NLCS (Giants won series 4-1).
They lost @ Oakland 5-1 in the 1989 WS (A's won series 4-0).
They lost @ Florida 7-6 in the 1997 NLDS (Marlins won series 3-0).
They lost vs. New York 5-4 in the 2000 NLDS (Mets won series 3-1).
They lost @ Atlanta 7-3 in the 2002 NLDS (Giants won series 3-2).
They WON @ St. Louis 4-1 in the 2002 NLCS (Rich Aurilia two homers, Giants won series 4-1).
They lost @ Anaheim 11-10 in the 2002 WS (Angels won series 4-3).
They lost vs. Florida 9-5 in the 2003 NLDS (Marlins won series 3-1).
They lost vs. Atlanta 5-4 in the 2010 NLDS (Giants won series 3-1).
They lost @ Philadelphia 6-1 in the 2010 NLCS (Giants won series 4-2).
So that's 1-9 in their last ten Game 2s. I think what I'm trying to say is they're due to win one of these and I'd feel a heckuva lot better if they did. You'd think the Rangers would be totally deflated that the Giants just crushed their best pitcher, and my guys are starting Matt Cain, who's 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two postseason starts tonight, but we'll see.
*END OF GIANTS TALK*
Just to show I can make stupid predictions in multiple sports, I give you these Spurs scouting reports...
I think Duncan will surprise some people by having his best defensive season in years because I expect 2010 to be the year where he'll transition fully into the defense/rebounding phase of his career a la David Robinson in 2002-2003. With Tony, Manu, Jefferson, Hill and Blair there's more than enough scoring threats on the team and Pop's new emphasis on running and getting early offense tells me he doesn't want to involve Duncan as much in the attack. Even in the half court I see Timmy playing more in the high post or the wings and letting Blair and Splitter be the guys banging down low.
I think Duncan will approach games playing it by ear and he may look to be more involved in the scoring in the second and third quarters if the offense starts haphazardly in games, but otherwise, don't be surprised at all if he's our third or fourth leading scorer on most nights.
Brilliant! He only scored 23 points on 10-of-12 from the floor and let his man score 28. Why does anyone read my drivel?
There was also this nugget of brilliance...
Also, Manu has traditionally been a slow starter (his preseason stats were nothing special) so I don't know if he'll be able to practice what he's preaching.
Wrong again. Gino played great. I wish I could be like Simmons and every time I get something wrong, I could just claim it was a reverse jinx, but I've got too much of that darn integrity.
At least I got one thing right...
I liked the Collison pickup for them. Definite upgrade. And Granger can score all day. But outside of that these guys are lucky Toronto is in the league, otherwise they'd be the worst defensive squad in the East. I mean, Dunleavy at shooting guard? Really? I'll be pretty disappointed if the Spurs don't score at least 115 on them on opening night.
Of course we very well might need to score that many to win, but that's a whole other story.
Well, we did, and we did.
Honestly, I don't think we were as poor defensively as the score would suggest. In the first quarter the Pacers hit a lot of contested jumpers, and then RJ got into foul trouble and James Anderson was victimized by Danny Granger on three or four straight possessions. The game was in control until the benches got involved, and our subs were terrible in the first half. Also, the pace of the game factored into our defensive troubles. It was up and down and because we were looking for so much early offense, it affected us in the other end somewhat. I think we played too much at Indiana's tempo.
Really, the one poor thing I think we did defensively was that our bigs (mainly Duncan and Blair) didn't respect the shooting range and skills of their bigs (Hibbert and McRoberts). Blair in particular I think was guilty of judging a book by its cover and looked surprised on several plays by McRoberts' athleticism.
The game got chippier in the second half and guys were banging each other around a bit under the basket, and the refs let a lot of it go (to our benefit) which led to turnovers. Indiana also helped out by jacking some poor threes and forcing some other bad jumpers. They got impatient and frustrated, which is what young teams do. I also thought their coach, Jim O'Brien, did us a big favor by not playing Jeff Foster or Tyler Hansborough off the bench and going with a couple of jokers instead.
Both starting units played great, offensively. The difference was we made ten more free throws ( ! ) and our bench was only poor for the first half while theirs were crappy the whole night.
As far as the game broadcast goes, I was treated to the Pacers guys, who I found adorable. They kept talking about the team taking steps to get back to being the 2000 squad that went to the Finals. They said it with a straight face and everything. They also kept promoting some bank that's donating a whopping $33 for each three pointer Danny Granger makes. That could be like... $1,600 smackers!
Either this bank assumes the Pacers viewership is extremely bad at math, or the country is completely broke.
Frenchy McWonderbutt just misses out on Three Stars. He played pretty well, ran the offense, shot it, passed it and all that, but he missed too many bunny layups, had too many turnovers and didn't seem to know what to do with Collison. He wasn't fighting very hard to get around those screens. It says something about how good TP is that he can put up a 20 and 9 without ever getting out of third gear.
Beast did two things well: His free throw stroke looked great and he passed superbly. Otherwise, he had an off night. His defense sucked, he wasn't a factor on the boards (there weren't many to be had), and he rushed too many shots. Still, he's doing a good job of showing he's not a one-dimensional player.
RJ I thought had exactly the kind of night we were looking for when we signed him. He went to the rim aggressively and got to the line. He shot the ball with confidence and didn't hesitate. On defense Granger is a tough assignment and Jefferson suffered a couple of unlucky fouls when he was the victim of other people's mistakes. He was only able to play 21 minutes because of foul trouble, but I'd rather have him play hard than tentative.
Anderson had a brutal first few minutes in the NBA, but once knocked down his first open look, he settled down. I liked that he didn't pass up open shots - a point I'm sure Pop made very clear to him if he wants to play - and the 27 minutes he got were probably three times as many as any of us figured. Granger abused him at times, but I don't think we have anyone he wouldn't have abused.
McDyess played exactly the way we want him to play, with six boards in 19 minutes and he'll probably have to log some heavy minutes these next two weeks with Bonner and Splitter down. I know before the game that Pop said Splitter would be out for Saturday too, but I'm hopeful that in light of Rocket's injury he'll reconsider. I really don't want to go into the Hornets game with just three bigs. Even if Splitter can only give us eight or 10 minutes, that's eight or 10 where we don't have to use RJ or Anderson at the four. While Bonner was in there, it was evident that a part of Indiana's game plan was to not give him any looks from three. They were crowding him pretty good. Simmons isn't worth writing about, other than I'm glad Pop went with Anderson over him. Let the kid sink or swim.
3. George Hill - Yoopy's alarm didn't go off until the second half, but he helped the team pull away in the fourth with 10 of his 16 points. I think a part of the problem was when he checked into the game he quickly found himself playing with a bunch of other subs and he's not used to that. Or maybe he just sucked in the first half. Either way.
2. Manu Ginobili - A bit too three happy, but when you shoot 'em at a 55% clip, have at it, I guess. Did a little bit of everything, and I liked that after Solomon Jones (who?) fouled him hard in the third quarter, Gino responded by drawing an offensive foul on him and then snuffing him on a dunk attempt. Oh and he kicked Granger in the balls, which was just about the only way to slow him down all night.
1. Tim Duncan - Maybe a bit too generous considering Hibbert's line, but 23-12-3-3-4 is pretty hard to ignore, and he was 10-of-12 from the floor with just one turnover. The old man's got some game left yet.
Up Next: Another home game, Saturday against the NOOCH (1-0), who won a squeaker at home against the Bucks. Again, I'll have to tape it because Game 3 will be on. It'll be nice if we can hold Chris Paul under 20 assists and I'm guessing the game plan will involve attacking the basket with whoever between Manu and RJ that Marco Bellinelli is "guarding."