It's incredibly late and I have plenty of work to do tomorrow. I will say Mr. Gibson wasn't the only Boobie I saw tonight and that I'm positive Tony isn't my favorite French person on Earth.
Here's Lionel Messi destroying Arsenal in the Champions League, with bonus Turkish commentary!
Messi Show (via impossible41)
So that makes an even ten in a row for our lads, including a spotless 4-0 in both ends of back-to-backs (just 15 more of those to go!). How much further is this run going to go before we all recalibrate our already high expectations? Have some of us done so already?
Going into the year, my expectations were definitely higher than most everyone's. I saw a Spurs team that, on paper, had the necessary ingredients to be a third seed, and one that could make the Western Conference Finals if everything broke right for them and they avoided injury to any of the key participants. I didn't completely rule out the possibility of them upsetting the Lakers and reaching the Finals, but I did recognize that such a thing would be an upset, any way you slice it.
I still feel that way, for the most part. But now I don't see why we can't be a two seed at the least. Oklahoma City isn't blowing anyone away, Utah hasn't gotten off to a great start and they've got injury and chemistry issues, and Dallas has a flawed roster. I think you take the Lakers away and we're the best of the lot.
Beating them in the playoffs? I don't see how we have a real chance at it unless we can somehow get that one seed. That would involve a ridiculous amount of luck. We'd have to avoid the injury pitfalls, Pop would have to fight every instinct in his body and avoid resting guys, and the Lakers, in all likelihood, would need either Kobe or Pau to miss 10 or 15 games somewhere during the season.
Obviously, I'm getting ahead of myself and looking like a delirious fool in the process.
But I raise these future hypothetical scenarios for a reason and that's this: This is offensively the deepest and most talented Spurs team the Big Three have ever been a part of. They're stacked, very much like those superpower soccer teams you see in Europe, your FC Barcelonas, your Real Madrids, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, what have you.
Finally, Pop has built a roster to take advantage of how the game is played in 2010. We're not dumping it into the post 50 times a night anymore, we're not playing slow, there is constant movement and passing, and no one is selfish or scared.
What does that mean? It means the Spurs take fewer bad shots than any team in the NBA. Everyone on the roster is committed to getting the best possible percentage shot on any possession, and no one is afraid of the responsibility of being the guy that winds up getting that shot. While there aren't that many shot creators -- just Tony and Manu, mainly, though Timmeh can initiate from the post and Hill can drive and kick every now and then -- just about everyone on the roster can finish.
Manu, Tony, Hill and RJ can all obviously get to the basket on the dribble drive once they have a lane and all of them save Hill are very good about moving without the ball.
Tim, Dice, Blair and Tiago can all execute the pick and roll quite well.
Dice, Tim and Rocket can work the pick and pop, at various rangers. Bonner, obviously can extend all the way out to three.
RJ, Manu, Neal, Bonner and Hill (and Anderson when he comes back) can all knock down the three off the pass.
Add it all up and we've got ten guys that can score 15 points on any given night. There's just too much firepower here for defenses to shut down everything, and Pop knows it. That's why he wants us to run. That's why he wants us to force the issue. The more possessions a game has, the better off we'll be. Against almost anyone we play, we're going to be the more efficient offensive team, so the more possessions we have, the more the percentages will be in our favor, regardless of how well we shoot on any given night or how solid the defense is.
The slowdown game was necessary when we had only three guys on the floor who could score. So often we were playing with Bruce and a "center" who were offensive albatrosses. Pop wanted to minimize the possessions, figuring the percentages would work for our defense and that as long as the ball was constantly going to Timmy, we'd be getting better quality shots than the opposition. Playing at a slow pace is also necessary when you're throwing it into the post, because your big man has to get into position first and you kinda want to give him a rest to jog up and down the floor.
Those days are over. Now Pop puts lineups on the floor where it's almost a true democracy. Everyone can score. Good defense happens the way our offense used to, mostly due to the talents of two or three people, with the more limited ones playing smart and as a team.
We're the bizarro Spurs now, and of course, nobody's noticed but us.
We shot 53.1/48.0 (12 makes!)/81.8, with nine turnovers. Nobody in the world is gonna beat us when we do that, and certainly not the friggin' Cavs. Pick and roll, drive and kick, move the ball to the open man. So, so easy.
Now you might think to yourself, "Stampler, I'm a Spurs fan. I don't care how we play as long as we're winning games. We both know defense wins championships, so why should I prefer an offensive Spurs team to a defensive one? Isn't it fools gold?"
Yes and no. I'll explain it as simply as I can.
I'm assuming you all want what I want, for the Spurs to shock everyone and win another title, yes?
Then follow my thinking.
The best chance for the Spurs to accomplish is by A) Having home court advantage in the playoffs B) Having the Big Three rested.
You might think those two things are contradictory, and you'd be right if we were a defensive team, which we're not.
Defensive teams have less margins for error. With the rules the way they are these days, it's pretty much impossible to limit teams to less than 90 points per game over a full season. Currently Orlando is tops, allowing 90.3 per game. Last season, the Bobcats led the league, at 93.8.
Let's be generous and say we're the best defensive team ever and we'll allow 88 points per game. And let's say our slow pace and limited offense averages 96 per game. Boring ol' Spurs, right?
Well, that means on an average night against an average team, it's 24-22 after the first quarter, 48-44 at half and 72-66 after three. Even against shitty teams, Tim, Tony and Manu will have to work their asses off, because we don't score enough to run away from anybody and we don't play fast enough to take advantage of our more efficient offense.
However, if you're an offensive team that averages 108, then you're consistently putting up quarters of 27, 28, 30 points. As long as you're not terrible in the other end and allow the other team to get 24 or 25, you're gonna open up big leads faster and allow the Big Three to rest more.
Defense is more about effort than talent. Offense is about talent and execution more than effort. For a team like the Spurs it's easier to beat bad teams 115-100 than 100-85. There's so little resistance on the defensive end for an unselfish team like the Spurs who know what they're doing, it's like child's play. Basically the guys just take turns scoring.
The way the Spurs are built, it's almost impossible for them to lose against half of the NBA. They'll win on autopilot and look good doing it. Taking it easy on defense, really locking it in for one half or one quarter might build bad habits, I suppose, but I think the team is too smart and experienced to let it happen. Besides, there won't be any extended stretches of the schedule the rest of the way where we're playing a bunch of crap teams in a row. It's going to be a lot of good, bad, good, great, bad, etc.
Tim played 50 minutes combined in the back-to-back. That wouldn't have happened if we were a defensive team. There are fewer guys in the NBA who can be defensive difference makers than there are guys who can knock down open shots. Eventually you need your defensive guys if you're gonna win it all, but if you can win games just by scoring and not taxing the defensive guy, then by all means do it.
That's why the Spurs have a puncher's chance against LA. They're an "old" team that doesn't have to try hard but can still rack up the wins. Their margins for error against most teams they face are huge. Run the offense, pass the ball, knock down open shots and you'll always be in the game. Play a decent 12 or 18 minutes of defense and you'll win. It's that simple, and way less physically demanding than the other way.
It might sound like sacrilege, for the Spurs to embrace their inner Phoenix Suns, but it's really just the smartest way to navigate the regular season. Unlike the Suns, we'll have an extra defensive gear in our back pocket, aces in the hole in Timmy and Manu, Tony, Hill, Dice and Tiago. There's a difference between teams that don't play defense and ones that can't.
For the Spurs, not only is there no harm in being the former, but it's the best way to get where we want to be: healthy, rested and with that one seed entering the playoffs.
Your Three Stars:
3) Tony Parker. Had a better game in the box score than Manu, but most of his damage came in the second half when it was already turning into a rout.
2) Manu Ginobili. His second quarter -- 13 points, 2 assists, 1 steal -- gave the Spurs a healthy lead going into the break and it was easy after that.
1) Tiago Splitter. Does this guy know how to move without the ball or what? Seven buckets in the game and they were all layups or dunks. Great defense on the other end too. We can totally rest Tim against bad teams because Leg can feast on shit defenses in a way that our previous centers never could consistently. I really liked how fundamentally he's already far more advanced than his peers. The Cavs have a guy, J.J. Hickson, who still hasn't figured out that the refs are sticklers for that whole, "dribbling" thing. That doofus literally just wants to run with the ball tucked underneath his arm like a football player. The Cavs are fucking terrible.
Up Next: Monday, Vs. Orlando (9-3). As noted previously, the Madge are playing great defense, though they haven't played well against any offensive juggernauts yet. They got blown out at Miami 96-70 and lost at home to Utah 104-94. They did blow out the Suns, but it was without Steve Nash. They're still chucking up plenty of threes, 24 a night, but hitting only 36 percent of them, which tells me that people aren't doubling Dwight Howard as much and paying more attention to the shooters and also that Orlando's ball movement just plain isn't very good. Wouldn't you know, they're 27th in assists. Guess what? If you're trying to run a three point shooting offense but you're not swinging and rotating the ball, YOU'RE DOING IT ALL WRONG. As long as we out-shoot them from downtown, we should be okay here, and if worse comes to worse, we can just foul Howard a bunch of times.