It's 3:32 a.m., so this won't be a long one. Yes, I was at the game, and yes it was very much awesome. Quite possibly my favorite game I've ever attended, as I'll explain.
But what's the memory I'll keep from tonight?
Manu added Oakland to his list. And I couldn't be more delighted.
There was already Phoenix. And Denver. And Utah. Dallas, of course. LA and New Orleans. Detroit in the East, for obvious reasons. Tonight though was the first time, in nine or ten games I've seen him in person that Manu got lustily booed by the fans in Oakland.
Let's set up the situation: It's been a back-and-forth first quarter, typical of the '10-11 Spurs. They didn't look like they were in trouble or anything, but it looked like it was going to be a tight game where the team would have to expend a lot of energy in advance of a SEGABABA at the Clips tomorrow. It was 26-26 after a Neal three, and the Spurs were running a slow-motion fast break with ten seconds to go in the opening quarter.
Manu had the ball and pulled up at the three point line, catching Monta Ellis, a guy not exactly known for stifling defense or intelligent play, off guard, and he got whacked on the wrist on a three point attempt. "Tweet" went the referee's whistle and Mr. Ellis, cool-headed as always, protested his innocence vigorously enough to earn a yellow card. Four free throws for Gino out of nowhere, and you knew he'd stick all four, especially on the road, especially during an unpopular call, because that's exactly the kind of cold-hearted bastard he is.
A first quarter the Dubs had played the mighty Spurs straight up for 11:25 (they were up 26-23 with 35 seconds to go) ended with a 30-26 deficit for them to chew on during the quarter break.
Then - and only Manu Fucking Ginobili would do this - he pulled the same trick again, just 31 seconds into the second quarter. Seven free throws in a span of 40 seconds, without ever coming within 25 feet of the rim. BOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! YOU SUCK MANU!!! YOU FLOPPING PIECE OF GARBAGE!!!! BOOOOO!!!!!
I was feeling a mixture elation and building fear. On one hand, I was absolutely convinced the Spurs would win the game at that moment, even though the score was 32-28 at the time, and I knew Manu was going to have a big night. I absolutely love it when he riles up away crowds. The more they're against him, the better he plays. On the other hand, every other time I've seen him do this, it was on TV and I was never a part of those antagonized crowds, wearing a "Ginobili" shirt. I gotta admit, I was worried about an on-court riot if he did it again. Half of me kind of wanted to see him do it, just to see what the reaction would be, and the other half of me was like this kid.
Manu wound up with two and-1s later in the game, along with three bombs in his 16-point third quarter, and his systematic destruction of the Warriors, where he basically toyed with them for 30 minutes, was a pleasure to witness in person. Gino finished with 27 points on 8-of-13 shooting, with six boards, three dimes (plus an audacious between the legs pass to Blair that he blew the layup on) and a season-high five steals. He basically drove Ellis, who averages 40 minutes a night, to the bench in complete frustration after a 6-of-16 night and 33 nightmarish minutes on the court.
Even better, my Warriors fan friend Sam, who I went to the game with, told me that he routinely goes to Warriors games where he spends the first halves scoping out sections of empty seats so he can sneak down to use them in the second halves. He explained to me the one time that ushers don't check tickets is during half time because of the massive rush of people getting in and out of their seats to get concessions or use the restroom.
Obviously Sam is a genius. I've long been a practitioner of sneaking down for baseball games, where there's 50,000 seats, but I never thought about doing it for basketball. Never considered the possibility. The good seats are so expensive that I thought they'd be packed to the gills with security and fully occupied besides. As a Golden State follower, Sam has watched a ton of wretched basketball in his life, so I guess he's had more idle time to come up with ways to enhance his fan experience.
I'm mostly just keeping track of the Spurs' stats in my head. I was no doubt annoying him greatly by letting him know, completely unsolicited, how close the Spurs were to having five, six, seven guys in double figures (completely oblivious all the while to the milestone I was watching, but we'll get to that).
Anyway, at half we snuck down to the fourth row of section 114, to unoccupied $140 seats and I gotta say that one of the most incredible sporting experiences of my life. I didn't even care (much) that the Spurs were shooting at the basket further away from me, everyone was still so big and so close. It felt like I could reach out and touch the Warriors basket. Seeing Ellis jump on a breakaway dunk... whoa. Dude, got up there. Seeing Gino make back-to-back threes... those shots were from damn far away.
I'll forever be indebted to Sam for introducing me to this concept and I'm going to pretty much insist with whoever I go to future games with that we'll be sneaking down during intermission.
Like I mentioned, I was completely oblivious to Tim's triple-double. I mean, I knew he was getting an awful lot of rebounds (Biedrins too, for the Warriors), and I knew that both he and Tony were both missing a lot of makeable layups, and I remember a few passes he made here or there, but I had no idea he had 11 assists. I was completely blown away by that. It's perfectly in keeping with Tim's career, where he can dominate a game and it doesn't even feel like he's doing much. He pretty much single-handedly stopped the Warriors from driving to the basket and held Biedrins to just four points on 2-of-6 shooting.
Really, outside of Frenchy (third straight game with him, if it happens again tomorrow, I'm officially worried) just about everyone played well. RJ had four dunks and two alley-oops. Neal was flawless in the first half and instrumental in us getting out to a 58-48 lead at the break. Hill had a great second half, harassed Ellis all over the floor and got to the line nine times himself. I suppose the reserve bigs weren't good (Pop chewed out Rocket a couple times) but why quibble?
Offensively the team was a juggernaut, despite hitting only 7-of-21 threes and missing eight or nine layups. They were such a machine that they easily could've scored 140 tonight without spilling another drop of sweat. 31 assists on 42 baskets is indicative of not only how sharp they were, but how easy it is to score on the Warriors if you just move the ball and stay patient. Honestly, we missed 47 shots, but I don't know how many of those 47 misses the Warriors coaches would chart as "wins" for the defense. The Spurs got whatever they wanted for 48 minutes.
It's no coincidence that the only two losses so far have been to the Hornets and the Mavs, two of the top three defensive teams in the league. If you aren't a top-flight defensive team you have NONE CHANCE against the Spurs. They're just too loaded, too disciplined and too unselfish offensively, and Pop is finally letting them play to their strengths, which is key. It's so much fun watching them play, I literally count down the hours until their next game. I know it's not good for them to have a SEGABABA, but selfishly I'm happy about it because hey, Spurs game tomorrow night.
I can't recommend the fourth row experience strongly enough and all of you should try it if you can. I hear we're not selling out at home either because the economy over there is bad, which is unfortunate. I hope everyone can make it out to a Spurs game wherever y'all live. You don't know what you're missing.
A note about the Warriors:
I feel pretty
guilty stupid making this a RAGE game. I totally overestimated the Warriors. I think what happened is that a couple years ago the Spurs lost both road games to these guys and I've never quite gotten over it. Looking back on it now, they didn't have Timmeh for one of them (Rocket got 32 in the loss) and I believe both were SEGABABAs. The Dubs only have three players, really. Ellis - who usually kills us - had an off night and Lee still isn't 100 percent, coming off his elbow injury. Their bench is non-existent. My early Bay Area optimism got the better of me after a 5-2 start. There is no way this team, as presently constructed, will make the playoffs.
One area where the Warriors are real strong, however, is with the dance babes. I was thinking that moving down would expose at least a few Monets - pictures who look better from far away than up close - but the complete opposite was true. Now I know why the Niners squad is so ugly; the Warriors are hogging all the talent. Heck, I might buy a calender.
Your Three Stars:
3. DeJuan Blair - His best game in forever with ten boards and a season-high 16 points in 28 minutes. It helped him that neither Rocket nor Splitter impressed Pop early and that he wanted to save Dice for tomorrow. One game after going exclusively small against the NOOCH in the second half, Pop used it for only nine minutes against the Tinyball masters. You never know with Pop.
2. Manu Ginobili - After the game I would've bet you anything he was going to get the first star. Manu's recent five game stretch, where he's averaged 26.4/5.6/6.0/2.2 with shooting percentages of 51/43/94 is right there with any in his career. He's third in the league at PER, at 25.88, and playing ungodly well.
Up Next: Wednesday, @ LA Clippers (3-15). I don't think I have to bother with a long scouting report here do I? They have Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon and a bunch of crap. They have the advantage of being youthful and rested, while we have the advantage that we're the Spurs and they're the Clippers. We've pasted them twice already and I smell a hat trick. Tiago had a real strong defensive game against them last time and hopefully he can get some quality minutes tomorrow and see the business end of a P&Rs instead of trying to a slow running hook across the lane against the Clipper equivalent of Dan Gadzuric (wow, was that ugly... Gadzuric THREW that ball away).
I'm sure BS will have a dandy of an excuse why he couldn't attend the game. Wouldn't want to miss Celtics-Blazers and Heat-Pistons in his man cave. Honestly, would anyone be surprised in the slightest if LeBron suffered some mystery injury in that Detroit game and begged out of the Cleveland tilt?