Game 22, Vs. Atlanta: Spurs 108-92 (Record 19-3) RAGE: +3
Quickie recap I didn't have time to write between crazy fun Friday night and a Saturday spent Christmas shopping...
So I went to see Adam Carolla with Roh on Friday. Our tickets were for 8 p.m. at Cobb's comedy club (northeast SF). I told Roh I'd pick him up at six, so we could have dinner first, but it turned out I couldn't leave work in Santa Clara (San Jose-ish) until five. Friday rush hour traffic? Fun. I had to stop at home to change pants (because you want some slacks when you go a creepy gentleman's club, not jeans) so I told him to just meet me at Cobb's by seven.
Mind you Roh already lives in SF (west SF, but still, like six miles away). I got there at 7:20 and even texted him beforehand to put my order in at this restaurant for me so we'd have time to eat dinner quickly before the show. I get a text back.
"Not there yet."
No, Roh, who LIVES IN THE GOD DAMN CITY, gets there 15 minutes after me, even though he was supposed to be ready by six.
"I had to shave my beard to look good for the ladies and my electric razor broke."
Look good for the ladies? You look like a mountain of brontosaurus crap wearing a shirt. You think shaving your beard is going to make a difference?
"I had to shave off my Osama beard so they would allow me in the place."
Jesus Christ why did you grow one in the first place?
"It was my playoff beard. I always grow one for exam week."
At this point I was starting to lose my mind. Playoff beard? PLAYOFF BEARD? You are not a third line left wing for the Toronto Maple Leafs. You are just a dumbass law student in a law school that's ranked maybe one notch higher on the prestige scale than a junior college at Guatemala. You didn't grow a beard because your life is intense. You did it because you are fucking lazier than Stuart Scott's right eye.
But let's pretend for a nanosecond I'm buying your bullshit premise and that studying for some tests is on par with Rocky training to fight Ivan Drago. Your final exam was last Sunday. You had five days to shave it off.
"I was so tired after exams I just wanted to do nothing for a while."
Holy shit. How can anyone even have a comeback for that? I'm dealing with someone so pathologically opposed to movement of any kind that he considers shaving a laborious activity. I bet if his mom asks him why he isn't exercising more he tells her, "Hey, that fork isn't lifting itself lady."
Supposedly he's driving back to LA today, but he might just hire a limo driver instead because stepping on that gas pedal is almost as grueling as the Ironman triathlon.
We didn't have time for dinner.
Anyway I watched the Spurs game last night, and they kept showing Hawks coach Larry Drew (it was the Atlanta broadcast, more on them in a minute) and I kept thinking to myself, "Who does that guy look like?"
And then I remembered.
InventHelp Commercial - Free Inventor Information (10 sec.) (via inventhelp)
Okay, the Hawks broadcast team. Holy shit is this franchise up Dominique Wilkins' ass. He's the color guy and the whole telecast is like dedicated to his greatness. For one thing, they have a graphic of him dunking a ball during his playing days next to their "Above the Rim" game preview segment. Can you imagine the Spurs having a picture of Elliott hitting a three next to their game pointers?
So 'Nique is offering his keys to the game. Step 1: Keep Parker/Ginobili out of the paint. Step 2: East/West ball movement. Basically for the Hawks to score the road upset they have to do the two things Wilkins never did during his 15-year career; play defense and pass the ball. I think he should've had a couple of more team goals for good measure, like Step 3: Win a NBA championship and Step 4: Achieve peace in the Middle East, just to keep the motif going.
Then the game starts, and the play-by-play guy, a total hack whose name is not worth remembering, keeps referring to his broadcast partner as, I shit thee not, "The Hall-of-Famer." Not 'Nique, not Dominique, but "The Hall-of-Famer." He did it at least four times. I mean, that has to be in Wilkins' contract, right, that he has to referred to in that manner? I say why stop there. I think the play-by-play guy should just go, "So, Mr. Human Highlight Film, sir, what do you, as a Hall-of-Famer, think Larry Drew is talking to the team here during the time out?"
If you're going to have no integrity whatsoever, you might as well go the whole nine.
Then there was the trivia question. Oh my God.
Announcer: Tony Parker scored 55 points at Minnesota two years ago. It was the second most points a foreign-born player has ever scored, behind a guy who had 57 a couple of times. 'Nique, do you know who that was?
Wilkins: Heh heh. Yeah. HE WASN'T TOO BAD.
At that point I lost it. 'Nique just achieved the unachievable: False modesty in the third person. Do you have any idea how retarded that is? Let me try it:
Stampler thinks he's kinda okay at blogging.
See? Doesn't that just make you want to vomit blood? Morbidly I want to watch more Hawks broadcasts now. I bet Dominique Wilkins is the answer to every trivia question.
Announcer: Who is the only player in Hawks franchise history to be a two-time Slam Dunk Champion?
Wilkins: Heh heh. I think I know this one. That guy could jump a little bit.
The announcer himself also happened to be a moron in addition to a tool. My favorite gem: "Parker and Ginobili are keeping the Spurs in the game."
Usually when a guy says a team is in the game, you think they're trailing by five to ten points, no? Score at the time: 40-37, Spurs. I think Jamal Crawford was keeping the Hawks in the game, but what do I know?
Then there was Josh Smith's block on Timmeh. The guy started yelling like a lunatic "HE STOLE HIS MILK! HE STOLE HIS MILK!"
At least that's what I think he said. I played it back three times and I still couldn't quite make it out. All I know is that it was unintelligible, loud and idiotic. The guy reacted with more excitement to blocked shots than any other segment of the game and throughout the broadcast they kept treating the Spurs like the '95-96 Bulls and themselves an expansion team like winning the game would be the most monumental upset in the history of sports. CAN YOU BELIEVE THE HAWKS ARE IN THIS GAME?
Good lord, we're only 19-3, settle down. I miss the Spurs broadcast crew whenever I don't get them on League Pass. They're shameless homers for sure, almost insufferably so at times, but at least they're competent. Then again, if I rooted for another team I'd probably hate them too.
In a way, I guess I should feel somewhat sympathetic to the Hawks' broadcasters. They have to pretend that Marvin Williams, the second overall pick in 2005 for an Atlanta team that needed a point guard and both Deron Williams and Chris Paul were on the board; isn't a bust and they have also to have make believe that Josh Smith, the proud owner of the ugliest jumper this side of Shawn Marion, is some kind of star when he's just a pretty decent role player with terrible shot selection. Also, Smith starred in quite possibly the creepiest basketball shoe commercial of all time. Have you seen this thing? It looks like he wants to make love first to himself, then to his wardrobe and finally his sneakers. I defy anyone to watch that and tell me they're not weirded out by it.
The game itself was notable mostly for Pop's reactions. Manu's first quarter was one of the worst stretches of basketball he's played in his entire career, with four atrocious turnovers, each more stupifying than the last and after the fourth one the camera caught Pop remarking to Don Newman, "That's fucking awful."
Later, when Tim threw a long outlet pass to noted ball-handling wizard DeJuan Blair at the three point line so Blair could flawlessly execute a cross over dribble to finish with an and-1 layup, Pop simply buried his face in his hands, not knowing whether to laugh or cry, no doubt thinking to himself, "What the hell are we doing?"
I know a thing or two about the pragmatist mentality. Pop wasn't happy one bit that Blair pulled off that play without a hitch. He was thinking, "God dammit, now he's gonna be emboldened enough to try it ten more times and it's going to be a disaster."
The Hawks were in the game for three quarters, even without Joe Johnson or Zaza Pachulia, mainly because the Spurs had 11 first half turnovers and gave up eight offensive rebounds. Also, as funny as this sounds to say now given our history, the team had a rare off-night from the charity stripe, going only 16-25 (64%). Actually, they started 6-of-14 before making 10 of their last 11. The rotations on threes were piss poor -- Dice hadn't played in a while and he was rusty, and RJ and Tony had some issues there too -- and the ball movement was stagnant in general. The Hawks' size gave the guys a lot of problems and the Spurs couldn't find a consistent way to exploit them for most of the game. They couldn't even get cheap fast break points because the Hawks weren't turning it over. Our only saving grace was some decent interior defense and some solid perimeter shooting.
Eventually Parker figured out that he's being guarded by Mike Bibby and had a nice little sequence where he collected dimes on three straight possessions, two of them being threes, to put the game away. RJ buried three from the corner and Hill had one as well and the Spurs had nine of their 20 assists in the fourth quarter. It's something I've noticed of late where the Spurs place a balanced offensive game in first halves, then seem to make just rain in the threes in the second halves, especially late. Why does this happen?
My theory is that they purposely set up defenses into sagging more and more into the paint with their interior scoring and tire them out with their long outlet passes and new-found running game. By the time they get into the fourth not only are teams a step slow to rotate, but they also have further ground to make up because they're sagging. Jefferson has been lethal on those corner threes all season and this past couple of weeks Hill has been very sharp with them too and then you've also got Rocket, Neal and Manu, so it's quite a dangerous mix.
The real key to making it all work is that the team seems to have a mentality, encouraged by Pop, where everyone is focused solely on finding the best open shot, especially if they can get a guy alone behind the three point line. It's a known quantity that Timmeh can pass it, but when guys like Bonner, Dice and Blair do it, you've really got something. Heck, even Neal and Anderson are far better passers than I would've ever expected. They say good shooting is contagious, but good passing is even more a team-wide trait. When we get into one of these passing zones, we're basically unguardable, and it's a joy to watch.
Speaking of passing, Manu's 0:6 assist-to-turnover ratio wasn't quite as horrific as it looked on the box score. Don't get me wrong, he deserved every one of those six turnovers, and they were hideous as hell, but he made the same passes he always makes and Rocket, Neal, Hill and especially Blair managed to louse up every one of the shots. It was uncanny.
So, not our best game, but another 108-92 in the bank and 4-0 in the homestand. The Hawks can rationalize it away and placate themselves that the game was closer than the box score indicated, but they had seven turnovers in the fourth quarter, almost all of them preventable and when you do that on the road you don't deserve squat. See y'all later.
Your Three Stars (apologies to RJ and Rocket):
3. George Hill - RJ was pretty much good for only the fourth quarter, whereas Hill was consistently helpful at both ends all game. He's playing awesome and led the team in plus/minus with +20.
2. Tony Parker - 17 and 6 and I'm kind of dumbfounded it wasn't 30 and 15. He's built to kill these guys. Bibby's dogshit.
1. DeJuan Blair - 16-12-3-4-1. His steals basically won the game and it's the one area defensively where he can take advantage of bigs. His hands are naturally at a lower slot than the people he's guarding so he can poke the ball away from behind. Besides, he not a star so he doesn't worry about foul trouble. NOW FINISH MANU'S ASSISTS, DUMMY.
Honorable mention: Tim Duncan. A big part of Blair's nine defensive boards was Duncan's boxing out. Once a shot was up in the air Timmeh consistently looked for the nearest big to shield off so Blair could get the rebound all alone under the basket. A lot of stars would selfishly go for the rebound themselves to boost their stats and tell the young guy to box out, but Timmeh just cares about winning. Just another reason why he's awesome.
Up Next: Sunday, Vs. Portland (12-11). Why are you reading this? The game's on RIGHT NOW.