These recaps gotta be fast, fast, fast, like me on I-5. You'll forgive me if they're not Picassos, but I gots to catch up.
Speaking of fast, here's how I spent my Sunday last week. I loves me some DeSean Jackson.
HD Video: DeSean Jackson's Punt Return Touchdown Beats New York Giants (via ballhyped)
What a sweet comeback. It even pissed Hitler off, which made me extra happy.
Game 26, Vs. Memphis: Spurs 112-106 (OT) (Record: 23-3) RAGE: +4
I missed about 16 minutes of this game, from the start of the third quarter to the 8:00 mark of the fourth because I had a power outage at my place and had to drive over to somewhere with an internet connection where I could stream it on my laptop (thanks ATDHE.net!).
What I remember is fuzzy. I know the Grizz were without Rudy Gay because of a suspension he got for giving Houston's Luis Scola the business. Also, if I'm not mistaken, I believe it was a SEGABABA for them. HOWEVUH, it was a TIGAFONI for us, and I think the difficulty of those are underrated. In some respects Memphis is the worst kind of team to play when you're tired. You overlook them because they're the freaking Grizzlies, you don't get motivated to play them because they don't have any superduperstars, and you can get your ass kicked by them if you're not careful because they have a bunch of young guys who can play. They're the perfect trap team, and if Gay did play, we'd have been in for a world of hurt.
The Spurs got off to a typically slow start, giving up 11-0 and 9-0 runs in the first quarter and allowing Memphis 31 points on 10 assists. They let O.J. Mayo go nuts (lookin' at you, RJ) and while our starting backcourt kept us in it with 15 early points, things quickly turned disastrous once Blotch was allowed to play (-12 in 5:35). God is he an albatross.
The game turned when Chris Quinn, of all people, checked into the game in the second quarter and a three guard lineup with him, Neal and Manu clicked to fuel a 19-2 run, with Quinn hitting a couple of corner bombs in that stretch and scoring eight points. In a bizarre coincidence, the five-man unit Memphis had on the floor was four bench guys (Greivis Vasquez, Xavier Henry, Darrell Arthur and Sam Young) joined by Marc Gasol, a solid player but not a big scoring threat. Again, I harp on this over and over again, there's two big differences between good teams and bad teams that no one talks about: 1) People don't recognize the difference between real stars and guys who score 25 points on 22 shots, with 5 turnovers and zero defense and 2) Good teams have benches and go 10 or 11 deep, bad teams go seven deep if they're lucky.
Anyway, Tony started abusing Mike Conley in the third quarter and RJ hit a couple threes and the Spurs had a nice, healthy nine point lead going into the fourth quarter. The game should've been over, for all intensive purposes. Nobody told the Grizzlies that though, and buoyed by a 4-for-4 three point shooting in that final period (the Spurs were 1-of-4), they came back to tie and send the game into OT. Tony had it going with a dozen points, but nobody else busted out -- How could they? Frenchy never passed the damn ball -- Mayo kept torching Jefferson and it probably wasn't Pop's best idea to have Rocket on Zach Randolph.
A 99-93 lead with 1:50 to go turned into a nail-biter, and Tony and RJ had their fingerprints all over the collapse. Conley scored a bucket on Parker, Tony made one of two freebies at the other end, Mayo got a layup on RJ, RJ had a turnover where he somehow had an alley-oop go through his hands, Tony missed a 12-footer, and Mayo hit a three on RJ to tie it up. Somehow, Jefferson even air-balled an open 12-footer at the end of regulation after Timmy overpassed.
Thankfully Memphis ran out of steam in OT and shot 2-of-7 in overtime, with two turnovers, compared to 5-of-8 with one turnover for the Spurs. The guys ratcheted up the defense just enough with Tim and Manu in particular making plays in their own end to fuel easy baskets. It wasn't the prettiest win, and it didn't help us in Hollinger's power rankings, but it's another dub for us in that critical battle with LA, Dallas and Boston for home court advantage. Frankly, I'm amazed I've remembered as many details about the game as I have.
Your Three Stars:
3. Manu Ginobili - Didn't shoot much, but was a game-high +24 and he kept feeding the right guy and was the glue that held that second unit together.
2. Chris Quinn - Great teams need unexpected heroes every night, especially when the stars are fatigued. Quinn has a nice jumper, and he's another shooter in our arsenal.
1. Tony Parker -The Spurs were sluggish and groggy and playing uninspired against a forgettable opponent, and it's exactly games like this where Tony has to dominate, the SEGABABAs, TIGAFONIs and the dreaded FOGAFINIs. Another chance coming up tonight at Orlando, but he'll have to really have those tear drops working to get them over Dwight Howard.
Game 27, Vs. Phoenix: Spurs 118-110 (Record 24-3) RAGE +4
I saw The Fighter the other day. Christian Bale was amazing, as usual, and the guy he played reminded me a lot of this regular I had during my bartending days, Bryce. I wonder what Micky Ward's mother and sisters thought of how they were portrayed in the movie. It wasn't pretty (literally in the case of the sisters- ugh).
The disappointing aspect to me was I heard so much hype about how the boxing scenes in this movie were supposed to be the most realistic ever, but I didn't find that to be the case at all. In one fight in particular, against a boxer named Sanchez, I believe, the guy was just standing there, not moving, letting Mark Wahlberg's character hit him, move to the side, and hit him again. Kinda phony, right?
It wasn't really a sports movie though. More about a dysfunctional family and how drugs are bad um'kay, and I would recommend it to one and all. Even Amy Adams was pretty decent in it, and hot, which is something considering she intentionally dialed down a couple of notches for the role and gave herself a bit of a belly.
Your 80's music video of the day...
"Don't Come Around Here No More" by Tom Petty. Average song, great video. Fun fact: The "Alice" character in the video was played by an actress named Shannon Michelle Wilsey, who also happened to be a porn star who went by the stage name of "Savannah." She died in 1994.
So, anyway, the game. We were playing kind of a skeleton crew for the Suns, since the guys they sent to Orlando (Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark) had already departed but the ones they got back (Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus and Marcin Gortat) hadn't arrived yet, which necessitated playing some guys more than they ordinarily would. Yet it was more of the same in the first quarter. Jared Dudley, "Encino Man" Robin Lopez and Grant Hill combined to shoot 8-of-11 early to get the Suns off to a good start and Tony displayed his usual domination of Steve Nash to get us going. Both teams shot well from the floor but dreadfully from three for some reason to keep the score to a deceptively meager 27-26.
Again the Spurs opened up some early breathing room in the second quarter with a 13-0 run behind Manu and four scrubbereanies in Neal, Rocket, Dice and Quinn. Then the starters came back in and it was 20-5 the other way. Parker got in foul trouble, Jefferson was terrible (defensively too) and they were lucky to be down just 54-53 at half thanks to 15 second quarter points from the bench. None of the starters had anything going at all.
Whatever Pop told them in the second half woke the guys up because Duncan responded with one of the most dominant "shifts" of his career with 12 points, nine rebounds (four offensive), four assists and two steals in the opening ten minutes of the second half. Blair had three offensive boards and three helpers of his own and the interplay between the two of them in the hi-lo game was something to behold. The offense can be quite frightening when all five guys are in the passing zone to like they were in that stretch and the Spurs finished with 40 in the third. It certainly helped that they were able to dominate the glass as well, against the undersized Suns. 18 boards is a lot for one quarter.
Up 15 after three, the Spurs coasted home in the fourth, with Gino, Tony, RJ and most of all Neal all chipping in. Defense? Rebounding? Meh. So what if they let Josh Childress come up with five offensive boards? Dice and Bonner don't give a shit. Bigger fish to fry, you know? They beat the Suns because this season they have a bench and last May they didn't and also because Channing Frye missed a bunch of open threes that he didn't miss last year. So it goes.
You can see the team's focus come and go during the games. It would be worrisome if it were later in the season but it's a byproduct of being good and knowing you're good. There are just a lot of teams out there the Spurs can beat with one good quarter and three average ones. Lately they've turned it on when they've had to and immediately eased off the throttle when games have looked in hand. It's had to knock 118 points, especially when you shoot below 30% from three, but defensively the team has fallen into one of their lazy ruts again which seems to happen for them during prolonged winning streaks, especially if they're playing teams they know they can score on at will.
We're turning into Irishman at the bar during the dick measuring contest; pulling out just enough to win. It's not a matter of just physical fatigue, but mental fatigue too. On offense you can get away with a guy who's not sharp if two or three talented individuals are executing, but on defense all five guys have to be on a string. If one falls asleep, you're gonna get burned, no matter how the other four are doing. Will the Spurs wake up when the Lakers come to town? Time will tell.
Your Three Stars:
3. DeJuan Blair - Reckless, but energetic. Six offensive boards.
2. Gary Neal - 22 points, fearless shot selection, passable defense.
1. Tim Duncan - 20-15-6-2-3, with a lot of the damage done in the breakaway third. He's killed the Suns in both meetings this season.
Game 28, Vs. Denver: Spurs 109-103 (Record 25-3) RAGE: +4
I'm starting to hate every single thing about the 49ers and Mike Singletary. In fact... eh screw it. Let's get right to the video.
Take On Me: Literal Video Version (via DustoMcNeato)
If "Don't Come Around Here No More" is the second best music video of all time, the only one that tops it is "Take On Me" by A-ha. Really, there's no argument here is there? It's like arguing who's the biggest star on the Spurs. Of course it's Tim, you goobers, and I say that as the biggest Manu fan on the planet. Tim is the foundation and our defensive (ha!) linchpin. Manu is the talisman. Very rarely is your talisman your best player, and if he is, your team is a crushing bore and too one-dimensional to win anything.
Anyway, I like the literal version better. The original version of the song, written by some guys from Norway for goodness sakes, is stupid. Take on me? Take me on? That's idiotic. It's like awful porno dialog.
Speaking of idiotic, did anybody get a good look at Chris Andersen the other day? My lord has he gone off the deep end. I know I shouldn't be judgmental and there's different strokes for different folks, and heck, I have a couple of lame tattoos myself, but I just can't help feeling he looks like a goddamn peacock. Call me old-fashioned if you like, call me guilty of judging a book by its cover, but I'd drug test that guy every ten minutes. Am I wrong?
The Spurs just played the Nugs a week ago, but they were a completely different team this time around with Anderson, Chauncey Billups and Kenyon "Bad Ass Yellow Boy" Martin back in the lineup and Carmelo Anthony missing the game due to sad, unfortunate circumstances in his family.
While the Spurs surely didn't miss Carmelo, his absence didn't hurt Denver very much. Hell, they might have been better without him. I sincerely feel bad for him for the loss of his sister, but as a basketball player, the dude is a serious ball-stopper. They have better ball movement without him, though I'm sure having Billups in the lineup contributed to that as well.
Manu got off to a scorching start with three early bombs and Tony had eight of his own to counter Denver's stacked starting lineup in the first. In the second Neal and Ty Lawson traded blows (not literally, of course, but with the Nuggets one can never be sure) for the first half of the period, before RJ finished the half in style, scoring our last nine points. At 59-56 the Spurs weren't playing great by any means, but when you shoot 56%, you don't have to play great.
The game got away from them in the third. I hate to dump it all on RJ and Tony, but let's face it, most of the defensive struggles were their fault. Jefferson had no idea what to do with J.R. Smith -- admittedly when he's got it going there isn't much you can do -- and Billups' physicality was too much for Parker to deal with (not like he was doing much better against Lawson). The defense was somehow allowing crazy penetration AND wide open threes, which is supposed to be our gimmick, not Denver's. Duncan wasn't snuffing inside shots the way he did at their place and the rotations were either late or lacking entirely. It was the kind of quarter that would've made Pop lose his shit if it wasn't for the fact that we were 24-3 at the time.
Finally, down 89-80 in the fourth and completely desperate, Pop said what the hell and tried zone, with Leg and Rocket as the bigs no less. And it worked! Of course it did. So what if the Nuggets still had driving lanes galore and all the open threes they could possibly want? Somehow Lawson, Smith, Al Harrington and Arron Afflalo were confused by our tactics. I know, I'm completely shocked those geniuses were befuddled too. When I think of heady basketball teams, the Nuggets are always at the top of my list.
It's another one of those things where you don't know how much credit Pop deserves and how much of it was dumb luck. Pop tried some random thing and it happened to work, even though it looked like crap. I think it's impossible to argue that we've been one of the luckiest teams in the league so far in so many respects, whether it's good health, the soft schedule, huge comeback wins, opponents missing guys, or being unblemished in overtime.
The one thing we can point to in the fourth, besides Tiago changing some close shots with his length, was that we hit five threes in quarter, with Neal and Rocket coming up big. Yes, Denver did shoot 17% in the quarter, but I don't know how much of that was anything we did and how much of it was them missing the same shots they'd made for three quarters. You're welcome to disagree if you like. I think in the end it's another win we can rack up to our depth, our shooters and just having the confidence of having done it so many times previously. Success breeds success and all that. I'm glad we got this one, because I had a sneaky feeling we weren't gonna get the next one.
Your Three Stars:
3. Manu Ginobili - Didn't shoot well after the first, but was otherwise dreamy.
2. Tiago Splitter - Season-high 12 and 9. I was hopeful all his minutes here would buy Tim and Dice the time and energy to compete against Dwight Howard. HAHAHAHAHA.
1. Gary Neal - He's kinda like Roger Mason, but the complete opposite.
Game 29, @Orlando: Magic 123-101 (Record 25-4) RAGE: +4
I learned today that Mike Singletary doesn't know my name but he refers to me as "The Big Guy" when talking about me with the PR director. Whenever a coach who's surrounded by humongous football players refers to you as "Big Guy," it's probably a sign you need to lose a thousand pounds. Ugh.
An ugly game gets an ugly video.
I don't care what you think about Marilyn Manson. If you don't think that helmet is bitchin' you're just lying to yourself.
So yeah, ugly game, and I didn't scrutinize very much of it. I knew we were in trouble when I saw we were wearing the whites on the road with the black shoes. I happen to think it's a sweet look, but every single time we do it we get throttled. I'm sure you'll notice the RAGE-O-METER hasn't changed and that's with good reason. Despite Orlando's nosedive where they'd lost eight of nine, they're still one of the top clubs in the league on paper, especially after the trade, and facing Howard on a SEGABABA is about as close to a scheduled loss as you get in this league. Anyone who was bothered by the loss in and of itself needs serious counseling.
The way they lost? Well that's a different story. The Spurs gave up 59% shooting, which was the highest in any game for them since Dominique Wilkins was prominently involved, and not as a Hawks color guy. The Spurs had no defense whatsoever inside or outside and were pitiful in every way imaginable and literally at every match-up they tried. They even broke out the zone again, because why not, and the Madge just destroyed it with a hail of threes.
I was watching the broadcast and the announcers were saying how Pop told them he's given up hoping for radical defensive improvement and realized that they'll never be the defensive team they were five or six years ago because Tim's not the same player and other factors and he knows they have to do it with offense now. It's certainly true to a degree, but I also think it's a psychological ploy by Pop. He's just rope-a-doping, biding his time. He might not expect us to be a top-three defensive team anymore, but he won't put up with THIS much longer. He'll pull out the "soft" card sooner or later, especially if we get into a stretch of losing some games.
Tony and RJ started the season well defensively but have gotten lazy and inattentive and honestly Manu's not far behind them. The team is missing Hill badly in their own end, much more so than they are on offense thanks to Neal's contributions, and I fear for the near future with games against the Lakers, Mavs, Thunder and Celtics coming up. I really hope Hill returns tootsweet, but the notes section of the game recap said that he's still in a boot and will miss "several more games," which blows.
All we can take from the loss is that Splitter played some more productive minutes against the best of the best and that our big three all got some rest. Against Orlando Tim and Manu had a half in them and they were cooked after that, and Tony wasn't much fresher. They'll have two days before their next one and then a day off between the LA and Dallas games, so fatigue shouldn't be an issue there. Ginobili's looked slow since the first Denver game and he desperately needs to regain some explosion or we're gonna be in trouble.
I was disappointed in how classless Orlando played. They had their starters in late in the game up 20, Howard was still whining and bitching to the refs for every calls and needlessly elbowing Blotch. I know they hadn't won in a while and wanted to let off some steam while at the same time also trying to build chemistry with their new guys, but still, they came off as a bunch of pricks. Howard especially is starting to really rub me the wrong way. I've found myself in the position of having to root for him by default the past few years because they were facing Cleveland and Boston in the playoffs, but really he's just as big of a tool as the rest of them, isn't he?
Whatever, I've already spent more time on this game than it deserves. Let's go right to the Three Stars, or more appropriately...
The Three Spurs Who Sucked Slightly Less Than The Other Spurs:
3. Tim Duncan - He just sucked for a half on defense, before spreading the suckage to both ends of the floor in the third quarter.
2. Manu Ginobili - 10-5-6 in 20 minutes of suckitude, so if he played the whole game he could've sucked around and gotten a triple-double.
1. Tiago Splitter - 11-5 in 17 not completely sucky minutes. Showed considerably more effort and effectiveness than Dice, who didn't even play yesterday but still sucked today. Vexing.
Up Next: Sunday, Vs. Washington (7-20). I don't think John Wall is gonna play, so that's another break. I will never EVER forgive them for blowing that game to Miami. Stupid Big Bug screwed me again. I hope we beat them by 50.