Game 32, @ Dallas: Spurs 99-93 (Record 28-4) RAGE: +4
A couple days ago I had the unique
pleasure torture of watching my beloved Eagles and the Spurs play at the same time. On a Tuesday. I was really hoping the Eagles would win and keep alive their chances of getting a two seed in the playoffs and thus a bye week during Wild Card weekend. While having a first round bye is the cat's meow for competitive reasons, mainly I wanted it so I wouldn't have to watch the Eagles play when I'm in Vegas the weekend after this.
Well the Eagles sucked a whole bunch of purple Minnesota Viking ass, losing at home to some quarterback named Joe Webb. Ugh. They're stuck as the three seed now, meaning they'll be playing on the opening week.
As you may know, Manoli and I have an annual tradition of making a pilgrimage to Sin City during Wild Card weekend, and this time we're bringing a couple of friends. And yes, because I'm a glutton for punishment, Roh will be prominently involved. He's going to be rooting against the Eagles the whole time, not betting against them mind you, -- because what kind of a silly concept is that, putting your money where your mouth is in Vegas? -- and he'll talk endless shit for the duration of the trip when the Packers pound the stuffing out of my guys as they surely will.
Does it matter that Roh's a Cowboys fan and that his team won't be participating in the postseason this year? Of course not. He just loves to antagonize me all costs. The guy roots for the two douchebaggiest teams in sports -- Dallas in football, the Yankees in baseball, otherwise known as the LeBron Special -- and really it's only a matter of time before he dumps his Knicks and converts to being a Heat fan, because he's got a total LeBroner for James.
I give him shit for liking the Cowboys and Yankees, like everyone gives shit to fans of those teams. It's Constitutional law. He doesn't care for that at all, so he likes to pretend the Eagles are just as hate-able, when really most football fans either don't care about them one way or the other or kinda like them. I mean look at the facts: we're one of the highest scoring offenses in the league with a ton of playmakers, we've got sharp uniforms, and we don't make any other fanbase jealous because we haven't won squat. Hating on the Eagles is like hating the Oklahoma City Thunder, it's just so random that it seems forced and contrived.
He's gonna ruin my trip, and Manoli and the other friend will just be laughing and pointing as the two fat idiots are screaming at each other the whole weekend. I'm really looking forward to it.
Speaking of fat idiots, here's one of my favorite Family Guy clips.
So yeah, the Mavericks man... heavy. Obviously some of the edge was taken out of the game because Dirk wasn't playing, and I never seriously questioned whether we'd win. The game wound up being closer than it needed to be because one of our best guys was less than healthy himself, and Caron "Tough Juice" Butler had a great night for them, but the outcome was never in doubt after the 26-5 run we had in the second quarter.
As usual, Pop summed the game up quite nicely, in his pragmatic manner:
We don't take too much out of the win. A lot of things I think we did pretty sloppily. We're thrilled to get a win on the road -- anybody would be -- but we didn't show very much. We didn't improve as a team, that's for sure.
And that's today's central question: How do you judge something so subjective as improvement?
Doesn't it all depend on context? For example, if you're strictly going by the preceding game, against the Lakers, then maybe we didn't improve, though we did shoot better from the floor and from the three point line and did a better job on the boards. We did have more turnovers in this game while forcing less, we did have fewer assists, and we did let the Mavericks shoot a higher percentage.
But of course there are myriad variables involved. For one, our team was fully "up" for the Lakers game because their whole team was healthy and playing. Against Dallas, there inevitably had to be some letdown knowing Nowitzki was going to be out. Secondly, we were home against LA, on the road at Dallas, and it's always easier to play better at home. Finally, you could argue that all the pressure was on our team and none was on the Mavs. They could play freely, knowing they weren't expected to win. The Spurs on the other hand not only had the burden of expectations, but they pretty much had to junk their defensive game plans because not having Dirk there lent an air of mystery and confusion to how Dallas would attack them. It completely made sense why Pop called it a "lose-lose game."
I propose that instead of comparing it to the LA game, we look at our first meeting with the Mavs instead. In that game we allowed them 103 points on 52.7% shooting, while giving them 31 free throw attempts as well. This time we allowed 93 points on 42.7% shooting, and only 15 FTAs.
Now you're no doubt saying that Dirk's presence swung those numbers in a major way. Well yes and no. It's true that Nowitzki shot a ridiculous 12-of-14 in our first meeting, but even if you take his marksmanship out of it, Dallas was still 27-of-60 in that game, which works out to 45%. So our defense made a modest improvement. As far as the freebies go, believe it or not Dirk had the same number of attempts at the charity stripe in both games - 0. The Spurs did an outstanding job of not putting guys at the line this time around, and they did it on the road, where usually the calls go against you.
Now let's look at part of the game where Nowitzki has less impact -- our offense. In the first meeting we had 94 points on 44.9% shooting, with 17 turnovers, and we were 7-of-19 (36.8%) from three. This time we had 99 points on 46.1% shooting, with 14 turnovers, and we were 11-of-28 (39.3%) from downtown. Slight improvements all, but improvements nonetheless. The assist:turnover ratio went from 13:17 to 15:14. Not great by any means, but better.
In the first meeting we were out-rebounded 39-36 and 10-8 on the offensive glass. This time it was 50-35 in our favor and 7-4 on the offensive end. Dallas was one and done the whole game, which is the single biggest reason the Spurs won. Blair was not a factor in either game, but our smalls were a heck of a lot better this time around. Our back court combined for 25 rebounds on Thursday compared to 12 in the first game.
Finally there's the individual psychological improvement. Tony still sucked against Jason Kidd (4-of-12, 1 assist, 4 turnovers in the first game) but this time he didn't suck quite as much (6-of-16, 5 assists, 3 turnovers). RJ was still terrible (0-of-4, 2 points, 3 rebounds, 2 turnovers in the first game), but this time he wasn't a total clusterfuck and showed some mental toughness to break through in the fourth quarter (3-of-10, 7 points, 4 rebounds, 3 turnovers) with a couple of big buckets.
Look, I'm not claiming to know basketball better than Pop does. If he says we didn't improve yesterday, then fine, whatever. But it's never going to look pretty or easy against the Mavs. They're a very good defensive team and their zone is the best in the league. It's the kind of defensive scheme that is tough to prepare for during the regular season because not many teams use the zone and none do so as well as they do. However, in a playoff series it would be entirely different. They would be our sole focus, knowing that we're going to play them for five, six, perhaps seven consecutive games, and eventually their defense will stop being a mystery and we'll solve it to the extent that even if we don't score a bazillion points against it, we'll give ourselves quality looks almost every single time, like we do against the other teams we play.
Offensively they're also difficult because they're very careful with the ball and in Kidd they have someone who makes great passes, but I truly believe these regular season games Pop's been careful to rope-a-dope them a bit. We had great success forcing Kidd to drive in the playoffs and we'll do so again when the time comes. The bottom line is we have more answers for them than they have for us, and I'm positive we're the better team, even if it's not by much, no matter what the Chuckster says.
The one thing I'm absolutely sure of is that our record improved with the win, and ultimately that's all I care about. I don't feel the least bit guilty or apologetic to beat the Mavs without Nowitzki and if we play Boston without KG next week, I won't feel bad about that either. I'm not looking to "prove" anything in the regular season. Only loser teams like Dallas who haven't won shit care about making statements in December. You prove who's best in the playoffs. Let Pop worry about daily improvement, because that's what coaches do. My sole focus is to rack up the wins -- as many as we can -- and to get home court throughout the playoffs to give ourselves the easiest road possible. I don't recall anyone handing out asterisks when we lost games these past few years without Manu or Tim or Tony.
Nobody feels sorry for you in this league, regardless of whether you're on a SEGABABA or your best player is injured or whatever. If a team is down you step on their necks and you're a complete sucker if you don't beat the Mavs without Nowitzki. We had our own problems -- Manu was so congested that he could hardly breathe, and it was just plain weird to see him chewing gum the whole game. You know how Michael Jordan said when he was in high school he was so bad that he couldn't chew gum and make a layup at the same time? Well Manu literally couldn't. Or at least he didn't attempt to. The bottom line is nobody cares. Just win the damn games.
Your Three Stars:
3. George Hill - Defense on Kidd wasn't as consistent excellent as it was on Kobe, but he did board well and he unlocked their zone with a couple of drives to the hoop. He was aggressive, which was important because Manu wasn't all there.
2. Gary Neal - One thing you can say about him is that for better or worse, he is not afraid to shoot. Against Dallas it was for the better, and he's now inserted himself into this rivalry.
1. Antonio McDyess - I thought overall he did his job at both ends of the floor better than anyone else did and his team-best +21 wasn't a coincidence. He and Timmy never played together, which I doubt will be the case if they have to face Dallas in the playoffs.
Up Next: Saturday, Vs. Oklahoma City (22-11). The Spurs ring in the new year against the precocious Thunder, who are sixth in scoring (103.8) and 26th in assists (19.7), which means iso offense galore. Last time we beat them at their place, on a SEGABABA no less, because Bonner went apeshit with seven threes. That probably won't happen again, but we'll probably get better games out of Tim, Hill and Neal. It'd be nice to see Manu go off as well and thankfully December is finally over for him (15.7 points, 40.1% FG, 33.7% 3PT), but he usually struggles big time against these guys so we'll see. If you see him chewing gum again, that won't be a good sign.
Before we go, it's time to hand out the Manu Ginobili Trophy For PtR Spurs MVP for the month of December...
Hide your women, because the award goes to... TOH-NEE PAHRK-UHR!
::crowd gives lukewarm, halfhearted applause::
The Fornicating Frenchman led the Spurs with 24 Three Stars Points in December, narrowly edging out Timmeh's 23, while George and Manu had 19 each. As you can see, it was a very competitive month, with lots of contributors. Except for RJ, who totally sucked.
12/1 @LAC L 15-3 1. Hill (5) 2. Manu (3) 3. Neal (1).
12/3 Vs. Min W 16-3 1. Hill (10) 2. Tim (3) 3. RJ (1).
12/5 Vs. NO W 17-3 1. Tony (5) 2. Rocket (3) 3. Tim (4).
12/8 Vs. GS W 18-3 1. Blair (5) 2. Tony (8) 3. Tiago (1).
12/10 Vs. Atl W 19-3 1. Blair (10) 2. Tony (11) 3. Hill (11).
12/12 Vs. Por W 20-3 1. Tim (9) 2. Hill (14) 3. Dice (1).
12/15 Vs. Mil W 21-3 1. Manu (8) 2. Tim (12) 3. Tony (12).
12/16 @ Den W 22-3 1. Tim (17) 2. Manu (11) 3. Tony (13).
12/18 Vs. Mem W 23-3 1. Tony (18) 2. Quinn (3) 3. Manu (12).
12/20 Vs. Phx W 24-3 1. Tim (22) 2. Neal (4) 3. Blair (11).
12/22 Vs. Den W 25-3 1. Neal (9) 2. Tiago (4) 3. Manu (13).
12/23 @ Orl L 25-4 1. Tiago (9) 2. Manu (16) 3. Tim (23).
12/26 Vs. Was W 26-4 1. Tony (23) 2. Manu (19) 3. Hill (15).
12/28 Vs. LAL W 27-4 1. Blair (16) 2. Hill (18) 3. Tony (24).
12/30 @ Dal W 28-4 1. Dice(6) 2. Neal (12) 3. Hill (19).
December Totals: Tony 24, Tim 23, Hill 19, Manu 19, Blair 16, Neal 12, Tiago 9, Dice 6, Quinn 3, Rocket 3, RJ.
1st Star: Blair 3, Tim 3, Tony 3, Hill 2, Dice, Manu, Neal, Tiago.
2nd Star: Manu 4, Hill 2, Neal 2, Tim 2, Tony 2, Quinn, Rocket, Tiago.
3rd Star: Hill 3, Tony 3, Manu 2, Tim 2, Blair, Dice, Neal, RJ, Tiago.
Overall Totals: Manu 60, Tim 50, Tony 45, Hill 32, Neal 24, Blair 21, Tiago 19, RJ 13, Rocket 10, Dice 8, Anderson 3, Quinn 3.
1st Star: Tim 8, Tony 5, Manu 4, Blair 3, Hill 3, Neal 3, Tiago 3, Dice, RJ, Rocket.
2nd Star: Manu 12, Tony 5, Hill 4, Neal 2, RJ 2, Tim 2, Anderson, Blair, Quinn, Rocket, Tiago.
3rd Star: Hill 5, Tony 5, Manu 4, Tim 4, Blair 3, Dice 3, Neal 3, RJ 2, Rocket 2, Tiago.