When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before. -- Jakob Riis
This might sound crazy to you, but I have lived my professional life by this quote for the last 4 months. I embrace the essence of it with all that I have every day. Watching the Spurs tonight reinforced my belief in its value.
This season, the Spurs pounded the rock. This series, and tonight, the Spurs pounded the Mavrocks. Tonight, we saw the result of all the hard work.
You all watched the game. Even if you didn't, you probably know already that the Spurs jumped out to a huge early lead by playing suffocating defense, blew the 22 point lead in the third quarter, then came back beat the Mavs with clutch plays and execution down the stretch.
This win was just awesome. It in every way captured the essence of the Spurs. Grinding, defending, clutching, selflessness, teamliness. It had it all. Plus, a third quarter collapse. I mean, this was Spurs basketball.
4 Studs and 2 Ballers and Some Condiments
The days of 3 studs and a bunch of suck are gone. Tonight we had 4 studs and 2 really solid complementary players. And some tasty bacon bit boys.
Our Big 4, played great. Tim, Tony, Manu, and George were all good. They may not have all been great offensively, but together, as a team, they were unbelievable. In addition, Antonio and RJ were very solid. The bacon bit boys were Blair, Bonner, and Bogans all providing useful, if not spectacular, minutes.
George, my man, stepped up HUGE offensively in the second half. In the first half, he was semi-invisible going 0 for 4 from the field. In the second half, he was 7 for 8. I don't know which shot he missed, but it must have been an air ball because I'm positive he didn't hit the rim on any of his shots. The guy gets better by leaps and bounds. Make no mistake, he is our fourth star.
Manu. Well, he was Manu. He competed and he made free throws. Despite not having his shot in the second half, he shot 2 for 11 -- both 3 balls, he did what he always does which is find other ways to win. Then he demands the ball at the end of games. He works harder to get the ball when the other team is fouling than anybody else in the league. And when he is at the line, "Ice water in his veins" doesn't do him justice. It's like the slow drip of water off a mountain glacier. Frozen for so long that it doesn't understand what mortal life is.
Tim also struggled offensively in the second half. Even his 8 points in the third quarter, on 4 for 8 shooting, were primarily dunks and layups. And man, he couldn't shoot a free throw. Not at all. Those were Dwight Howard bad misses. It didn't keep him from playing though. He was an absolute beast on help defense.
And Tony, who was this guy? When was the last time Tony had 10 points and you could say he played a great game? 10 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds? Really? Was he channeling Jason Kidd? Oh, and zero turnovers.
McDyess deserves a whole article by himself for his play in this series. I guess Playoff McDyess is different than Regular Season McDyess. His effort was tremendous and he made Dirk work hard and take tough shots.
RJ, well, I can't believe he only had 7 points. It seemed to me like he was playing well. I also thought he played really good defense. Even though Butler scored a lot of points, he hit a lot of long 2's with a hand in his face.
The condiments all added their own bit of flavor to the game. Bonner with 4 points and 7 rebounds in 12 minutes. Yeah, that travel was UGLY and he didn't make his 3's, but he scrapped out some possessions for us. Blair didn't grab a rebound in his 5 minutes, but he did score a couple points. Bogans played 7 minutes and grabbed 1 rebound. That's it. But he played some solid, physical defense against Dirk when we were struggling with the big man.
The Fourth Quarter: It Tells The Tale
It tells the tale of a team that did its work and continued to swing its hammer. It tells the tale of a team, who as LatinD said, is a Team. Not only that, they are a Spurs Team.
The fourth quarter is almost always Tim and Manu time. Those guys do the scoring for us down the stretch. Tonight, not so much. Between the two, they made ZERO field goals in the fourth quarter. ZERO. They combined to go 0-7 from the field with Manu tallying 6 of those misses. However, Tim and Manu each had 4 assists in the fourth accounting for all the teams assists. The other guys -- Rage, Ant, Cubits, and TP -- shot 9 for 11. George hit both his 3-point attempts and the only 2 the team made in the quarter. Tony and RJ led the team in rebounds with 3 each.
To sum up, everybody stepped up in some way. They all provided something to help the team. It wasn't a one man show, it was a six man show. And that is a beautiful site. Six men swinging a hammer. Rhythmic. Coordinated. Lethal.
Random Odds And Ends
The crowd was loud. I wasn't all that impressed with the crowd initially. I was giving them a ho-hum rating. Then I realized that I couldn't hear any whistles. I have pretty decent seats and I couldn't hear any whistle blown. Then, I realized that my ears hurt. Yes, I'm old, but this was impressive. My hat is off to the Spurs fans for this one. They really brought it.
Dirk is awesome. He came out in the second half and put his team on his back and willed them back in the game. And shot them back in the game. What an amazing player. It's a shame that he and Kidd are the only guys on the team who are willing to move the ball. The Mavericks have always given us fits when they have been able to move the ball from one side of the court to the other with crisp passing. When you have Terry, Butler, and Beaubois on the court, you have 3 ball stoppers. Three guys who will stagnate the offense as they look for their own shot. Oh, and Marion. Also a black hole.
Jason Terry. I don't write about guys on other teams. I barely talk about them. But, I really, really, really dislike this guy. I couldn't be happier that he pulled a Tin Man game tonight and pretty much the whole series. He was abysmal last night. He was so awful his coach played him only 20 minutes in a must-win game. Way to be one of your team's stars.
Beaubois. He played just as much as he should have. I think Rick Carlisle, in one of his few good moves, played him perfectly. He's a volume shooter that can energize a moribund team. Which is exactly what he did. He's not, at this stage of his career, capable of being an effective player for long stretches in a playoff game. He'd have to make too many decisions. As well as he did in shooting them back into the game, he also cost them a couple critical possessions in the fourth.
The refs. Eddie F Rush didn't call much of anything unless it was WAY obvious. Tom Washington called pretty much every touch foul that was called in the game. I'm not sure Bill Spooner had a whistle. I think Washington had to make some of his calls to fend off the anarchy.
Last night in the press conference, Pop talked about his favorite part of the game was when the Mavs took the lead and the team didn't panic. They didn't jump on each other. They didn't try to take over the game individually. They just continued to play as a team. I didn't see this during the game, but I sensed it. Even when we blew the big lead, I didn't think we'd lose. I didn't panic. I didn't despair. I'd like to think it's not because I'm a soulless old man, but because I didn't see the team yelling at each other. I didn't see them blaming. I didn't see them panicking. Maybe you can't pick that up on television. The body language of the players during the time outs and breaks in play is always telling. Last night, they didn't tell of a loss.
LatinD wrote about it last night. These guys are a team. A really, really good team. How good? We don't know yet. But you have to like what you see.