I decided to put together another "good and bad things". This process is less passionate but more enjoyable after a win than a loss as I can write with a calming glass of wine instead of trying to stop the eye-twitches and constant throbbing in my head. As always, these are my impressions from watching the game while trying to navigate a stair-climber without having a heart attack, so don't believe everything you read here. I should double-check my droppings using a game replay or at least a boxscore, but am way to lazy to do that. Besides, facts just get in the way of fun writing.
This was an awesome game to watch, and by awesome I mean the Spurs won (sorry for the spoiler if you haven't watched it yet). The refs were generally pretty good considering they are NBA refs, I remember a few bad calls for each side but in general it nicely run. They did call the rough stuff early on to make sure it did not get out of hand, then basically let the teams play.
1) Defense Baby!
Wonderful stifling defense, with great rotations - probably the best team defense I have seen in a long time. The shaggy German dude saw a crowd almost every time he touched the ball, yet we (mostly) rotated back quickly as soon as he passed it out. He got hassled and frustrated to the point where he started doing stupid things for a little while. Classic ugly Spurs effort that warmed my heart greatly.
2) Coach Pop.
Pop was just plain awesome. The first quarter and maybe a bit beyond it seemed that the Spurs came out with a different lineup after every timeout. We fans are always complaining about the senile old goat and his crazy never-ending lineups, but consider this: the Spurs as a team are used to playing with a constantly changing lineup. Think about the poor opponent - they go into a timeout trying to get used to the previous combination of players, come up with offensive and defensive strategies, get back on the court, and the freaking lineup has changed! Parker comes in. Next timeout Blair comes in. Next timeout Bonner comes in. The Spurs players and fans are unfazed – it is just Pop being crazy again. But the Mavs have to be confused.
3) Playoff Timmeh
What more can I say about the greatest power forward of all time. Random moment that was funny to me - he started leading a fast break but then decided to give the ball up to RJ (I think) around half court instead of taking it all the way. Love you TD, but you don't get to play point guard in the playoffs. Dr Fundamental did a phenomenal job as a big man though - he set the tone early on by going getting his classic shots in the paint right away, then made a lot of little hustle plays down the stretch that got us some extra possessions. I especially liked the one where he saved the ball by bouncing it off Kidd - not often someone outsmarts Kidd like that.
4) Great penetration.
At some point Pop must have yelled at the entire team and threatened them with a visit from Bella if they don't stop shooting long jumpers. Everybody tried to get to the paint to the point where we passed up some open outside shots to try and penetrate. Most of the time this helped us. A few times it hurt us, the outside shot would have been the better option, but my guess is Pops wanted to break the jumper habit. Luckily we went outside to get some threes when we really needed them late in the game.
5) The Red Rocket finally gets his sandwich
I love Bonner. He is about as smooth and coordinated as Chevy Chase playing President Ford but he has my favorite trait in a player: he always gives full effort. Except for the playoffs, where he goes into hibernation for the freezing Texas spring or something. Luckily somebody woke him up early and we now have two players on the team that consistently care about rebounding (Blair obviously being the first). Bonner got some great rebounds and also tried to get involved with the offense. He is still not hitting his threes but the outside shot was not a major part of the offense for this game so that is ok - I am just happy that he tracked down his confidence and put it on, or at least faked it really well. He did his scary looking dribble inside into heavy traffic, predictably missing the shot but following that up with some great hustle and a beauty of a shot. Yes, one that went in. I didn't know whether to cheer or laugh, but was getting funny looks from people around me so am guessing I did something.
Obviously he is not one of our stars and this is not on the same scale as Tony or Hill coming back from injuries. We are talking about Matt Bonner here, but this is still really good news. Like it or not, we need Bonner contributing.
6) Team Spirit
Almost the whole team played well, with different people stepping up at different times. Duncan started out hot and continued with inspired hustle, Manu had his stretches, Tony had a little run, Hill pretty much took control late in the game, Dice was consistently good. RJ was not given the ball as much but was aggressive when he got his hands on it. BonBon was awake and aggressive.The Bear Beast is truly back for the playoffs. Most importantly they were all in sync, especially on D.
7) Roger Mason was on the bench.
Yes, I am being mean. No, I am not sorry, though I do feel bad for him.
8) Yawn and Temple saw the floor.
Yay! At least they can say they were are part of the playoffs.
Yes, I know he is on the wrong side but what great effort and confidence from the tiny little rookie. It was fun watching him play, though I suspect it would have been less fun if we had lost the game. He is going to be a great player especially if he can somehow grow a few more inches.
10) Najera did not injure anyone
We got through the series without Dirty Najera seriously injuring anyone. Tony and the rest took advantage of his "defense" until Jim Carrey took him out and kept him out.
Yes, this is covered by some of the points above, but deserves it's own special comment. The intangibles were off the charts today. The team chemistry and confidence was apparent throughout the game. Everybody, and I mean everybody played with intensity and hustled hard. This is my favorite aspect of Spurs basketball.
1) Shot selection at times.
There were sometimes difficult shot attempts in a crowd of blue jerseys when the ball should have been passed out. Tony did this, of course, but we expect that from once in a while. Or maybe fairly often in a while. Manu also took and missed some tough shots in situations where he usually passes the ball back out. As stated above my suspicion is that the Godfather strongly suggested that they penetrate and shoot instead of kicking out so there is a good reason, but it still hurt seeing it.
2) Untimely Misses
We let the Mavs get back into the game with some untimely misses. I seem to remember the croissant doing a lot of damage here - he missed some short jumpers and the Mavs took advantage by rebounding and running with it. Don't get me wrong, Tony also made some timely good shots later so I am not advocating waiving him right now.
3) Mavs made a strong run
We lost control of the game for a little bit and let the Mavs back in. We cannot let teams get back up in the playoffs - knock them down then stomp on their head repeatedly so they don't get back up. Umm, figuratively speaking of course.
4) Clank Clank free throws
But we are talking about the Spurs, what do you expect?
There is probably more bad stuff but it is difficult to think of it in the afterglow of a great victory so I will let Ballhog and GhostTown write about that someday.
There is also this, but it is not appropriate for the fine family atmosphere we like to create here at PtR.
Honestly I don't dislike Cuban. I don't especially like him either, but do have respect for his passion for the game and for being himself instead of trying to look like a normal NBA team owner. However, I firmly believe that he and his front office cost the Mavs their shot at the crown. Not Rick Carlisle, Not Dirk Nowitzki , not even Lady Luck. Cuban has not managed to surround the big German with players that will help him succeed. Also, making a trade midseason is not the way to help your team succeed in the playoffs this year, though admittedly it will probably make them better next year. As much as we complain about the Scola trade (which actually had decent reasons behind it) just remember that Mark Cuban let Steve Frikking Nash leave town. How much difference would that have made? Not just from a skills point of view, but in terms of team chemistry and mental fortitude.
And that is the core of why Cuban and his FO suck - they recognize skill, but don't think about leadership and chemistry when getting players. Ok, I like Butler but that was more luck than anything else - they did not go out and get leaders in the offseason when they should have. They did not dump Josh Howard in the offseason like they should have, opting instead to wait until the middle of a decent season.
Just as the Spurs mindset permeates throughout our favorite organization the Cuban mindset permeates throughout his team. They lack a cohesive approach and jump from strategy to strategy. They panic when things get tough and give up on the current gameplan, looking for some other magic bullet instead.
I feel sorry for Dirk. He is a lot tougher than he gets credit for and seems to be a decent enough guy - you don't see him going to the press bitching about coaching or lack of support like a lot of players do. He is probably too nice a guy to jump ship to somewhere that will get him a ring and I honestly don't think he will get one with Dallas. He is also too nice a guy to be the demanding locker-room leader type that would shake things up there, Cuban should at least bring in someone to fill that role. As much as we dislike Garnett there is no question that he did that for the Celtics their championship year.
Enough about the Mavs, Enjoy the Win!
This is a Spurs site after all. Front office stuff is on my mind because I have been meaning to put up a fanpost about our front office and have not gotten around to it. Maybe I will get motivated and post something this weekend. It is a short one, I promise.
For now, let's enjoy this win. Relish the sweetness of watching our team come together and play classic Spurs ball precisely when it counts. Pop and the team will start working hard and will go over film and strategy; all we have to do is support them by celebrating and drinking for them. Let it soak in, bask in the moment and worry about the next game only when it comes.