Well that was sweet. Really, really satisfying. After four long years of waiting, we finally got our revenge on those fuckos. Now, forever, we can put 2006 to bed. That series was some atrocious refereeing for Game 3 and 4 and one bad play at the end of Game 7. We can also tell that "you can thank the Warriors" crowd from 2007 to go shove their asterisks up Mark Cuban's more worthwhile open orifice.
With a functional big three we're better than those guys. We always have been and always will be. The Mavs shuffled their personnel around over the years, but while the names change their style remained the same. They're a streaky jump shooting team that relies on Dirk and referee whistles in the half court, desperately need transition points to beat anyone good and have a bunch of guys who are more bark than bite.
Mark Cuban throws Gatorade Jug (via davidandbroliath)To me, this was definitely the best series win since beating the Suns in the second round in 2007. The Hornets in '08 comes close, but because of Manu's ravaged ankle, there was always an ominous air around those playoffs. We all had a feeling that they would get to the Lakers and that would be it, like that Bible verse in the Book of Job that The Da Vinci Code, referenced, "Hithero thou shalt come, but no further."
Man, remember when that Albino freak's shoulders slumped when he read that? Agony.
Of course, our bloody revenge against the Mavs was more akin to Kill Bill. It was fitting that the final game hinged on so much one-sided officiating, this time in our favor. Remember the opening scene, when Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman) killed Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox) right in front of her young daughter? Sure, it looked harsh, but it was still justified and rational (as far as the ethical code of fictional hired assassins go anyway). Like Kiddo told the kid, "I'm sorry you had to see that, but your mother had it comin'. Ten years from now, if you're still raw about it, I'll understand, and I'll be ready."
So I guess what I'm trying to say is, the Spurs are Beatrix Kiddo, the Mavs were Vernita Green, and the Suns might fancy themselves as the young girl. Or something. It's late, I've been working on many things and I've lost track of my analogy.
What I do know is that many of my nemeses are falling by the wayside. Cuban, of course, looks like a dope once again. Dallas was up 1-0 when he started in with that "I hate the Spurs" stuff, just because he was bored mainly, and was pretty much assuming it'd be an easy series, talking about how this Mavericks team may be the best one yet and has the right formula to go to the Finals and really it sounds ridiculous just typing it. Then the Spurs won the next three in a row and four of five and clown boy really has a reason to hate us now. I loved how in the end he acted all bothered and inconvenienced that the media were interviewing him, giving rude and sarcastic answers, coyly taking shots at the refs and saying his biggest regret was, "Having to talk to you guys all year."
Yeah, because all the other owners just get deluged with media requests minutes after their teams lose.
Then there's Simmons, who used to embrace the tag-line, "The lesson, as always, is that I'm an idiot," before he became too rich and famous to ever admit to being wrong about anything (IT WAS A REVERSE JINX! EVERYTHING I WRITE INFLUENCES THE OUTCOMES OF SPORTING EVENTS. NO ONE DENIES THIS!), has lost his Finals pick after the first round. Still, he's the country's foremost basketball expert, just ask him.
Remember this beauty?
I know Manu Ginobili's recent scoring explosion and a few big-time victories roped people into thinking the Spurs might not be done ... but I'm not buying it. Too old, too creaky, too many dumb injuries. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker haven't looked good in three months. I don't see it.
1st Round PER:
Manu: 22.32 (14th)
Tony: 18.91 (34th)
Tim: 17.68 (40th)
Simmons Man Crush Kevin Durant: 16.86 (44th)
George: 16.71 (45th)
So congratulations Bill. Your favorite non-Celtic played barely better than our fourth-best player who had nine points after two games.
The classic part is that here he listed all the Mavs weaknesses...
The bad news: no low-post scoring; too many jump shots; two or three guys who never want to shoot in crunch time unless they have to; a lack of athleticism (noticeable against lanky/young/athletic teams like OKC and Atlanta); too much J.J. Barea; any point guard with a first step can drink Jason Kidd's milkshake; any explosive 2-guard will single-handedly annihilate them (see: Ellis, Monta); and even though the Caron Butler trade was a no-brainer, he's a world-class ballstopper. In other words, when he gets the ball, everything stops. Hmmmmm … I have the ball … clear out for me … OK … hmmmmm … what move should I try?… maybe I'll dribble a few times … I hate guys like that.
Despite all of these faults, not only did the so-called "Spurs junkie" still pick the Mavs to beat us, but to eliminate us on our home floor! THAS DISRESPEK!
(Simmons also picked against his Celtics in round 1, so, you know. Not that you asked, but I went a perfect 8-for-8 with my picks).
Finally there's good ol' Wayne, who drew my ire by calling out Manu in the title of his Game 5 recap. In retrospect, my reaction probably wasn't very mature. But whenever I see somebody calling out my boy and praising Tony in the same paragraph (in a game we lost by 22 points no less), my instincts are to lash out at Tony. Did Parker deserve it? Of course not. I was merely pointing out that The French Dribbling Machine was not quite as effective as Wayne made him out to be and didn't understand why he chose to single out Ginobili in a game where not only just about every Spur was wretched, including Pop, but one that we fully expected them to be. That made no sense to me.
For crying out loud, the guy is playing with a fractured nose. You'd think he could get a mulligan after three straight wins. I've told you people a million times, "The reason Manu's your favorite player isn't because he's as good as Michael Jordan or LeBron James. It's because he's not."
What that means is that while Manu will never be the best player in the league, there exists the talent, and the spirit, to be the best for any one game, or possibly a small stretch of games here or there. It's those stretches, even those two minute ones, that draws us to him. What's the fun in rooting for LeBron? Ooh, let's root for the biggest, fastest, strongest guy who can jump over buildings and then dance and strut and pose and marvel at his awesomeness. That sounds fun.
Some people though, don't get it with Manu and never will. They see a month without a dominant game and think the guy's done. Or, more recently, if he's hot for a few weeks and then he has a bad game, they call the guy a bum. It's like Manu is supposed to be perfect for some people I guess. Isn't being the best player for the winning team enough? He was our best player against Dallas, yes? If he ever had a better defensive series, I must have missed it. And still Wayne with that damning praise at the end ("Manu was Manu. He made free throws, he competed.") Yup, that's all the guy ever does, makes free throws and competes. Oh-for-30 from the field and 26 free throws, whatever you say boss.
Anyway, to borrow a gimmick from another noted Spurs expert, let's look at the series report card:
Tim: 18.2 points (50% FG, 49% FT), 9.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.0 blocks, 0.5 steals, 2.8 turnovers
I thought the worse his offense got the more he improved on the other end. Playing 44 minutes in Game 3 killed him and he was shot by the fourth quarter of that game. Pop has to find a way for us to not get killed when he's on the bench because one day off in between games is not going to be enough to re-energize Duncan if he's playing this much. People call me crazy, but I'm completely serious when I say he and Manu should be benched in any 3-1 situation where we're on the road for Game 5 and home for Game 6. Grade: B
Manu: 19.0 points (42% FG, 32% 3PT, 87% FT), 3.7 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 0.2 blocks, 2.3 steals, 2.7 TOs
Brilliant first two games, pretty streaky after that, with game-saving 4th quarters in Games 3 and 4, and a very good first half in Game 6. Like I said, the one constant was his defense, where he was constantly creating havoc and challenging shooters as well. I think it hurt his pick-and-roll game when Duncan started moving around like a glacier in the second halves of games. I also think his three point stroke is coming back. Three of his four misses in Game 6 were inside the back iron. In the previous two contests he was throwing skuds off the side of the rim. Also, in a game where the Spurs were seemingly getting all the calls, he got absolutely hammered on three drives to the basket without a whistle. Grade: B+
Tony: 15.8 points (47% FG, 0% 3PT, 63% FT), 3.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 0.0 blocks, 1.0 steals, 1.7 turnovers
Frenchy was definitely our most consistent performer throughout the series, and I thought his best overall game of was Game 6 where he did a good job of not forcing things and getting everyone involved. He hit a number of clutch fourth quarter jumpers in Games 3 and 6 and generally played smart on offense, except for Game 4. His defense however was average at best and it was maddening to watch him leave three point shooters open time and again for no reason. He actually got benched by Pop at the end of Game 4 for that very reason. Grade: B
George: 14.3 points (50% FG, 50% 3PT, 82% FT), 3.8 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.2 steals, 0.7 TOs
Going into the season there was the hope that the "Big Three" would become the "Big Four" and indeed they have, just not in the way we imagined. While his defense is a bit overrated, or at the least streaky, Hill is starting to emerge as an offense force thanks to his new-found jumpshot. Whether it's a pull up J from mid-range or a catch-and-shoot from the corners, he's positively deadly when he's feeling it, and was a major factor in three of our wins, especially the last two. Now we have to get him going hard to the basket again... Grade: A-
Dice: 6.7 points (54% FG), 7.0 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.8 blocks, 0.2 steals, 1.2 turnovers.
Speaking of overrated defensively, I think we all need to take a collective step back with Antonio's work against Dirk. The guy averaged 26.7 points (would've been more if not for the Game 5 blowout) on 54% shooting and had a PER of 28.72. Yes, Antonio put a body on him, and he actually looked like he had a pulse out there which is a stark difference from the regular season, but I was more impressed by McDyess' board work than his defense, to be honest. I think Nowitizki bailed us out by not going to the basket more because he was drawing fouls nearly every time. Does this mean I think Dirk's a wuss? No way. But I do think our smalls (Hill, Bogans, RJ, Manu) were actually more effective on Nowitzki the times they were matched up on him. I don't think Dice will be seeing quite as many minutes next series, the way the Suns play. Grade: B
RJ: 9.2 points (54% FG, 25% 3 PT, 82% FT), 4.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.2 blocks, 0.3 steals, 1.7 turnovers.
I can't believe I'm saying this, but Jefferson has to shoot more. He was far too tentative against the Mavs, which was weird because his stroke looks good and he's been making his freebies. He has to be more aggressive and we have to look for more transition opportunities with him. While he generally didn't screw up too much in half court defense, a guy with his athleticism should be more disruptive than he was, and nearly two turnovers a game was way too many for a guy who touched the ball as infrequently as he did. Pretty quiet outside of Game 2. Grade: C+
Rocket: 3.8 points (35% FG, 31% 3 PT), 3.7 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.2 blocks, 0.0 steals, 0.2 turnovers.
Bonner played decent enough defense on Dirk, when the zebras let him, and actually rebounded pretty well the final two games. His shot though, was M.I.A. We're desperately going to need him to nail some bombs to beat the Suns and also to preserve Timmy. Teams are gonna leave him open and he has to make them pay. Grade: C-
Beast: 4.2 points (46% FG, 56% FT), 4.3 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.3 blocks, 0.2 steals, 0.2 turnovers.
Bold prediction: We won't win the next series if Duncan shoots worse from the line than Blair does. I thought DeJuan generally gave us good energy while he was in there, even though he was too excited at times. Defensively, he's still an adventure. I think it's been too long since he and Manu played together, they seem to have lost their chemistry. I'm very curious how Pop will use him against Phoenix. Finished with a PER of 26.57, albeit in nine minutes of work per contest. Grade: B+
Mason: -13.3 points (-28% FG, -41% 3PT), 0.0 rebounds, 0.0 assists, 0.0 blocks, 0.0 steals, 58.3 turnovers.
DON'T DO IT, POP. Grade: F, for Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck, Mason's in the game.
Keys to the Suns series: I thought Buck Harvey made an excellent point about how now that Bruce is gone, Nash is going to have to guard somebody. Will it be the slightly slower Parker? The despairingly deferential Hill? The wise but washed-up McDyess? Or the completely clueless Jefferson? Probably some combination of all of the above, until the Spurs exploit it. Maybe we'll give him the Matt Bonner treatment, where we'll just attack him no matter who he's on, though the Spurs don't really play that way.
I'm more interested in the practical stuff like how will they play our pick-and-roll, how aggressive will Tony and Manu be going to the basket, how they're going to guard Tim (I'd be surprised if they come out doubling), how we'll shoot our threes, and what our rotation will look like. Defensively it doesn't really matter who guards Nash. No one on our team is equipped to slow him down in the least. We've got to make it a two man game and turn everyone else into thumb-twiddlers who get bored and complacent on defense. I'm not as worried about Richardson. He's due to cool off, as long as we're not giving him open threes or fast break dunks. His game isn't too different than Marion's.
Obviously transition defense will be even more critical here than it was against Dallas. While we can't be expected to keep the Suns to 90 points, I think 105 should really be the limit, and that's a reachable goal. The onus will be on the offense to keep up their end of the bargain. Frankly, everyone needs to be better. Manu, Tim, Tony, RJ, Bonner, they all have to be better. The threes, the free throws, the aggressiveness to the basket, all of it.
We know these guys are soft, so now we've got to show the world. They might have many new faces than in '07 or even '08, but Nash and Amar'e are the same guys. They know the history. That's why Game 1 means more here than it did against Dallas. The Mavericks still had history to fall back on even after we handed them a home less. Their confidence didn't waver until after Game 4. The Suns would be different though. If they lose Game 1 Nash and Stoudemire, and to a lesser extent Hill and Barbosa will get that sinking feeling in their stomachs. The fans will be shells of themselves by Game 2. Everyone will have that deja vu feeling. If we can get the first one, this could be relatively easy. If not, it's going to be way harder than Dallas was. I'm excited.
Spurs in 6.
P.S. A final word about the Mavs. I'm glad their worst player was Jason Terry. Seriously, he can go buy himself an ice cream cone. And I'm glad Dallas found out what a nutcase Brendan Haywood is. What's the matter with him? All he seems to be interested in is dunking and talking trash, regardless of the score or the situation. I think things like the shot clock, the end-of-quarter horn, and the scoreboard are concepts he has yet to fathom. Just a total nutball. I'm glad Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd are once again losers. The former looks like he's vomiting the ball every time he shoots and the latter was once again a bug on Tony's windshield. Finally, I'm glad that trade for Caron "Tough Juice" Butler worked out so well. Seriously, we were going to lose to this guy? Come on.