So...Carmelo Anthony got traded. And then so did everyone not on the Spurs or Thunder roster. Talk about a domino effect. Anyway, that's the last you'll hear from me on the trades in this post, because after all those trades went down, there was, as always, a basketball game to be played, and as is becoming customary, the Spurs managed to beat Oklahoma City.
Follow me after the jump for your usual, every day, run of the mill recap.
A song, for your pleasure: (get it? It's about a storm, and Oklahoma City is the Thunder? Clever, eh?)
Some unnecessary personal information, for perspective: I live in Oklahoma City. So, naturally, I decided I would grab my Spurs fan buddy (who lurks here) and head out to Buffalo Wild Wings in some Spurs gear. I got there about 10 minutes prior to tip off, and the place was surprisingly empty.
Dribble penetration makes our whole offense go. Tony Parker started off aggressive, getting absolutely anywhere and everywhere he wanted, whenever he wanted to. Tonight was an excellent example of why Tony is the perfect PG for the Spurs.
Richard Jefferson started off hot. Super hot. He played like a 14 Million Dollar Man in the first quarter. Made several 3's from the wing, plus played some solid defense on Durant.
It didn't happen often tonight, but I love watching Blair and Duncan pass to each other. They've developed some good chemistry.
Wow. Tony Parker. Do I need to say anything else? He's as fast as anyone else in the league when he's got the ball in his hands.
Duncan has scored a couple times down in the post. I thought tonight was going to be one of those nights where he gets 20/10 without breaking a sweat.
We close the quarter with some good old fashioned San Antonio Small Ball. I know many of you hate playing small, but generally when we put a small lineup out there we have an advantage because we have such quality guard depth. This time, small ball didn't work- not because the theory of small ball is flawed, but because Gary Neal doesn't know the PF position, much like RJ last year. Had it been RJ on the floor instead of Neal, I have no doubt this stretch ends up differently.
I don't remember who pointed it out, but I'm going to again: the Spurs system is complicated because of the interchangeability of the parts. Positions 1-3 are all run the same (although with different actions in different plays), and 4-5 are the same. So lets say you're Gary Neal- you're primary position is a backup 2/3, so you know all the guard/wing plays. That means you essentially know the playbook for 3 different positions. When you put someone who isn't familiar with the system into a situation where he's playing an entirely new position, he's not going to know what to do- and he didn't.
We allowed 37 points this quarter. Our defense wasn't as atrocious as the score indicated, but it definitely was not pretty. Parker and Russell Westbrook are both going off.
I was talking with the cute waitress at this point, so I missed a couple minutes, but when my ability to pay attention was restored, I saw a Matt Bonner 3, a defensive stop, then a Gary Neal 3.
Then I saw the really annoying Taco Bell Quadsteak Burrito commercials. Not only are they annoying, but they are almost impossible not to sing along to. I hate them. But they taste good. And, hey...it's 4 times the steak. What's not to like about that?
Since I was watching from Buffalo Wild Wings, I didn't see or hear exactly what happened, but Nick Collison fouled Tony and pushed him down, then briefly stood over him in a somewhat taunting manner before San Antonio McDyess and company came over and got in his face, and technicals were handed out to Tim Duncan and Kevin Durant, of all people.
Was this a dirty play? Meh. The initial play was just a good, hard foul. If you watch the replay, you see Collison's arm extend and push a bit, which "causes" Tony to fall. Tony falls every time he gets in the paint, so I'm hesitant to say that was Collison's fault. Another thing is it's a size issue. Nick Collison is Albino Godzilla next to Tony. If Godzilla pushed, say, Tiny Tim, we wouldn't expect Tim to fare too well, would we? But if Godzilla were pushing Megazord or Optimus Prime...that's a more fair fight. You get my point. Collison basically pulled a Kevin Willis, which means Pop will probably try to trade for him tonight.
We ended the first quarter down 6, and ended the second up 11. Our defense was absolutely excellent.
My wings got there right at the end of halftime, so unfortunately I missed a lot from this quarter as well. I know, I know...I'm a horrible Pounder, but buffalo wings are soooo good.
I really only noticed two things from this quarter: Neal was absolutely amazing. He was shooting. He was dribbling. He was driving. I think at one point I even caught him defending. And he was passing. All in all, this was an excellent quarter for Gary Neal.
The other thing I noticed? The mega-swat McDyess gave out. What a block. Our defense overall was not as solid as the previous quarter, but it wasn't bad. They did cut the deficit in half though. I felt pretty confident going into the fourth. Also, at some point in the last 10 minutes, this place has completely filled up, and none of the incoming personnel were Spur-friendly
OK. Most of the food was gone, so I could focus on the game. To start the quarter, we double teamed Durant every time he caught the ball, even when he was out beyond the 3 point line. Did Pop not watch the 3pt shootout? Durant is an average, at best, three point shooter. As a result of this double teaming, and perhaps a couple other defensive lapses, not only have the Thunder knotted the game up, but we were also in the penalty less than halfway through the quarter. Against the best free throw shooting team in the league, this was a problem.
Big problem. For some reason, we kept fouling Durant, and, lo and behold, he made his free throws.
Want to know something? Every time Matt Bonner shoots the ball, an angel gets its wings. And the Spurs get points. The man is automatic. Whenever he does his power squat, efficiently tightens every muscle in his body simultaneously, and launches, I have 0 doubt in my head that the ball is going straight through the net. It doesn't matter where he shoots it, or if its contested or not- I have absolute faith in his scoring ability. I don't feel this way about anyone else.
Tony kind of disappeared there for a little bit, but guess who popped right back up when we needed him most? The Wee Frenchman did not disappoint, grabbing an offensive rebound, then nailing a clutch jumper. Arguably, this was the play that won the game. A bit more detail: Tony, after grabbing a missed "high degree of difficulty" (read: forced) layup by Manu Ginobili dribbled back out to reset the offense, but realized the shot clock was winding down and fired up a wide open mid range jumper that made the most beautiful sound basketball players know: swish. Spurs up, Thunder timeout, nail in the coffin.
My take on the last play of the game is going to lead us into my patented Like it/Love it/Loathe it sections. So we hit some free throws, the Thunder call timeout and advance the ball. They inbound and swing the ball to Jeff Green- when this happens, I'm thinking "oh wait, I've seen this play before". Green gets the ball and is under a lot of pressure. As Green is dribbling, a couple of off-ball screens are being set for Durant, who heads towards the top of the key. George Hill, perimeter defender extraordinaire and man who stands almost 1 ft shorter than Durant, does an excellent job of denying him the ball in the position he wants it. Green gets flustered and jacks up a horrible, contested, fade-away three pointer than doesn't even come close. He could have gotten the ball to Durant further away from the 3 point line, but panicked and shot with 5 seconds left. Great defense combined with bad execution= another win for the good guys.
Tim Duncan's defense. He's still bringing it consistently. I mean, I know Nenad Kristic and Jeff Green aren't exactly known as low-post dominators, but Duncan was effective bringing help at the rim. Score one for the GOATPUFF.
Tony Parker's play tonight and recently in general. He carried us for large portions of the game tonight and each of the past few games.
Gary Neal's toughness, clutchness, shootingness, and everything else about him. He took a nasty bump, but came back and delivered. At one point, he had Durant on him, attempted to drive baseline, but Durant cut him off. He turned around, gathered his feet, and NAILED a 3 with all 6'10 of Durant right in his face.
Not turning the ball over much the past few games. We only had 8 tonight. This would be more impressive if the Thunder still knew how to play defense, but only 8 turnovers would be impressive in a scrimmage. Along those same lines, our ball movement is excellent and our situation is the opposite of the Thunder. They rely on 2 people for their offense. We rely on 7 or 8.
Forgetting how to play defense in the first quarter. This seems like it might be becoming a trend, and it's going to come back and bite us if we don't get at least a little more consistent.
Tim Duncan: Great defense, solid post offense when we went to him. Not much needs to be said anytime we see his name here, right?
Tony Parker: I debated putting him at number one, but I expect him to do what he did tonight on a regular basis. So I wasn't surprised, and was only mildly impressed. That's the curse of high expectations, Frenchie McWonderbutt. Plus, he had half the 8 turnovers.
Gary Neal: You're a new guy, Gary, so I tend to excuse your mistakes easily and everything positive you do gets magnified. It's getting to the point, though, that you're bringing so much good I'm not able to magnify everything. Tonight, you were a picture of efficiency, hitting from 3, nailing floaters, passing effectively, and bringing toughness.
Next up: the new-look New Jersey Nets on Friday