After spending most of the season bemoaning the schedule-makers' decision to place all of the Spurs vs Lakers games into a tiny window during mid-April, I spoke with Chris of Silver Screen and Roll and we decided that instead of an epic series of posts leading up to the three games, we'd instead turn the 10 days themselves into an event.
Witness (with all due respect to Robert Redford and Sydney Pollack) the 10 days of SpurLakers. That's right, starting yesterday, every day through the final regular season meeting between San Antonio and Los Angeles on Friday the 20th, you'll be treated to another exchange between Chris and me.
Enjoy and act responsibly. Yesterday's is here.
Recently on my website there's been a whole lot of talk about drinking the Kool-Aid. All of the optimistic members have been attempting to force feed their favorite glass-half-full arguments to anyone who'll listen. And I guess you could consider me one of those optimistic members, but to save you time, because I know how busy you are, I won't even include a link or two to such articles. I will simply demonstrate for you right now as I attempt to convince myself that the Lakers win over the spurs on Wednesday night is no big deal.
Take it easy, J.R. (I would say to myself.) In the 1st, 2nd and 4th quarters, LA outscored us by FIVE points COMBINED. That's it. Sure Bynum spent the whole game as a one man wrecking rebounding crew, but the Spurs were somehow able to counter/survive/hide under a rock until it was over.
This was a classic TQC, that's it. Even with Ronald William Artest, Jr. tossing in crazy threes and Gasol doing his impersonation of a man throwing pebbles into the Pacific, this just boils down to a third quarter collapse. It's annoying, sure. It's shameful and embarrassing, but it's just one game.
And in that one game, it was just that one bad quarter, not a complete game domination like last year's blowout the Lakers slapped on the 2011 Spurs as the NBA began to wake up to the fact that San Antonio just might be a paper tiger with the league's best record. This is NOT the same thing at all. Sure last year's team had two double-digit game winning streaks before bowing out in the 1st round to an eighth seed. But Manu was injured then! He's healthy now. Ok, so he didn't all that much difference in this one, but again: it's just one game.
Not to mention that Kobe didn't even play, and you know that a team playing without its star (especially one who dominates the ball as much as the Bean does) always plays better for a while in his absence. Just calm down and wait for the next Laker game.
Now, if you they do the exact same thing to the Spurs again on Tuesday and next Friday too, THEN it'll be time to ... Well, it'll be time for me to come up with some fresh excuses for my team. That's what it'll be. But that's also ALL it'll be, because I refuse to believe that the team that's had the best record since All Star Weekend isn't the good great transcendent team that I feel sure that they are, just because of a few regular season games.
There you go. What do you think of that?
That's funny, our web-site is going through the exact opposite, where the team headlines, performance, and culture has created a majority of pessimism/"realism" in which there are a few optimistic hold outs who aren't so much trying to convince the others glass-half-full arguments as they are goading said members with their constant faith. But let's focus on the matter at hand.
As with all surprising results, last night's Lakers-Spurs contest meant nothing and everything all at the same time. There were tons ... TONS of flukey outlier performances that would not make me bat at eye no matter which side of the line one finds themselves. Our small forwards, who average a team production of 11.9 PER (way below average for the uninitiated), were unstoppable All-Stars last night. 39 points combined from them, 8-14 shooting from three point range, all combined with the tremendous energy both guys usually bring to the defensive end, it was a banner night for them. That is so far from the baseline expectation for Metta World Peace and Matt Barnes that it alone can explain both the victory and the reason why the game can be written off. While we're at it, throw in Steve Blake's effective performance as well. The chance of any one of those guys playing like that again, much less all three, is pretty low.
For our other flukes, we need to take a look at your guys. Tony Parker couldn't hit anything, despite the fact that I saw a bunch of shots out of him that he normally makes at a decent rate. And Manu looked so poor that, having not kept up on my Spurs headlines, I thought he might be injured and trying to play through it, so I'm quite relieved to find out that isn't the case. When your two best players play like that (this is accurate, yes? Duncan is old enough and plays little enough to have passed the torch?), it's tough to achieve victory. I wouldn't put too much stock in the "one bad quarter" analogy, because it was really the whole 2nd half until LA shut off down the stretch. And the Kobe deal ... he's been out two games already, and the Lakers looked terrible in those games. Still, as I said, plenty of outlier performances on both sides of the ball with which to wash away any remnants of this game you might be worried will stick with you.
Now let's get to the part that should scare you, and by you I mean everybody that roots for non-Lakers teams. Andrew Bynum was no fluke. Don't get me wrong, it was surprising, incredibly so. The thirty rebounds was as much a result of the Spurs missing a bunch of shots as it was indicator of Drew's dominance. But Drew's activity on defense was shocking. When Drew transported across the lane to block that one Tony Parker layup, my jaw dropped because I haven't seen Drew move that fast on defense since last year. Between his collection of every single rebound in the game (only a slight exaggeration) and Metta's array of crazy ass shots and turn around jumpers, my eyes were in such a perpetual state of bug out that I ended up needing emergency irrigation surgery. But Drew choosing this game, against this opponent, with Kobe out of the lineup, to throw down his most dominant defensive performance on record, is no accident.
As we will get into in further detail over the coming days, my relationship with Andrew Bynum is not a strong one, but more and more he is showing that he is the most complete package in the NBA at center. At his offensive best, nobody can match him. At his defensive best, only Dwight Howard is more effective. Drew's consistency is horrid, and don't even get me started on his attitude, but he's shown glimpses of both offensive and defensive dominance in 5-15 game stretches over the course of his career. If he ever does both at the same time, consistently, the NBA world will be in for some trouble. But that's a pretty big if.
But, and I hate to bring this up, because we've been over before how much I enjoy the Spurs as a non-Spurs fan, I do want to discuss the possibility that the Spurs might not be the transcendent team you want them to be, at least not in the way you want them to be. I would argue that the Spurs have been transcendent the last two seasons AND have been a paper tiger the whole time. The Spurs domination over the regular season in the past decade has been stunning, but surely even the most thirsty of your Kool-Aid drinkers has to recognize that it's been four years since the Spurs have lived up to or exceeded expectations in the playoffs. Last year was the most noticeable, but being swept by the Suns the previous year, and run out of town by the Mavericks the year before has to eat at you just as much. I think what worries me most about the Spurs come the postseason dates back to last year ... it's not that they lost as a 1 seed to an 8 seed, it's how many people expected them to lose. Combined with the quirkiness of their roster (a complete lack of size, tons of three point shooters), is it possible the Spurs have naturally evolved into a fantastic model of regular season basketball that simply isn't sustainable over a seven game series against the same team?
Sorry to end on such a down note, that question even made me a little sad.
To be continued ...