Oh, Danny-boy. The praise, the praise is flowing.
I think we would all agree that it would be great to sit and bask in that 87-86 victory over Boston yesterday -- so that's just what I'm gonna do. The game last night was tense, exhilarating, frustrating, infuriating, and finally so, so very sweet that I just had to throw about a thousand words at it. That's just what it called for.
Ugly is in the eye of the beholder too
Yes it was ugly at times. Yes there was a lot of defense from Boston. Yes with the big lead that you would've liked to see the Spurs to continue to add to, but this was a playoff atmosphere game, and in playoff games often times the quality of play goes down. Just take a look at any box score from any of your favorite Game 7 playoff games. Field-goal percentage goes down. Turnovers go up. Tons of open shots get missed. That's what happens in games like the one the Spurs were in last night.
If the refs are going to decide to let the rough play go, then I prefer the games when they just raise the bar for what it takes to get a foul. But that's not what they did last night. No, last night they just swallowed their whistles for much of the game, which meant that there were no fouls to come by at all. This is what happened through huge stretches of the Memphis series last year. Swallow-the-whistle games always favor the team who's willing to be more physical, not the team that's playing the best or is the most talented. And that's why I hate them. San Antonio came out on top, and so there's no real reason to gripe, but there was a lot of ugliness that could've been done without in last night's game not the least of which was Tony's getting banged up.
Getting down on Manu
I've seen comments talking about how Manu had an off night, or how he was tired, or how he had a ton of turnovers -- with any number of reasons put forth to explain why. To me it all comes down to the above section about the refs.
Manu is one tough hombre; you can hit him over and over and he will not stop coming at you. But there's one part of his game that has quite a bit of finesse to it, and that's his passing. In a game when the refs decide they're going to take the night off, Manu will tend to struggle. I don't see it any other way and for anyone who watched the game or saw the highlights, it was Manu who made the pass to Bonner for the game-winner.
Just like always, it doesn't matter how bad a game he's having, you always want him on the floor in crunch time. The dude just breathes crunch time. End of discussion.
Getting the lead
Now that was just some amazingly well executed basketball in the first half. From top to bottom the Spurs were clicking on all cylinders against the team with the league's best defense. It was wonderful and quite a thing to behold. The ball movement, players moving without the ball, the flawless execution, the excellent reads, the passing -- everything was fantastic.
There should be no doubts that regardless of the kind of defense that teams play against the Spurs, they are going to be able to execute and score the ball. This team is an offensive force and there really shouldn't even be an argument about whether playoff-style basketball will bring the team back to earth. There are just too many options to defend. The team is far less predictable than it's been in the past, and I for one am glad to see it.
Losing the lead
I don't want to take any credit away from Boston. They are committed to defense and there's just no other way around it. You can say what you want about what the refs let the Celts get away with, but the fact remains that they played incredibly well as a unit, regardless of who was in the game for them.
That said, I want to make sure that no one thinks that it was Boston's defense that was solely responsible for the nine point third quarter. Sure they were a ton of shots that were altered and lot of passes that were stolen by the Celtics, and I will readily admit that there were any number of plays when there was simply no one open. But I will also point out that the Spurs had a load of open shots that just didn't fall. Now those misses all go into the same bucket that shows how awesome Boston's league leading opponents' field-goal percentage is, but there's really no way that I'm going to give them credit for causing them.
The Spurs just didn't execute fully. They ran their plays, guys were open, the ball swung to them: they did not make their shots. Bonner had a number of threes that didn't drop (we'll get to him in a minute) but he was by no means the only one. For all of the third and much of the fourth, no one could drop it in the ocean. Those stretches are going to happen, even for teams as skilled offensively as San Antonio. But I don't have it in me to complement Boston for those open misses. And if I did, it would only serve to paint the wrong picture of this Spurs team.
When you're facing an excellent defense you have to make the most of every opportunity. The Spurs did just that in the 1st half while they built their lead. They didn't in the 2nd half, and so they lost it. But I see no reason to gripe about San Antonio's execution last night or run to an excuse like blaming it on the second end of SEGABABA. Quarters like that happen. They're not happening very often this year but they do happen. The Celtics helped make it happen but they were not playing such amazing defense that all of our guys were covered every trip down the court; for stretches, yes - for the whole twelve minutes, no.
Bonner and the playoffs
I know we've been calling him Winter Shoes all year long, and I know that's mostly my fault for coming up with that particular nick, but I'm here to tell you that I am starting to think that we'll see a different Matty in this year's post-season. I said before that this game had a playoff atmosphere, so let's use it to judge where his game is as the regular season draws to close.
First, the box score: 10 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, one steal, one block and a +8 in his 21 minutes. Add to that some pretty solid defense, and that clutch jumper for the game-winner, and I'm starting to think that we might be able to put that nickname of his on ice this summer.
My second (sports) love
I make no secret of the fact that Ginobili is my favorite player. I also haven't gone out of my way to to hide how much I love Danny Green. And while I've been raving about Kawhi Leonard's play recently, Green had such a game last night that I'm having a hard time containing all my joy.
From his outside shots (2-4) to his ventures in the lane (4-7) he made the Celtics pay with his team high 14 points. He didn't fill the stats sheet as he often does, but his 4 boards and single steal were timely. It's one thing to go off against Denver in the middle of the regular season, but it's an entirely different matter to do what Danny did in Boston. I'm so proud of his play and I'm really hoping that PATFO will be able to sign him and keep him on the team next year.
It's up to nine games with the West's worst Hornets coming to town on Friday. I'm not one to count chickens before they hatch, but I think the rest of you remember what happened the last year that the Spurs had more than one double digit winning streak during the season.
I'm just saying ...