Not to get too corny on you, but this is why we love sports. This is why we invest so much of our time, money and passion on a bunch of foreign strangers wearing familiar laundry. No matter how carefully we watch, no matter how smart, knowledgeable and fanatical we think we are about this stuff, when it comes down to it none of us knows at all what we're talking about, and that includes the players and coaches. You just can't predict any of it, and that's the beauty of it.
Stampler admits his Thunder errors
Thinking they were doomed without James Harden was a bit of an exaggeration on my part. Kevin Durant is still good. So is Russell Westbrook. Serge Ibaka keeps getting better. And they have a bench now? That was supposed to be our thing.
Sports are the only truly unscripted thing on television, the only real "reality TV," whatever that is. In each game there are endless potential stories: heroes, villains, goats, tragedies, comedies and, best of all, redemption. You spend way too much time between games analyzing and overanalyzing this stuff to death, an unhealthy amount of time if you're me, and still countless things happen every game that I don't see coming. They always make me feel stupid afterward, yet I keep coming back. I love it and I wouldn't have it any other way.
I mean, think about it. It'd be cool, for a month or two maybe, if the Spurs won every game in similar fashion, with the same players performing in similar ways with tiny variances of performance; Tim Duncan putting up 18 and 10 on 53 percent shooting, Tony Parker giving you 22 and seven dimes, Kawhi Leonard going for 15 and 8, Manu Ginobili grabbing 13-5-5. The Spurs would win every game 110-85 and be exactly the team so many who never watch them accuse them of being. By the time the playoffs rolled around we'd all be bored to tears.
Don't get me wrong, it's awesome to root for a good team, much preferable to the alternative. But it's the randomness that we're drawn to, the not knowing who's going to win or lose, who's going to play well or poorly, the how and why each game will be decided. I get so few chances these days to watch games live that I treasure them more than ever. It's much more fun than watching them after the fact, when you know everything and all your emotions get dulled both for good and bad.
I think what I'm trying to say is I'm going to really enjoy covering these guys live next year.
Oh, and also, a tip of the cap to Danny Green, who came through huge tonight and hopefully that fourth quarter will be a new beginning for him.
In a game where both teams began rather ruggedly, the Raptors led 26-25 after the first quarter despite committing seven turnovers, largely because big guys Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson banged around inside and drew some fouls on Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter (two each). Also the Raps made 8-of-11 free throws in the period. Kyle Lowry led everyone with 12 points, connecting on both of his bombs and all four from the charity stripe, while Kawhi Leonard, who missed the previous game with emergency dental work, paced the Spurs with seven. The good guys scored 16 points in the paint, but nobody could hit a jumper at all.
The Spurs pulled ahead by a half-dozen points in the second quarter even though they still continued to shoot the ball pretty poorly, making just 13-of-31 shots overall (41.9%). They managed to score 30 points though because of nine offensive boards (three each for Manu Ginobili and Splitter, and two for Jeff Ayres), turning into 14 second-chance points and 18 more points in the paint. Ginobili and Patty Mills each had seven off the bench in the quarter, while Tony Parker added six. Each of them made one from deep. Terrence Ross warmed up a bit for Toronto with seven points in the quarter and Lowry had 16 and five dimes for the first half.
The third quarter was the ugliest of the game and the Spurs were fortunate to not give up any of their lead by the time it was over. They continued to shoot miserably, making just 9-of-22 shots. Parker, Leonard, Duncan and Boris Diaw all missed layups and the offense as a whole had a hard time adjusting for the Raptors aggressive three-point line close outs. The shooters kept putting the ball on the floor and trying to make plays, only to find big guys waiting for them. For the most part they were patient and moved the ball to get good looks inside, but the finish wasn't there. Parker led the team with eight in the quarter, while Ginobili had five. Again, 16 of the Spurs 23 points were in the paint. Tyler Hansbrough, of all people, had seven in the quarter for Toronto, and the Raps missed four of nine free throws in the period. Lowry cooled off, missing all three of his shots.
Finally, after three quarters of impersonating the Grizzlies, the dam finally burst for the Spurs shooters in the fourth quarter. The Spurs sank six of seven from downtown, with four of those coming from Green, who was benched in favor of Marco Belinelli and was having a mediocre game up to that point: 11:44 minutes and 1-3 shooting. He played the whole way in the final period and took advantage of the Raptors wings sagging into a zone to take away Parker's penetration. All of a sudden guys weren't there to close out on him and he scored 12 in the fourth to put the game away. Leonard also made both of his threes, including the dagger with 2:01 to go to make it an eight-point game after Ross had cut it to 100-95 with a floater.
Parker had eight more as well to finish with a game-high 26 points (on 10-of-19 shooting) and Ginobili made four more free throws, as the Spurs were 10-of-13 from the stripe in the quarter and 21-of-27 for the game. Ross had nine in the period on 4-of-5 shooting and 23 for the game, tied with Lowry for team lead. The temperamental Raptors point guard only scored 11 in the final three quarters and made just three of his final 11 shots. DeMar DeRozan was also particularly brutal for them, making just 5-of-16 shots.
The Spurs had 52 points in the paint and a season-high 24 second-chance points, but only two of the former and none of the latter in the fourth quarter. Thanks to all those threes and Green's resurgence, it didn't matter. The Spurs held off a pesky Raptors team that had won road games at Dallas and Oklahoma City and now look ahead to Christmas, the start of a Texas BABA starting with a chance to avenge a 112-106 Nov. 30 home loss to the Rockets. The Mavs beat Houston 111-104 tonight to drop them to 18-11, and Harden missed the game with an ankle injury. There's no word yet whether or not he'll be out Wednesday. Toronto (11-15) won't play again until Friday, where they'll take on the Knicks on the road.
Manu Ginobili attempted just seven field goals but still scored 18 thanks to a 9-of-9 night from the free throw line. It was the most attempts he's had in a game since last February 24 at Phoenix, where he made 10-of-15 from the stripe in a 97-87 win.
This led to the line of the night from Dale (JRW). After a dicey offensive foul on Parker by lady ref Lauren Holtkamp right before half, I texted him that finally we've found a woman who can resist Tony's charms. After I told him the stat about Manu's free throws, he replied, "She can resist Tony's charms because all her whistles belong to Ginobili."
Tim Duncan scored just 9 points on 4-of-15 shooting, but he did everything else well with 12 boards, four assists and four blocks.
Leonard didn't have too many highlight plays but had a quiet 13 and 10 in the game, even giving a little fist pump after his clinching three.
Foul trouble limited Splitter to just 19:57, but he had 8 points and 7 boards, including five offensive rebounds.
Jeff Ayres probably had his best game as a Spur, with four points, five boards and four assists in just 9:41, contributing mostly in the second quarter. The thing about Ayres, though, is if he doesn't think he can catch a pass, he doesn't even try for it. A pass from Ginobili just flew a foot past his head and Ayres was like, "Good luck with that."
Belinelli, the league-leader in three-point percentage, was 0-of-5 from downtown. I'm not so sure he'll start the next game. Green had started 106 of the previous 107, with the one exception being the infamous Rest-Gate at Miami.
A bit of honesty from Sean Elliott in the second quarter, on how he'd be as an official: "I'd call everything on the opponent. They'd get called for traveling on free throws."
Of course, the natural follow-up from Bill Land should've been, "How would they get free throws in the first place?" but Land failed us all.
On one second quarter possession I'd have called traveling on Leonard about four times, but the refs let all four go. Then Leonard passed the ball to Parker, who promptly traveled, and they let that go. Then Parker passed the ball to Duncan, who shot the ball from 17-feet... off the backboard. So bad it was kinda funny, especially in retrospect.
Your 3 Stars:
3) Ginobili (42 pts)
2) Parker (40 pts)
1) Green (24 pts)