First, let me start with the bad news, as is my custom.
No, you weren't imagining things, our offense really was that putrid against the Lakers.
See, when I was watching the game live at Buffalo Wild Wings, distracted at different points by Manoli, our unmotivated waitress and the Giants game on the other TV, I simply thought the problem was that our guys, Duncan in particular, missed a bunch of wide open shots and that the refs made a dozen or so questionable non-calls. Really, I thought the Spurs had like a 2:1 margin on the Lakers on good open looks.
However, upon a subsequent viewing in the, uh, cozy confines of my bachelor room that I'm renting, I was chagrined to discover that in fact there was hardly any difference at all between the two teams on that score, that the ball movement was generally subpar by both squads, and that open looks in the game were few and far between.
Here, I charted it for you:
Nash 2/5 (0/1 from 3)
Artest (1/2 from 3)
Meeks (0/1 from 3)
Morris (0/1 from 3)
Blake 2/3 (1/2 from 3)
Jamison 0/2 (0/1 from 3)
First Half 5/13 (1/4 open from 3, 0/1 contested)
Game 9/22 (2/8 open from 3, 1/7 contested)
Green (2/4 from 3)
Ginobili 2/3 (2/2 from 3)
Leonard (1/3 from 3)
Bonner (1/2 from 3)
Neal 0/1 (3)
Half 5/9 (3/3 open from 3, 0/7 contested)
Game 10/25 (6/12 open from 3,1/10 contested)
I don't know, but only 25 open jumpers seems awfully low to me, and for clarification's sake I'm not even just counting shots purely off the catch. I also counted pull up jumpers off the dribble as long as the players had their legs underneath them and created sufficient room for themselves without being encumbered at all by a nearby defender.
So yes, the 40% shooting on these open shots was a bit below average, but not by much. Individually everybody was pretty much where you'd expect. I mean, what are we talking about here? If Duncan goes 3/6 instead of 0/6 we've got six extra points and finish with 97 instead of 91. Big whoop.
My point is that a "shooting slump" is not a convenient or applicable excuse here. There really is something wrong with the offense. Parker still looks slow and wobbly. The ball just isn't whipping around the perimeter as well as we'd like. There weren't nearly as many fast break points as you'd expect, given the Lakers 18 turnovers. Finally there weren't many layups or easy points in the paint, though the size of the Lakers might be a credible excuse in that regard.
Obviously a ton of credit has to go to the Lakers because clearly I was wrong and they did indeed play quite well defensively against the Spurs in Game 1. For that matter, so did the Spurs against LA, especially the way they scrambled to take away open looks from deep.
What I'm trying to say is that I don't think the Spurs offense will suddenly explode for any 110 or 115 point outings anytime soon. There is no simple adjustment or tweak that can fix them and turn them into the offensive juggernaut they were down the stretch in 2012. Unless Parker miraculously finds a way to return to his peak form and Manu can return to a guy who can get to the rim and finish, the Spurs will have to grind out wins and lean heavily on their defense because nothing is going to come easily for this crew and I don't see many 35 point quarters or 65 point halves in our near future.
With that bit of business out of the way, lets get on with the positives, of which there were plenty.
Manu, of course, looked about as good as we could've possibly dreamed in his 19 minutes on the floor, considering his long injury layoff. He had enough legs to shoot the three ball (maybe the adrenaline of the playoffs kicked in there), he skied for a couple of boards, generally played a pretty smart floor game without taking too many risks and was unquestionably the MVP of the game. Hopefully he'll be able to gradually increase his stamina to the 30 minute mark as we go along in these playoffs and regain his rhythm, timing and confidence enough to drive to the rim and do something once he gets there.
It's one thing to do well against Steve Blake or whoever, but Ginobili will be facing much longer and quicker opponents in round two [ASAKOW (Assuming San Antonio Keeps On Winning) - jrw], so he needs to get as close as he can to 100 percent tootsweet. The good news is the better he shoots it from downtown, the more people will crowd him and it'll be that much easier for him to pump fake and drive.
Man, was it good to have him back.
Matt Bonner played without question the best playoff game of his life. While it's definitely premature to remove the scarlet "C" (for choker) on his lapel, it was an encouraging start if nothing else. Dude even grabbed five boards. With Diaw sidelined Bonner has a golden opportunity to rewrite the narrative of his career, and if he does anything at all against the Lakers, this series won't last long.
My favorite Bonner moment though came with 7:16 to go in the game. Somebody was getting set to shoot free throws and Rocket was checking out for Timmy to sub back in. As he waddled his way toward the bench, he purposefully widened his arc so that he could slap five with Pop, who was busy shouting instructions and wasn't even paying attention to him.
Somebody find that scene and make a GIF of it, it's so Bonner. [Josh, can you make this happen? - jrw]
Pick a stat, any stat, as your key one of the game. There are so many to choose from and I'm not smart enough to figure out which is more significant than the rest.
Turnovers? 18 to 9, to the good.
Offensive boards? 8 to 6, to the good.
Three pointers made? 7 to 3, to the good.
Free throw attempts? Remarkably, 25 to 24, to the good.
Yeah, you're right, it's probably the free throw attempts. I can't imagine the Lakers beating the Spurs in a game where that stat isn't one-sided in their favor.
A nod to Cory Joseph, whose name Pop drew from the Backup Point Guard Hat. He gave us 11 quality minutes, didn't have any turnovers (though shooting an 11-foot floater nine feet comes close) competed hard at both ends and wasn't afraid out there. For a while there I thought Joseph was going to foul out in like four minutes, but he stabilized pretty quickly and let Manu do his thing.
I'm ambivalent about Tiago Splitter. On one hand he was Charmin-soft on offense, which was disconcerting to put it mildly, and he didn't get anything going on the pick-and-roll. On the other hand, he played with a decent amount of physicality on defense and didn't get bullied around by Dwight Howard or Pau Gasol.
Obviously we're gonna need more -- a lot more -- from Splitter, but he wasn't as bad as his numbers suggest and the Lakers are a tough match-up, so I can understand the strategy of sacrificing some of his offensive game to be able to use that energy in his own end.
If anyone deserves to wear the dunce cap today, it was Gary Neal.
That's two hat references I made in this post. I wonder if it was subconscious because I wore a cap for the first time in forever today. My hair is ridiculous at the moment.
I predicted Spurs in 5, and I'll stick to it, but it wouldn't be surprising at all to see a sweep. The Lakers are just so limited in what they can do offensively. It's almost a carbon copy of the 2-7 series out east, where the KG-Pierce Celtics are circling the drain. Rondo was everything for Boston, and Kobe, for all his hero ball and defensive lapses, masked the fact that the Lakers were often taking the court with guys at small forward and point guard who are replacement level at best and making do with the worst bench in the league. They are just so pitifully slow on the perimeter and Mitch Kupchak should be fired for the roster he's built, for the coach he hired to manage them and for not amnestying Ron Artest long ago.
Your 3 Stars:
3. Tim Duncan
2. Matt Bonner
Your Game 1 MVPs, on a weekend where it looks for all the world that chalk will prevail, with only Clips-Grizzles offering us any hope of a slight upset...
Knicks-Celtics: Kenyon Martin (10 pts, 9 rebs, best game I've seen from him in forever. More eerie parallels with Spurs-Lakers series in that each two seed's maligned backup PF played a great game 1).