Game 44, at Miami:
Heat 113, Spurs 101 Rec: 33-11 1st in Southwest, 2nd in West Streak: L-1
I don't know why, but this was the least painful of the Spurs past four losses at Miami.
Maybe it was the 10 a.m. start time for me. It's hard to get too worked up and into the game when you're just waking up from a five hour slumber. Or maybe it was all the guys the Spurs were missing. No Kawhi Leonard. No Danny Green. No Tiago Splitter. Maybe it was those stupid gray uniforms they had to wear, even on the road, that gave the game a distinct preseason look. I can't quite put my finger on it, but for whatever reason, it was just a "meh" kind of loss, the kind you forget about immediately afterward, knowing full well that the next tip is always around the corner in the relentless 82-game slog.
Surprisingly, Tim Duncan, who usually fares poorly in these morning starts, was the most spry of any Spur for much of the game, and he had a monster first half with 17 points (and hit all of his freebies, which was a relief) and was on his way to an epic game before he realized it was a hopeless cause. Then again, it's kind of stupid to be surprised by anything Duncan does anymore. He's carrying the burden of trying to produce on both ends of the floor for his injured and battered teammates, even in games like this when he's getting virtually no help.
Okay, that's an exaggeration. Boris Diaw competed his ample rear end off and was quite good. Marco Belinelli couldn't hit a three, but he was also out there competing. The role guys did what they could, even though it was precious little.
The loss, at least the blowout nature of it, is squarely on Tony Parker and Ginobili. The former had a bit of jump in the first six minutes before cashing it in, and the latter, make no bones about it, was the worst player that took the court for either team Sunday afternoon. By a considerable margin. It didn't help Ginobili that he couldn't get a call to save his life on either end of the floor, but he was clearly lacking in both desire and ability in this one, and there's something off about him right now that's most worrisome, especially in light of all the other injuries.
Still, watching the game, it seemed that two of the team's future Hall-of-Famers had been notified by the head coach a minute before the game that they were going to be playing when they had been expecting a rest. Their lack of energy and hustle was just bizarre. To me, it was reminiscent of Game 2 of the Finals, where the Spurs seemed a bit too content with themselves for having accomplished what they set out to do: grab a road win early in the series. They were never as physically or mentally engaged in that game, and only Green's marksmanship kept it respectable for two and a half quarters before the roof caved in on them.
Parker and Ginobili seemed okay with having blown out the Hawks on Friday. No matter what happens, they got one win on the road trip. It was a disappointing lack of competitiveness from them, but perhaps they're both limited by aches and pains themselves and this is all they have to give at the moment.
The weird thing is that the Spurs shot selection, which had been so good for the first two quarters, just went pfft in the third, even though I didn't notice the Heat doing anything differently. They weren't packing in the paint any more blatantly than before or changing the matchups any noticeable way. The Spurs just stopped going to the basket as aggressively and couldn't get the ball to Duncan via the tic-tac-toe passing that had served them so well in the first half. There was a lot of settling for jump shots, and as has been the case much of the year, the Spurs don't make much hay when resorting to long twos.
It's a bit harder to complain about the defense when considering the lack of bodies, and I thought those guarding LeBron James and Dwyane Wade did fine. What killed them was that Chris Bosh just couldn't miss (he and Duncan have this weird thing where they just score on each other at will), and their role players got hot, like they usually do.
Still, watching the Heat, I never for one second thought, "This is the best team in the league, they're unbeatable." They just look like any other good team to me. I've been more impressed by the Pacers, Thunder, the Blazers, even the Rockets. They all pose more alarming match-up issues. Maybe I'm just looking at it practically, knowing that the Spurs have to get through the West before worrying about the Heat.
Bottom line is that there's only going to be one more Spurs-Heat game this year, one way or the other. Hopefully, the injured guys are back for that one, and Parker and Ginobili decide to show up as well.
Standard Pop Quote:
"The first and third quarter were basically the same. We didn't do a very good job of starting out defensively. It's a bad combination if we're not disciplined enough defensively."
By the Numbers:
19,683: The attendance, allegedly, at the AmericanAirlines Arena.
24,391: With 23 points, Duncan passed Allen Iverson for 20th in the all-time NBA scoring list. Next up is Paul Pierce, who's about a 100 points ahead and still active himself, obviously. At their present scoring rates, Duncan might catch him by season's end. As for stationary targets, Patrick Ewing is only 424 points away, which is very doable for Duncan. The interesting one will be whether he can catch Kevin Garnett, who's got about a 1,200 point lead on The Golden God, but has really ceased being much of a scorer. If Garnett retires after this season, Duncan has a shot to get there.
2,733: With one block today Duncan passed Shaquille O'Neal for seventh all-time. Ewing is the next one to catch there as well, but he's 133 away, so that's not happening this season. It's all moot anyway, because Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain probably blocked a million shots that nobody bothered to count.
1, 10, 3, 3: Points for Ginobili, who is in a major rut, having scored 17, total, in his past four games, on 6-of-24 shooting. He looks sluggish to me, and I think he's playing through some kind of injury. It's just speculation on my part, but I'm not sure he'd be out there right now if the team had a healthy Leonard and Green. He just doesn't look right. He's lacking rhythm and energy and doesn't look into it mentally.
+17: In 9:38 of playing time, for Matt Bonner, of course.
58.1/42.1/95.0: I don't care what the turnover numbers are, if that's the slash line for the Heat, you're not beating them.
15: Games in a row the Spurs have cracked 100 points, the longest streak of the Popovich era.
0: Times the Spurs have had a two-game losing streak this season, the only NBA team that can claim such a thing. They're gonna put that one to the test on Tuesday at Houston.
Sequence of the Game:
The Spurs were in the game, down 66-62 midway through the third quarter when Belinelli missed Duncan, who was in the post with only Ray Allen on him after a rotation. Instead, he tried to force a pass into the high post to Diaw (perhaps for the hi-lo action, to be fair), the pass was off, and James raced down the court for an easy dunk to start the Heat off on a 15-3 run to blow it open. In that run the Spurs settled for - and missed - jump shots from Joseph, Parker, Belinelli, Parker again, Diaw, and Belinelli again, with nothing going to the rim.
Tweets of the Day:
Kind of expect someone from ABC to yank Van Gundy off the mic and replace him with Jalen Rose— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) January 26, 2014
THIS BROADCAST IS TOO OBJECTIVE. NEEDS MORE BIAS TOWARDS THE HEAT.
Belinelli on James is just a disaster waiting to happen.— Dan McCarney (@danmccarneysaen) January 26, 2014
Pretty much anybody on anybody was a disaster waiting to happen.
You ever think Jeff Van Gundy is just constantly auditioning for the post-Pop Head Coach spot?— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) January 26, 2014
I wish he was our lead assistant. I bet he would've played Leonard down the stretch against Portland.
Love when Pop gets upset, starts venting to the guys on bench, and all they can do is sit there and listen about mistakes they didn't make.— Dan McCarney (@danmccarneysaen) January 26, 2014
I wonder if any of them ever had the guts to make a "down in front, I'm tryin' to watch the game" joke.
At one point in the fourth quarter the cameras zoomed in on James and Mario Chalmers on the bench, yukking it up, and I could read James' lips. He definitely said, "Offensive line. Left tackle." Chalmes was either asking James what they should focus on early in the draft or what Diaw's job would be if he grew up in the states.
Your Three Stars:
3. Nando De Colo (1 pt): I'm giving this to Nando De Buckets just for that ridiculous pass in the fourth quarter. I don't care that Jeffers didn't catch it cleanly or that it came in garbage time, that was easily one of the ten best passes I've ever seen in like 30 years of watching basketball.
2. Boris Diaw (34 pts): I liked how the notorious Spurs-hater Jalen Rose ripped Diaw's defense at halftime, when Bobo was doing more than a respectable job against the best player on the planet. Rose remarked that he could suit up today and score in an iso against Diaw, which is funny because his last relevant NBA moment was when Kobe scored 81 points on him in 2006. Rose is still bitter the Spurs stole his last chance at a ring when he was a scrub on the Suns in 2007 and talks crap about them at every opportunity. I wish he signed a 10-day contract because Diaw would just destroy him on both ends of the floor.
1. Tim Duncan (83 pts): Speaking of ABC's halftime show, the highlight package went Boshtrich scores/Boshtrich scores/Oden scores/LeBron scores/Wade scores/LeBron scores. The game's leading scorer at the time, with 17 points, was a 37-year-old who's one of the top seven or eight players in NBA history and an obvious first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. I guess they couldn't sneak him into the narrative, as they were too busy giving Oden a participation blue ribbon for not breaking every bone in his body as soon as the stepped onto the court.
Up Next: @Houston Rockets (29-17), Tuesday, Jan. 28: Oh goody, these guys again. I can't think of a better remedy for a beat-up Spurs club smarting from having to face an opponent who can hit threes at a scorching clip than the Rox. Even better, Houston will be smarting after having dropped a home-and-home to the rejuvenated Memphis Grizzlies, who've finally gotten Marc Gasol back and are enjoying the fruits of Mike Conley playing out of his mind. The Rockets are just this weird club that owns the Blazers and the Spurs but has dropped all three games to a Thunder club without Russell Westbrook playing in any of them. They could beat the Spurs by 30 or lose by 5, and, hopefully, they're in the midst of a slump and the latter will happen, but I'm not too optimistic.
- Doris Burke speaks to Pounding the Rock about interviewing Gregg Popovich
- What does the world think when they look at Boris Diaw?
- The Spurs' mid-season report card: Part 3
- Fraternizing with the Enemy: Talking Spurs/Heat with Hot Hot Hoops
- J.R. Wilco discusses all of the Spurs' injuries on the Phil Naessens show