[Update: I originally said that DET had only played 9 games on the road. I meant to write "9 games at home" and have corrected it below. (I am a dumbass.)]
There is a lot about the MIL game worth talking about: the match up problem created by Mo Williams, Tony Parker outrunning TJ Ford while dribbling the ball, a poor foul call going against Duncan in overtime, the glaring absence of Manu Ginobili and of course the last play involving the lob pass to Bogut.
I am not going to talk about any of those things. I want to talk about Tony Parker's second biggest weakness: his repeated poor management of end of quarter/game situations. (Don't get me wrong, I am not blaming the loss on Parker.) Let's set up the situation.
It's a tie game on the road with somewhere between 12-20 seconds left to go in OT. The shot clock is turned off. The obvious goal is to take the last shot of OT and take losing in OT totally out of the equation. The only excuse for not accomplishing the above is if a total defensive breakdown allows you a lay-up or dunk. Otherwise that red light better go off when the ball is in the air. There's little doubt Pop conveyed as much during the time out.
So what does Parker do? He starts his move too early and ends up shooting a slightly off-balanced 3 from the wing. Just unbelievable. That's probably the last shot Pop wanted. The shot is of course nowhere close. The ball bounces high off the rim and Horry taps it out of bounds. All that and there's STILL 0.7 seconds left on the clock. Here's what Tony had to say about the last play:
So, uh, is "late" French for "early?"
It wouldn't be so maddening if Tony didn't do the same thing 127 times during last years playoffs (though at the end of quarters instead of games). This is another reason why this team needs Ginobili back; the ball should have been in his (better shooting and better passing) hands.
Numerous Spurs fan seem to think the recent play and results are of no concern. "It's still December! The season doesn't begin until the Rodeo Roadtrip anyway!" In some ways these confident fans are right. Team defense and energy levels will likely ramp up towards the end of the season and into the playoffs, when there will be no back-to-backs. However, there is one major issue being under-emphasized:
DET is 20-3 and has only played 9 games at home. The majority of those 23 games were against the Western Conference which, despite what the media is saying, is still the strongest conference top to bottom. DET still has ten games against TOR, ATL and NY who sport a combined winning percentage of 30.9% and DET already has a 3.5 game lead on the Spurs. This is unsettling especially when you consider that during the Finals the Pistons outscored the Spurs by a total of 47 points at DET.
Do the Spurs need home court to beat the Pistons? No. But it would effectively remove all margin for error. A Manu thigh bruise or a Duncan ankle turn would spell doom (and would have last year if it wasn't for Horry's remarkable game 5 performance).
Should Pop and company risk injury to key players to win some December games? Of course not. But pretending these games are meaningless is optimistic at best and just plain idiotic at worst.