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Drop the Hammer

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It's a pleasure when a game is both interesting and exciting to watch. Tuesday's game featured many sideplots, including:

1) Genius vs. other. Popovich has coached circles around Adelman. The SAC coach actually had a better defensive game plan going into game 2, sending Parker's man under the screen on more than one occasion. But his team still has no concept of help defense. I'm no NBA head coach, but I would think help defense would be important against a team that runs the pick and roll 50 times a game.

As many have pointed out, the last play of regulation was a great illustration of the stark contrast between the two teams' head coaches. The Spurs had the ball with 14 seconds to go, down by three and out of timeouts. Should SAC have fouled in this situation? Given the above, combined with the free shooting ability of each team (SA being horrible and SAC being very good) and SAC's horrible 3 point defense, I would say yes, they should have fouled. But the question is entirely pointless, because there's no way Adelman would ever even consider fouling in that situation. When's the last time the guy has done anything unconventional?

First off, he left Mike Bibby in the game for that final Spurs possession, despite the fact that everyone in the league knows Bibby is a total, absolute joke at the defensive end. Granted, Pop drew up a brilliant play (and the Spurs players deserve a lot of credit for running it perfectly), but Bibby had no idea where his man was. He wouldn't have been able to contest Barry's shot even if Duncan hadn't set a screen. As John Hollinger pointed out, Bibby has been a horrible defender for years and nobody has ever called him on it. "Nobody" being Rick Adelman. Very similar to the Chris Webber situation, where he was taking way too many bad shots and playing no defense yet Adelman still ran him out there. Also quite similar to the Ron Artest situation, another guy taking ridiculous shots without any retribution. Adelman has no control over his team.

2) The Ewing Theory. I'll just come out and say it. I think SAC has a better chance of beating SA with Artest on the bench. A quick reminder:

No one doubts the positive effect Artest has had on the SAC defense. But, in my eyes, he's been a disappointment offensively. For some reason he's developed an addiction to shooting the 3. Maybe he's trying to gain membership to Team Dime. I don't know. But before this year he had never attempted more than 3.4 a game, and he's at 5.0 with the Kings. He's only hitting 30.2% of his attempts, which means I hope he jacks up 10 a game. His TS% with the Kings stands at 47.4%, which is actually pretty freaking bad. How bad? That ranks 171st out of 182 NBA players. I say goddam!

Artest is definitely a great one-on-one defender, and his intensity definitely changed the defensive approach of the Kings (except for Bibby of course). What limits Artest's efficacy against the Spurs is the fact that Manu Ginobili isn't a traditional one-on-one player. Most set pieces for The Sickness involve the pick and roll, and the key to defending the pick and roll is team defense, not the ability to lock one guy down. Don't get me wrong, Artest can limit Ginobili more than any other King, but he's much more effective against guys like Kobe, Carmelo and Lebron. Against those teams I could easily see his defensive capabilities making up for all the horrible shots he takes. Versus the Spurs? I don't think so.

3) Bonzi, Shareef and Martin. These three players were amazing. Bonzi was a man possessed (possibly with the idea of his next contract) in the first half, and he handed that mojo off to Shareef for the second. Martin flitted and floated about and before you knew it he had 26 points and a TS% of 67%. Those guys combined for 112 minutes (excluding overtime) in game 2. In game 1 they combined for 71 minutes. The difference? 41 minutes; 5 more than Artest played in game 1. And there's the rub. Ronny is taking time from players that cause matchup problems for the Spurs. Adelman would never consider limiting Ron's minutes, but what he might do is put a very small team on the court: Bibby, Martin, Wells, Artest and Shareef.

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Tonight's game could get ugly. For all intents and purposes, SAC is facing elimination. Artest is back and the King crowd will boo Ginobili like he's a carrier for the bird flu. I have little doubt that all hard fouls on the Spurs will be met with rousing ovations, and the last thing Artest needs is encouragement.

My bold prediction? SAC gets called for 2 flagrant fouls and SA wins going away, 102-92.