Game 41 Vs. New Orleans/Oklahoma City: Spurs 99, Hornets 86
I don't have a whole lot to say about this one as it went pretty much the way we figured it would. Our guys were pissed and inspired early, really brought it on the defense and forced a ton of turnovers and the trio of Tony, Manu and Fin couldn't miss. Before you knew it we were up 20 points and looking forward to perhaps a Jackie Butler appearance in the fourth.
Except that we couldn't sustain the intensity, which has unfortunately been a running theme this year. We took too many threes that didn't fall, got too careless with the ball in the second half and eventually the Nooch started to hit some shots and make it a respectable game. I never quite came to the point where it felt like we might lose, but let's just say it was a good thing Tony went off for nine quick points and a helper to Bruce from the corner in the last six minutes of the fourth.
Also, Tony had this highlight play in the 2nd quarter where he stole a pass, somehow kept it alive tiptoeing perilously close to the left sideline and cleverly feeding it to Bowen for a lay-up. Actually, as high as the degree of difficulty of the play was, the most surprising part of its successful execution was Bruce not blowing the lay-up.
Oh, I thought the Pop ejection early on was classic. "I'd like to thank the Academy..." worthy. I mean come on... that was so obviously rehearsed! The Hornets were the perfect patsies for Pop to deliver the message to the troops that they have to be self motivated and that he had better things to do as a coach than scream at them to wake up during every time out. You really think the refs ticked him off that badly for a late whistle just six minutes into the game? Get real, he's not Bob Knight for God sakes.
Sadly, the way the guys unraveled at the end one would have to come away with the conclusion that for the most part the team failed the test because they couldn't sustain their focus and level of play for the whole 48 minutes (or at least say, the first 42 or so). After the 26-12 first quarter we pretty much just coasted the rest of the way and as we've learned all too well this past month, we're not good enough to coast against anybody.
One thing that struck me from this one is that much like the last six minutes of the Lakers game, this club seems to play faster on defense when they play faster on offense. Obviously we're not the Phoenix Suns or anything, but maybe a part of this team's apathy comes from boredom from a slow it down, halfcourt offense that repeatedly throws it into Timmy in the post. Hell, maybe all the banging down low wears down Duncan too much for him to give it his all on defense, who knows.
But the guy was this shot-blocking, rebounding monster that we've grown to love in the first half when he only had three shot attempts and two points in the first 24 minutes. Then in the second half when we slowed it down and featured him a lot more, the offense stagnated a bit and the Hornets chipped away at us. I'm not saying Duncan is at the stage of his career that The Admiral was in '02-03, but maybe the solution to our defensive problems lie in featuring Timmeh a little less and the twin hounds Manu and Tony a little more. I think they're up to it.
We can always go back to the old M.O. on offense if this doesn't work, but really what do we have to lose? Tony and Manu have both been taking a little more responsibility in the offense thanks to Tim's sprained ankle in '05 and his bad foot last year, so let's just really hand it to them now. It's about time they took vocal leadership positions on this team anyway.
Anyway, lately the 3 stars has been dominated by the usual suspects, so I thought I'd give some of the scrubs some love (before I tear them down later)..
3. Beno Udrih- He hit half of his four shots, had three assists to only turnover, and did his best impersonation of a competent backup point guard. That makes four games in the last six now. Hopefully he'll keep it up since really he's the only bench guy in the rotation we can expect to get better with age.
2. Michael Finley- Hit his first three shots to turn the game into a rout early and finished with 12 on respectable 5 of 12 shooting. His threes weren't that hot, and it'd have been nice to see him pull down a rebound or two, but you take what you can get from Fin these days.
1. Francisco Elson- A hearty welcome back to the flying Dutchman. Hopefully he's being sincere in his quotes that being on the bench and getting a chance to watch from a far helped him to understand the system better. We're gonna really need him to step up in a big way these next few months or I'll be pulling my hair out with this tinyball madness.
Record: 28-13 Streak: W-1
Up Next: @ Philadelphia 76ers The first of a back-to-back against the East’s two crappiest teams (a considerable achievement). If we play hard at all there’s no way these guys can beat us, but it’d hardly be the first time the Spurs would have made a fool of me. Either way I’ll have to watch it on tape since the game’s on at the same time as the AFC Championship. (Monster post coming tomorrow with mid-season grades)