Game 6: San Antonio 97 @ New Orleans 85
The Spurs-Hornets game felt like two separate games. Pop spent the first half screwing around, going with one of his patented "let's try to dig ourselves a huge hole" lineups of Washington, Bowen, Udoka, Oberto and Elson for the first 3 minutes of the second quarter (they were -6 over that stretch). Manu air-balled his first two shots and looked offensively skittish the remainder of the half. Team defense was lackluster, allowing Chris Paul to get to any spot on the floor.
Manu trying to perfect his flying arabesque. (AP Photo / Alex Brandon)
The second half, however, was a good old-fashioned beat-down. For the second game in a row Pop went with Manu to start the second half and the rout was on. Duncan was ruthlessly and effortlessly efficient, Parker was proving points in the paint with either his left or right hands, Manu was throwing passes through lanes unseen by mere mortals and Bowen took Peja entirely out of the game (he might as well have stolen his only pair of sneakers). The Hornets were openly frustrated and at one point Paul gave somebody an on-court tongue-lashing. In my opinion he needs to worry more about his own defense; Parker left him flat-footed multiple times.
In fact, Tony Parker once again far outplayed Chris Paul, to the point where I found myself wondering if the league-wide infatuation with CP3 is justified. He's a good point guard, no doubt, but I think he gets too much credit for being a willing passer. It's as if fans and pundits miss the pass-first point guard and therefore heap undeserved praise upon the first young "torch-carrier" they find.
Tony preparing to spin another layup off the glass. (AP Photo / Alex Brandon)
Is it not a point guard's job to lead a productive offense by getting your most efficient scorers the ball? Is it Tony's fault that he's an efficient scorer and one of the most deadly finishers in the game? Should we blame Tony for Pop not running a fast break offense? Shouldn't it be clear to most Spurs fans that Tony fits this team much better than Paul would? Don't we take The Wee Frenchman for granted? And wouldn't "The Oui Frenchman" be a little cleverer?
Tony doesn't get the fairest of shakes from Spurs fans because he plays with the most creative (if not the best) passing two guard in the game who, if anything, is too unselfish. That pass that Manu made to Bonner... shit, it made me giggle. The Gingerhead Man wasn't really even open. It was more a confluence of simultaneous events that led to the possibility of an opening: Manu's man put his hands down for a split second; Elson's man has his arms down and Bonner's man, though positioned between Bonner and Manu, has his back turned. So Ginobili threads the ball between two Hornets to a spot where, if Bonner's paying attention, he should be able to catch the ball and lay it in. There's no real passing lane; there's a hope, a whim, a fancy, a "wouldn't it be cool if this worked" chance...
But let us also appreciate the work of another. The fearlessness, the ability to alter, change and adjust in midair. To maintain balance, to contort around an 82" moving obstruction, recalculate angles and trajectories to determine the necessary angular velocity of spin. And to make it appear as if nothing amazing happened, to not even break stride. Is it not also beautiful? Does it not also make you smile?