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Spurs Squeeze One Out Against the Bucks Dynasty

Game 7: Spurs 113, Bucks 88

And as the old cliché goes, "It wasn't that close."

I think the dance team ladies would've given us a better game than the Bucks.
(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

Most of you probably remember that last year we were thoroughly embarrassed and outclassed by two teams in the regular season. One was the Cleveland Cavaliers who we paid back in spades during the Finals. The other though, surprisingly, was the Bucks who scored like a billion points inside on us in San Antonio (when half the team was felled by the flu) and shot like 60% or some obscene number in the return engagement later on in the year, one of the very last losses in games we were taking seriously, if I remember correctly (I always do).

Since a Western Conference team can only meet a maximum of one Eastern Conference team in the playoffs per season - a damn shame I say - our revenge against the mighty Bucks would have to wait for '07-08. Also, I guess it should be noted that technically the Bucks didn't qualify for the playoffs last year, but in their conference, does it really matter? Thankfully Mr. Schedule Maker set out to ease our collective shame by putting Milwaukee in our paths early this year. You may have also noticed that the Spurs used the occasion as one of the four home dates throughout the year to celebrate their 35 year anniversary, probably an indication of the enthusiasm a contest with Milwaukee would otherwise generate around the league (China notwithstanding, of course).

Anyway, we smote our conquerers, and we smote them good. It was over by the end of Manu's first stint on the court when he checked out with 5 minutes to go in the 2nd and the score was 54-31. I would run down a list of every guy who had a good game and made a positive contribution, but it would take less time just to mention the ones who didn't:

Matt Bonner - he was crap.

The end.

Yes, even Findog played well, filling it up for ten first quarter points on the way to a season high 17. I think his 7-12 shooting night brought up his season percentage into the high 20s, though I could be mistaken.

Look at the focus, the intensity, the concentration. I think we were up 30 at the time. Actually, upon closer inspection, I think Timmy is sleeping.
(Photo by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images)

With Timmy having his way inside at both ends, (16 and 10 with 4 blocks, 6-6 from the line in 27 minutes) Tony shredding his way inside and creating and Manu providing instant offense (21 points in 19 minutes) the night went pretty much according to script and left one wondering how we ever lost to these guys. Once again Pop was left making weak excuses like, "They caught us on a hot night..." because it would be unseemly to just blurt things like, "Well, we do have the three best players on the court, by a mile, and we have another guy that can shut down their best player, so that probably had something to do with the win."

I mean seriously, contemplate for a second how we're in such a different league than these guys. Imagine you're Michael Redd for a second. On one end you're trying to desperately shake yourself free from probably the best perimeter defender in the NBA for a fraction of a second so you can get an open look from maybe 25 feet. If you beat him off the dribble you only have the best defensive big man in the planet waiting for you plus another long athletic guy in Elson. Redd got off five shots in 28 minutes and eight of his 11 free throw attempts came in garbage time, aka the 3rd quarter. So offensively it was a struggle you might say. Then on the other end all he had to contend with was Opus, only the most efficient offensive force in the league at the moment. That match-up had predictable results. Yet you ask most NBA fans or talking heads and they'll swear that Redd is the better shooting guard. Go figure.

Yes, Michael Redd, call for help. You need all the help in the world you Diet Coke Ray Allen you.
(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

It's no wonder Pop isn't thrilled about talking to the media. How many different ways can you say deflect the obvious answer? Good teams beat bad teams because they're good and bad teams lose to good teams because they're bad. I think the only coaches ever worth interviewing are the ones who coach middle of the road teams. For them every result is a surprise.

About the only positive the Bucks have going for them is rookie Yi Jianlian, who had 13 points, 7 boards and 3 blocks in 28 minutes. His shooting stroke is every bit as pure as advertised and he showed good athleticism around the basket, at least as a weakside defender. Obviously he needs work on his man-to-man game, at both ends, and he probably should look to be more aggressive taking the ball to the rim, but he's much further along than I expected. Like Andrea Bargnani and LaMarcus Aldridge, he's another tall mofo who can shoot in a league where everyone is chasing the Dirk prototype. We've gotten to the point that actual centers like Greg Oden and Dwight Howard are much more of a rarity. Still, Yi definitely looks like a player and he should be a boon for the drab Bucks.

The big three watch hopelessly as Yi rains destruction down upon them, like some big awkward pale alien grasshopper thingy.
(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

As for us, what do you want me to say? These are always easier to write when we're losing. Right now we're playing well, so much better than I had anticipated, that there isn't much room for complaint. We have three new faces on the club this year in Ime Udoka, Darius Washington and Ian Mahinmi, and not only have they all played more than I'd anticipated in the early going, (thanks to blowouts in the latter's case) but all of them have been non-sucky, which blows my mind.

So far Washington has been a slight upgrade over Beno Udrih, and that folks is an upset, I don't care what anyone says. One guy was a first round pick, a veteran of three seasons, and is the starting point guard of his national team. The other was undrafted and was playing in low-level European leagues last year. Washington has only been so-so as a floor leader and defender, but he has shown a knack for driving to the basket which Udrih couldn't do consistently, and he's not making too many glaring mistakes. It's a lot of get it to Manu and get the hell out of the way, like Jacque Vaughn does. He doesn't force up a lot of shots, that's for sure.

Likewise, Udoka is an improvement over James White. Not as flashy offensively, but he can stick the three and he's a better defender. Overall he's just a better fit for Pop's system and gives us another body to throw at perimeter threats when Bruce is out of the game. It's something that neither Fin nor Brent can provide, and since he's 30, Pop already trusts him more than he ever did White.

Finally, Mahinmi appears to be miles ahead of Jackie Butler in both his development and athleticism. The guy is like a younger version of Francisco, just running the court and trying to dunk everything. He's got a nice free throw stroke, which I sure didn't expect, but during live action he hasn't tried anything too fancy outside of a jump hook from five feet. Unlike our other centers he has an ability to block shots thanks not only to his freakish length but also he just seems to have the timing and instincts for it. At this point I'm not sure if it's even a good idea to send him to the D-League. This team will have A LOT of blowouts and I'd rather have Ian playing in the 4th quarters of NBA games with his actual teammates than starting against nobodies in the minors and playing with people who don`t have a future with the Spurs. Having both Mahinmi and Tiago Splitter in our arsenal next year and for years to come should be exciting though, and it looks like we're set with bigs for the remainder of Timmy's career.

This looked way more graceful and athletic on TV.
(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

Your 3 Stars is taking the night off. Everyone played too well to narrow it down to three. How can I pick between Duncan, Bruce, Manu, Tony, Finley, Washington, and Mahinmi?

Record: 6-1
Up Next: Vs. Los Angeles Lakers

We kinda sorta owe these guys too. We only beat them once out of three games and it took a desperation Finley 30-footer to do it. Matty pretty much gave up on them that game. So yeah, let's fuck these guys up.