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Who Knew Darko Was So Damn Valuable?

Game 13: Spurs 101, Grizzlies 88
Okay, I just spent a buttload of time on the Magic recap and I don't want to write another long one for the Grizzles, for a variety of reasons. 1) I don't have the time or the energy. 2) They're boring. 3) We've already played them once; fairly recently at that. And most importantly 4) This was almost a carbon copy of the game at Atlanta three days prior where we raced out to a big half time lead (61-40 here vs. 61-44 at Atlanta) before griming our way to the finish (40-48 here, 34-39 at Atlanta) with some wretched, at times unwatchable basketball. It truly amazes me how for a five minute stretch, seemingly every game these days, we play the game as beautifully and completely as it's ever been played, and how, unfailingly, we'll have another five minute stretch, usually when the outcome has been decided, where we look soooo inept. Maybe it has something to do with Tim-Manu-Tony in one line up and Frankie-Udoka-Vaughn in another, but you get my drift.
Anyway, I've decided to go heavy on the pictures here and kind of make it more like a photo diary than a blog. Enjoy.


No jokes, no snide comments. I just think this picture is really poignant. Tim is in the spotlight while the banners framed behind him are in darkness, as if to signify, "Don't look back, all that matters is the next moment."
(Photo by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images)

First half:
Timmeh the Golden God got off to a sensational start, thanks to Memphis coach Mark Iavaroni's idiotic tactic of single covering him with small forward Rudy Gay, a man he has four inches, 40 lbs., and a world of experience over. I know Darko Milicic was hurt, but wouldn't Stromile Swift or even Hakim Warrick been a better option? Or at least double him and hope for the shooters to have an off night? I guess these things happen when you learn your defensive pedigree working for Mike D'Antoni. Shockingly Duncan scored 14 of his season high 28 points in the first quarter on, I shit you not, 14-of-17 shooting. Memphis wasn't even physical enough to foul him.

Tim slams home another two while the Spaniard contemplates not only the wisdom of guarding Duncan with Rudy Gay, but his lot in life in general.
(Photo by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images)

Of course, we all know that there's far more to Duncan's game than scoring points. What makes him the NBA's best player is that he's the only true superduperstar in the league who's also an elite defender as well. The epitome of Spurs basketball came on a sequence late in the second quarter where Duncan outfought a gaggle of Grizzlies for the rebound, started a fast break with a long bounce pass to Barry who in turn did his signature behind-the-back-no-look-but-I'm-really-looking-pass move to a streaking Parker for the easy lay-in.

The two teams' respective stars' careers in a nutshell, Tim playing defense and starting a fast break, Pau going up soft and wailing like a scorned woman.
(AP Photo/ Eric Gay)

That basket was one of Tony's six (SIX!) lay-ups in the first half on his way to 17 point at the break, and it was yet another telling sign that Iavaroni might be overmatched as a coach. Right before half we went into our traditional 1-4 alignment with Tony and the hopelessly creaky Damon Stoudamire was standing back by the free throw line while Parker was well above the three point line. At this point he was openly conceding an open 18-footer to a guy who's shown he can knock them down a good percentage of the time. That was literally, Stoudamire's best case scenario. You think Pop would ever be happy allowing a wide open jumper to a decent shooter? Anyway, Frenchie McWonderbutt still blew past Mighty Mouse, and despite the 25 or so feet head start, Memphis' defenders by the baseline were still too slow to prevent an easy lay-up but not slow enough for Rudy Gay to tap Tony harmlessly on the arm so he could get an And-1.

Tony is just taking some acting lessons from the wife. Believe me, this was an easy two points, no matter what his anguished face tells you.
(Photo by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images)

Speaking of telling signs...

This isn't me, I swear.
(Photo by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images)

This inauspicious gentleman was waving that around because Opus found enough of a crack in Memphis' "defense" to sneak a bounce pass in to Frankie for a monster dunk and a And-1 of his own. As you can see, it was a painful way to get three points. The pop Elson took in the eye led him to put the safety mask back on, poor guy.

Yeah, thanks for that great pass, Manu. Totally worth it.
(Photo by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images)

Second half:

As I said before, the second half featured long stretches of subpar play, at least by our lofty standards. Both Tony and Manu, struggled with the former going 2-of-6 with four points, one assist and one turnover; and the latter clanked his final eight attempts of the day. There were really only two highlights in the whole half. First, Elson reaching to his full height, blocked a would-be Mike Miller lay-up and sprinted down to the other end where Opus found him with another bounce pass for a much easier, yet no less powerful slam.

However, Frankie would have his measure of revenge on poor Mike Miller, who looks like Carrot Top, but with - somehow - goofier hair.
(Photo by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images)

And second, Miller committed such an obvious, blatant double dribble while being guarded by Bowen, even he felt guilty that the referees didn't see it, so he sort of just clumsily tossed the ball at Timmy to start a break the other way. That show of personal integrity must have been a proud moment for the franchise indeed.

We are this far away from respectability.
(Photo by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images)

The fourth quarter was pretty much the Brent Barry show, as he finished with 12 of his 14 points in the period, but not quite in the fashion to which we're accustomed. Yeah, he canned one three, but he also had a three-point-play-the-old-fashioned-way on up and under banker against somebody named Andre Brown, swished a pair of jumpers off the dribble and even had a driving lay-in at the end. Bones Barry creating his own shots? All it took was Pop screaming at him for four years.

When Brent Barry is taking you to the hole, it might be time to concede that your club has defensive shortcomings.
(Photo by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images)

Finally, the night ended on one sad note, not only for yours truly, but I suspect, for many of you as well. Emanuel David Opus Sickness Gonzo Schnozzo El Gimpo Hustlemaker Ginobili had a rather ordinary day in the box score finishing with a mere 11 points (on 5-of-15, shooting, ugh)to go with four rebounds and four assists. He never went to the line, where he'd been feasting all year, and he didn't sufficiently make up for the humble scoring output in other areas either. Also PER doesn't care about him being a game best +21, either. As a consequence, Manu's perch atop the PER standings is no more, thanks to the one man dog-and-pony show they're masquerading as a "team" over at the mistake by the lake. For Ginobili, the 13th game was truly unlucky. However, if he were to finish the year 2nd overall, that wouldn't be too shabby. That wouldn't be too shabby at all.

The Hustlemaker's PER reign was vanquished thanks to the formidable presence of the mighty La Bamba.
(AP Photo/ Eric Gay)

Your 3 Stars

3. Francisco Elson - I just wanted to give him a nod here, for his painful night if nothing else. Elson tied for the team high with nine boards in 20 minutes, had that big swat on Miller and finished with a +12.
2. Tony Parker - Another routine ho-hum 21 and 8, making it look as effortless as his rap album. No wait, nothing was as effortless as his rap album. Not even this blog.
1. Tim Duncan - I couldn't decide which was more of a handicap, putting Gay on Timmeh or Stoudamire on Tony. Duncan gets first star here because of his ludicrous shooting line and defense.

Record: 11-2
Up Next: @ Seattle Supersonics
A trip to Matthew's old stomping grounds (his secret passion is stomping, I bet none of you knew that) for the silver and black for a game against ex-assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo's young cast of misfits. Nancy boy Allen is there so that bit of sick fun is forevermore behind us, but I'm sure we'll come up with all sorts of similarly derogatory things to say about the NBA's next overhyped superduperstar, Kevin Durant. Surely we'll squash him like a bug as he'll be unable to so much as get a shot off against the impenetrable Bruce Bowen.