Game 47 @ Utah: Jazz 97, Spurs 93
Well, the bad news is that my fictional financial situation is now eerily similar to my actual financial situation. How could the Boozerless Jazz hope to compete with the runaway locomotive that is our San Antonio Spurs? All in for the good guys I thought to myself confidently, giving the five points without a second thought. Now thanks to somebody named - I'm not making this up - Paul Millsap - I'm fake broke and ineligible to win Matthew's Uwe Blab rookie card. I just feel sick about the whole thing.
Before we discuss how this sordid affair affects our beloved Spurs, I feel that I have to be on the level with you guys. When the game was over I was certainly upset about the result, discouraged about how some guys played, incensed about some coaching decisions, the usual same old same old. But at the same time I couldn't help beaming with pride when marveling at the fellow who handed us the loss.
Namely one Mehmet Okur.
Only 27, Okur has already carved out quite a nice little resume for himself. He was the sixth man on that Pistons title team in '04, he signed a big money contract with the Jazz and burned the Spurs twice on buzzer beaters in '05, really took his game to the next level last year, starting all 82 games and averaging 18 and 9 and has really established himself as a legitimate "name" player this year. He's not quite an All-Star level guy in the talent-heavy West, especially now that Amare and Tim are basically classified as centers, but at the worst he's the 5th best center (behind Camby as well) in the West and would easily be the 2nd best in the East, behind Howard.
The one knock I had on Okur, besides his occasionally soft defense, was his refusal to participate in the World Championships last summer because he didn't want to train with the team before the tournament. The Turkish team surprised the world basketball community by advancing all the way to the quarters and might have progressed even further if Okur and Hedo Turkoglu had played. But when you're coming home to this every day, I guess I can understand him wanting to spend some quality time with the missus instead of sweating with a bunch of hairy, smelly Turkish dudes. (And yes, we're all hairy and smelly). While Mrs. Yeliz Okur, a former Miss Turkey, has uncommonly stunning looks for one from her homeland, her husband it has to be said, does not. We all look just like that, but shorter.
Anyway, I'm Turkish, so I'm thrilled with Okur's success and I hope for all the best for him in his career, as long as he doesn't run into the Spurs in the playoffs. If we have to lose a regular season game, I'm glad he's the one who got us. But come May, I wouldn't care if he was my cousin, (and he could be, the resemblance is spooky) he must go down and he must go down hard.
As for the actual game, well how am I supposed to summon up new levels of anger for the same old problems? I get on coach for using Tinyball as much as anybody does, but this game was Exhibit A, B and C for why he would contemplate such a maneuver, was it not? What exactly is the point of playing Fabricio Fuck-O Oberto if he can't snatch a single rebound in 23 minutes? Why have Elson on the floor if he doesn't have a clue as to playing help defense or setting a screen on offense?
Utah just out-muscled and out-hustled us, plain and simple. Skill and talent wise, the two teams aren't close, but the Jazz looked hellbent on beating the crap out of us and forcing the refs to make the calls. The zebras missed a boatload of over the back infractions in my opinion, but as is usually the case in sports, the aggressors will get the benefit of the doubt. We were outrebounded 50-32 (18-8 on offense) and lost the game basically for two reasons: 1) 29 second chance points allowed and 2) Stop me if you've heard this before - We have nobody who can guard a skilled big man who can shoot. Elson was supposed to be the answer on both counts and while he collected five caroms in 11 minutes, he was just totally lost on both ends of the floor.
The four starters whose surnames don't end in -uncan combined for four freakin' rebounds in 106 minutes! Of course everyone will grill Oberto's nuts over his wretched performance, but Bruce should be held just as accountable. He doesn't score, he doesn't rebound, he can't handle the ball and guess what folks, he can't guard anybody all that well either. I can't think of a single good reason for Bowen to ever be on the floor for us besides that it'll keep on the bench. God I can't even get mad at Pop for pulling the old yankeroo on Beno, who was a team worst -8 in his six minutes of carnage overlapping the 1st and 2nd quarter. (You'll never guess who led the team with a + 6.).
I just don't get it. I don't understand why these guys can't play hard all the time. I mean, yes some games the breaks won't come and you'll lose close and other games the other team might just be on fire and those things happen, but is it so hard to just ask the players to compete? I know I'm sound like a total idiot to fans of other teams or just casual NBA fans, but trust me on this, as a Spurs fan I AM NOT USED TO THIS SHIT. I don't understand how our lesser talented players also happen to be the physically and mentally lazier ones as well. We just have too many guys who look like they're going through the motions, especially when we play teams that are missing star players. It's shameful that we have to play Horry 26 minutes as our second "big" because he's the only one besides Duncan taller than 6'8" who's trying and knows his assignments. And he still played like total ass!
The bottom line is that while a couple of guys are noticeably older and slower this year, I don't think the drop off of this team's talent level is nearly as drastic as Matthew would lead you to believe. They're just not working as hard, perhaps taking their cue from the Shaq/Kobe Lakers or the Indianapolis Colts and thinking they'll just turn it on when they have to. On one hand it's sad and pathetic, but maybe another way to look at it is that the team is so old that the only way they can play their best in May is by conserving their energy until then. They know they're going to make the playoffs, so why bother trying until then? They're all playing possum, that's the ticket. When Beno and Finley are raining threes on everybody and Manu's slamming home alley-oops from Tony in the Western Conference Finals, we're all gonna feel like total suckers. Oh Pop, you cad!
Speaking of Pop, I thought his one glaring mistake, besides not starting Gino in the first place, was leaving him out for way too long in the fourth quarter. Manu didn't check in for good until just five minutes were left. I don't understand why, it's not any of the other swingmen were doing anything. Tony was scoring practically every basket. Might as well have had a better defensive player out there, right? Then again maybe Pop just figured this wasn't Manu's night as the refs fucked him over on back-to-back possessions to end the 3rd quarter. First they called an offensive foul when Manu handed the ball to Finley, took one step backward to the three point line and got plowed into by Matt Harpring. The next time down, The Sickness got fouled three separate times on the inbounds play before catching the ball and barreling into Giricek. I'm not saying we deserved to win the game or we wuz robbed or anything like that, but let's just say I've seen better officiated ballgames.
Frankly, for a bunch of reasons it's been one shitty week for me and I need to cheer up badly. I'm hoping my girl Sarah Silverman, who's show premiers tonight on Comedy Central, will lift my spirits tonight and I encourage you all to watch after the game ends tonight. If you're not familiar with Ms. Silverman's work, this brief clip would be a good way to start.
We might need a couple of laughs after the Suns game.
Your 3 Stars
3. Robert Horry - He played his ass off, but he just can't rebound and jump with some of these kids at his age. He took a really dumb shot at the end, but I can't really think of another third candidate.
2. Tim Duncan- We could have put him on Okur the whole game, but we might have gotten outrebounded by forty. God he needs some inside help.
1. Tony Parker- Amazing the whole game really, he singlehandedly brought us back in the fourth quarter and even hit back to back threes. I won't even fault him for not managing a single assist in the second half. God knows he tried to pass, but nobody could hit a shot.
Record: 32-15 Streak: L-1
Up Next: @ Phoenix Suns
Let's be real, there's an excellent chance we're gonna lose. Not only are we playing the second best team in the league, but it's a segababa. However, we have been quite competitive in both of our losses to the Mavs so far and outside of the one Houston game and one Chicago game, nobody has really kicked our asses the whole year. I think this one is gonna be closer than people think, especially since we lost yesterday. For some reason we shoot really well in this building and I think Manu and Brent might have big games.