Game 71 vs. New Orleans/Oklahoma City: Spurs 92, Hornets 88
Ick. Well the blowouts and otherworldly shooting displays were nice while they lasted, but now it's back to grind it out basketball. Continuing the season-long theme, once again the fellas were something less than inspired by the home crowd and lurched for the better part of three quarters. However unlike the downers vs. the Lakers, Rockets, Bobcats and Celts, the guys were actually able to climb all the way back and overcome the inevitable letdown bubble that always happens late in the 4th quarters of games like these.
C'mon, you know the bubble. Spurs have a ferocious five or six minutes, tie it up and maybe even take a small lead late, only to run out of gas and have their opponents retake the lead and make the loss doubly painful. Here two Finley threes sandwiched around a Duncan free throw gave us an 84-80 lead with 4:45 left, but the offense dried up a bit and the bastardly Noochies retook the lead with an 8-3 spurt.
This time though we landed the final punch, thanks to a Finley steal that led to Bones burying his fourth bomb of the quarter. Really I think the difference between this game and the other comebacks that went for naught is that Pop finally stayed with the hot hands instead of putting the outcome in the hands of the big three, regardless of whether they were having a good night or not.
Or to put it another way, I think Brent taking the last shot was a better idea than Manu, and definitely preferable to Tony. Thank God the geezer trifecta of Bones, Fin and Jacque-Daddy stepped up because our two star guards were quite miserable. Tony just had nothing from the opening tip. He let Paul and Pargo get whatever they wanted and just floated on offense. I made some remark on Spurstalk.com about him being more worried about his album sales than defense and it turned ugly real quick. They don't have much of a sense of humor over there. Meanwhile Manu was quite passive on defense in his own right and continued to jack 3s, regardless of whether they were going on or not. He didn't have his legs on this night and finished a woeful 2 of 11, all the more exasperating because every time he drove to the basket he got free throws out of it. Yeah he finished with seven assists, but overall he was pretty poor.
Concerns? I have a few. For one the bigs were absolute rubbish. Elson, Oberto and Bonner combined for two points and three defensive rebounds in 36 minutes. Fab did come up with four offensive rebounds, but overall it's not hard to see why Pop felt compelled to go small for the last 18 minutes. I don't think the big men were responsible for too much of the Hornets' first half assault - they Nooch hit five threes in the 2nd quarter alone - but overall none of them were assets out there. I'm not happy that it worked, but the Spurs only allowed 24 points in those final 18 minutes. Be afraid gang, be very afraid.
Also, I'm concerned that the team has become too dependent on the three. We launched 28 of them for the game and while 39.3 is a respectable percentage, it's easy to see this going down a bad road quickly. Everyone knows how I feel about Finley shooting them, but The Hustlemaker is taking way too many as well. The only guy who I feel good about shooting threes every time he's open is Bones. 16 free throw attempts to 28 threes is a terrible ratio and should be inverted. Can't anybody on this team drive inside besides Tony and Manu? Don't we have some young athletic swingman stashed on the roster who can simply jump over people and... oh right. Sorry Matthew.
Whatever. A win's a win, and it's quite miraculous for this team to pull it off with only one of the big three not playing like ass. But with the Suns having lost tonight to the Warriors, it's not fair for the Spurs to tease me like this. We're only two games behind them now for the two seed and their schedule is a beast. I've crossed into the threshold where I'll actually be disappointed now if we don't get it. And Tinyball and pansy shooting ain't gonna cut it against the Jazz.
Your 3 Stars
3. Jacque Vaughn I think Pop was overstating Vaughn's contribution a bit when he said it was "his game" but Vaughn certainly manned up and played with much more intensity than Tony. Still, it's nice to see him playing well again.
2. Tim Duncan Pretty much kept us in it for three quarters and was a bedrock defensively when Pop saw fit to surround him with little people in the second half.
1. Brent Barry Motherfuckin' stone cold assassin. Nooch couldn't even take advantage of him on the other end.
Record: 51-20 Streak: W-5
Up Next: Vs. Utah Jazz
I've been looking forward to this one for quite a bit. Finally a measuring stick game against an honest to goodness quality Western team at full strength. We haven't had one of these since February 1st (the Rockets don't count, no Yao) when the Suns boatraced us in the 4th at Phoenix. They're the most physical rebounding team in the league and Sloan has no problem having his guys foul the crap out of you and making the refs call it. There's no way we can beat these guys playing like wimps. Basically we're gonna find out how much the two seed matters to them.