Game 61 @ Portland: Spurs 99, Trailblazers 94
Ze streak reaches an even ten! And what a dramatic way to get it, huh? I suppose it was a bit presumptuous of me, and completely idiotic as well, to expect an easy romp against the Jailblazers. For one, they are a much improved club this year, miles ahead of where I thought they'd be with their rebuilding plan thanks to promising youngsters Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Jarrett Jack and a handful of other curiosities. More importantly though, as Matthew touched on in his preview, no matter who the opponent was, the game was still a fogafini and that's no slice of pie for a "veteran" team like the Spurs.
Y'all can look at the game, where we never led between Elson's free throw 15 seconds in to make it 1-0 and Beno's three with to make it 94-92 with 1:07 left, however you want. I realize a lot of people will take it as a negative that we struggled so miserably against a lottery team and had to hit a bunch of miracle threes at the end to steal a win. Me? I'm going to cut the gang a little slack. Not only do they deserve the benefit of the doubt after reeling off so many wins in a row but they couldn't just pretend to not be tired. Lots of people just assume when a player blows an assignment that he's not focusing or he's mentally lazy, but that's too simplistic for my taste. Often what happens - and I've heard many professional athletes allude to this - is that when they're exhausted they make more mental mistakes than physical ones. So I for one plan on being compassionate and benevolent to Francisco tonight, especially since I'm sure he was scolded enough by Pop as it is...
Why, I won't even mention that Elson was an absurd -19 in 14 minutes and that that the next closest was Brent at -7.
Am I happy with everything that transpired on the court? Of course not. Pop was so fed up with Elson and all the bigs in general that he played tinyball for the final 23 minutes. I don't really understand why he was so pissed with Oberto or Bonner, but I guess it has something to do with all those wide open jumpers Aldridge got off the pick and roll. What I do know is that a) Tony shouldn't have played last night and b) we played the majority of the 4th quarter with Manu at small forward, Fin at power forward and a Vaughn-Udrih backcourt. I honestly thing long winning streaks make Pop uncomfortable because he has nothing to yell at the team about in practice. Did any decision he made yesterday strike you as particularly brilliant?
Yeah, yeah he switched Bruce on Randolph and that worked out, but that's not novel. He's done that before. What I don't understand is why he stuck with Vaughn for so long when he clearly didn't have it last night (it took a couple games but I think the scouting reports may have caught up to him, he's being left completely open out there) and why he never gave Bonner or even Ely a shot if he was so disgusted with Elson and Fab. Really I don't think our defense was all that bad except for the 1st quarter. I guarantee you neither Udoka nor Aldridge have buried so many 18 footers in one game before. And they hit at least four miracle shots - desperation threes from Randolph and Roy and ridiculous fadeaways from Udoka and Roy - all made as the shot clock was expiring. Portland really didn't score inside very often. Most of their lay-ups came from offensive rebounds thanks to our midgets giving up second and often third chances. I know we were lucky they missed so many free throws, but considering their insane mid-range shooting, I'd say it all balanced out in the end.
Who knows? Maybe the basketball gods gifted us the dub because of how obnoxious the Blazers' announcers were being. All game long I had to listen to these inbred scatmunchers trashtalking my team no matter what was going on in the game. Foul call on the Spurs? Oh look at Manu whine, look at Tim bitch. "Of course Bruce Bowen's bickering with the refs, he's a San Antonio Spur." Meanwhile every whistle on the Blazers brought another chorus of moaning from the booth about how Pop campaigned for that tickey-tack call and how he "intimidates" the refs.
Boy he sure scared the bejesus out of them in Games 3 and 4 at Dallas last year, huh?
They were so over the top unprofessional that when Bones was crumpled on the ground, bleeding profusely from his head courtesy of an Aldridge elbow they were mocking Pop for having the nerve to ask the zebras for a foul. They snickered at Tim for being elbowed in the balls after he set a clean pick and called it a flop every time a Spur was sent sprawling whether it was Beno, Manu, Finley or Oberto. Hell, even after all the thuggery that had taken place these guys still had the chutzpah to suggest that Gino should've been knocked ass over teakettle on his dunk.
Yeah, Gonzo dunked. (More on that later).
By now you know how I feel about karma and sportsmanship and all that so I can't begin to tell you how thoroughly satisfying that last five minutes was for me. Just like we deserved that loss in Orlando for Elliott foolishly calling the game over midway through the 3rd quarter, the Blazers doofuses (or if you prefer, doofi) all but handed this game to us on a silver platter. Not to go all Simmons on you, but the whole thing kinda reminded me of "Rocky IV." They were talking crap about us all game and hurling insult after insult on our players, our coach, even our manliness. But by the time Manu scooped that lay up to put the game away for good they sheepishly admitted that he deserves to be the 6th Man of the Year and that we've got a heck of a team of never say die professionals.
Anyway, as you're well aware, the meat of our comeback was the four consecutive three pointers we hit with less than two minutes to go. Manu hit the first from the top of the key after his man, Ugoda (the same guy who'd elbowed Timmy in the nuts) tripped over Duncan's foot and couldn't recover. He hit the second off the fast break from the right wing after Beno Udrih of all people came up with the rebound. Beno got the one to put us ahead after Manu forced a turnover by knocking the ball off Roy's foot. Unless I'm mistaken it might be the biggest regular shot The Bean Burrito's ever made for us. Any others I'm forgetting? Finally Manu rebounded Udoka's corner three that rattled in and out and fed it to Fin for the dagger. It was only fitting for Fin to sow it up since he assisted on the first three. That's right ladies and germs. Findog led the team with five helpers for the game. Peace in the Middle East, cats and dogs hugging, Matthew getting laid, I'll believe anything these days.
Here's how the comeback looked and sounded for the Spurs crew...
And if you don't think it's all that rare for a team to sink four bombs in a row with less than two minutes to go, well here's the last time it happened. How crazy is that? Sure I remember feeling vaguely upset at the time, but we did wind up winning it all that year so we can laugh about it now. Right? Right? I totally forgot how pissed Pop got at Gino for making that dodgy crosscourt pass. And why the fuck did Devin Brown get to play during crunch time?
Speaking of Manu, and I always am, you may have noticed the clip I found doesn't have his dunk in it. It's not anywhere on Youtube yet. It wasn't in the NBA.com highlight package or ESPN highlight package. WOAI.com doesn't have it. Quite honestly, I'm not entirely sure if it actually happened or I just imagined it. This wasn't a routine nobody's around him so he might as well dunk it dunk. No sir. This was a vintage 2005 facial. Easily his most emphatic dunk since Game 2 at Phoenix in the Western Conference Finals.
Naturally, this raises all sorts of questions.
Who knew he could still do that?
If he could, why hasn't he before?
I vaguely remember last year he barely dunked the whole regular season, maybe ten times at most and then he dunked at least once a game in the playoffs. Most assumed that the timing was coincidental because he finally got healthy in April. But his health hasn't really been in question this year. Dude just wasn't dunking anymore. Whatever, he was still getting it done, that's the main thing.
But then this happened.
Could it be that he's fixing on springing a surprise on Phoenix and Dallas this May?
Is Manu the Robert Horry of Dunking?
The bastard keeps fucking with my mind!!!! Get out of my head you big nosed freak!
Your 3 Stars (with apologies to Beno, Bruce and Brent)
3. Tim Duncan - Carried us in the first half to keep it close and had some nice defensive moments late, but was way too slow and deliberate with the ball in the fourth and had a couple of dumb turnovers. I'm guessing he was spent.
2. Michael Finley - It never fails, every time Matthew decides to write about how crappy some Spur is, the guy goes off. Fin pretty much kept us in it for the first half of the fourth. His level of play has progressed to the point where I no longer yell at inanimate objects when he checks in.
1. Manu Ginobili - 5 for 5 in the 4th, the threes, the defensive play on Roy, the assist to Fin, that nasty lay-up under Aldridge's arm... it's all nice and good. Still, he's no Kevin Martin.
Record: 43-18 Streak: W-10
Up Next: @ Sacramento Kings
Fogafinis are notoriously brutal, but figasevnis are nothing to sneeze at either. Not only is our schedule unnecessarily grueling already, but the club had to spend a whole off day in freakin' Cowtown. That's just sadistic punishment right there. The fellas were probably so bored that they begged Pop for a practice.
We already dodged one major bullet getting the heck out of Portland without Zach Randolph assaulting anybody, and now it appears that lady luck is really on our side since Ron-Ron the psychopath won't be in the building for this one. Unfortunately this means their shot selection will improve, but overall it's a good deal for us. Just pass the ball to whoever Bibby is "guarding."
Unless it's Jacque Vaughn.