Game 79 @ Minnesota: Spurs 110, Timberwolves 91
I won't spend much time with this one. The T-Pups were obviously in full tank mode, they didn't have The Big Lottery Ticket and his bullshit fake "Motherfucker" yelling intensity, and I can't say I missed him much. Nobody played any defense for them and nobody passed the ball. We scored 110 playing half heartedly and honestly if there was ever a night we could've gone for 150, this would've been it. But Pop is merciful. And sometimes he's a philosophizer.
Really the only noteworthy aspects of the game were a couple of funky lineups Pop toyed around with, just to taunt me. Because Tony was still feeling a bit gimpy with his back, Pop pulled him after two ineffective minutes and sat him for the rest of the night. "Way to dick with my average, coach," right? Anyway, this meant that Beno got some run.
And that meant that my beloved Pale Triangle got some decent time together. Always my favorite part of any Spurs game. For once they didn't make a fool out of me out there, even though Minny wasn't really trying. They finished a +8 together in 6:58 of playing time during the 2nd and 3rd quarters. Actually, for 5:26 of that 6:58, Pop played them with Bonner and Fab for a total whitewash (+6). I'm not sure what I'm allowed to say about that without Jesse Jackson asking for my resignation. Forget I brought it up.
Also, and this was really weird, but for the last 4:53 of the 2nd quarter Pop played Manu at point guard. Oh I know there's plenty of times, especially when he's playing with Jacque or Beno where he's the de facto point, but this time he was literally the point guard as in none of the three small guys were on the court with him. As best as I can remember, this hasn't happened all year. I don't know if Pop was experimenting with the look here in case they need some size in some playoff match-up, but most likely he was just dicking around with us. After all, it's not like Minny ever pressured the ball.
For the record Manu finished that PG stretch with one basket, no assists and no turnovers. By default that makes him the best point on the team! (jk Tony, I love ya.) Late in the 3rd quarter Gino got whacked pretty hard by Mark Blount and future Dancing With the Stars winner Mark Madsen. And some mofo scratched the shit out of his back and shoulders so he looked like JC during "The Passion of the Christ." Not pretty. How come Manu doesn't make any of these lame-o "Get knocked down seven times, get up eight" commercials? He doesn't have street cred? Oh, right, he's not a self-involved jackass.
The only aspect of the game I didn't care for, besides that hard foul, was that the play by play guy (I think it was Bill Land, but it could have been Dave Barnett, I always get them confused) and Sean Elliott were having a little too much fun at Minnesota's expense. I know these blowout tankjobs are hard to sit through, especially when everyone is all excited about the playoffs getting underway, but after a couple of quarters it was like, I get it, the Timberwolves aren't playing defense, they're not trying, they're not passing, and it's better for them to lose than win. Message received loud and clear. A little too much Spurs slurping and a little excessive with Minny bashing, I thought. We're not the Dallas Mavericks. Our announcers shouldn't be acting this way against lesser opponents. Didn't the Orlando game teach Sean anything? Bad karma alarms were going off in my head. And of course it got us less than 48 hours later...
Your 3 Stars
3. Robert Horry 11-5-3 in 23 minutes and sank three 3s to boot. Does this team have the biggest collection of cockteasing scrubs you've ever seen or what? Three great players and twelve guys who'll break your heart sometime in the near future.
2. Matt Bonner Season high 18 points (on 7-10) and six rebounds in 25 minutes. Sounds like the line score of a guy who doesn't deserve any playing time vs. Dallas to me.
1. Manu Ginobili The Allen Houston special, 21-1-1. Give him a break, at least he shot it well and suffered in the line of duty. Actually didn't miss a field goal inside the three point line.
Okay...now the bad part.
Game 80 @ Dallas: Mavericks 91, Spurs 85
Matthew already rehashed the obvious stuff with Crawford. I won't get much into that. How do y'all think I feel about it? We couldn't beat these guys playing 5 on 8 last year and we won't do it this year either. We're better than them, but not that much better. I have no business being this upset before the playoffs have even started.
Me and Matthew actually made a five dollar bet as to whether Joey will ref any Spurs playoff games or not. Diploma boy says yes, I say no. I think Crawford crossed the line of referee conduct and professionalism so egregiously that Stern will avoid the bait of having it as a story line for a future match-up. It doesn't matter, IMO, that Crawford has a reputation of being one of the better refs and that he's sure to work some playoff games. He just won't work ours, that's my belief. I'd be very surprised at any rate.
I just don't understand how we get the overwhelming majority of the calls vs. everyone else except these guys. What did we do to deserve it? Damn near every game I see our team being allowed to play more physically than the our opponents and get the benefit of the doubt on a lot of 50/50 stuff, but the one team in the league that can actually challenge us in a fair fight, and against the owner who's caused the league more headaches than any other in history, and we're the ones who get punished? I don't get it.
Our coach never calls out the refs publicly. Until today, none of our players had either. I don't understand how we continue to get shafted in this building every time we have a meaningful game. I'm not asking for favoritism. I just want it to be impartial. Unless Stern is setting up Cuban for the most humiliating pantsing of all time, I don't understand what the motive is. Does the league need Phoenix-Dallas to happen this badly?
As far as I'm concerned, the only part worth evaluating is the first three quarters. We won 76-72 and then forfeited, that's it. There was plenty to be happy about. Our bigs rebounded well and did a great job on Dirk (21 points on 21 shots). Francisco, Fab and RoHo all took their turns on him (along with Bruce, Manu and Tim here and there) and we held up fine there. Howard, Terry and Stackhouse didn't hurt us much either. The half court defense was as excellent as we could possibly hope for and playing big for 33 of the first 36 minutes played a major role in that.
Unfortunately just as was the case in our last meeting with the Mavs, on January 5th, Pop panicked in the face of an offensive drought, scrapped what had gotten him the lead up to that point and went small for the last three minutes of the game. I don't buy the "Oberto was tired" excuse and I don't buy the "Mavs were packing the lane with the Oberto-Elson-Bowen-Ginobili-Parker line-up" excuse. Either one could've been corrected by inserting Horry or Bonner in there for Fab.
I mean, why the fuck not? Horry played quite well in his first ten minutes (2-3-2, +6) and looked as spry as he has all season. Admittedly the bar is quite low there. Still, he could have stretched Dallas defense and maybe buried a late bomb. That's supposed to be his reputation, right? It's "Big Shot Bob" not "Decent 2nd Quarter Hustle Bob" right? If you don't play him late, why even have him on the roster?
And what about Matt Bonner? The guy is playing his best ball of the season. Why not give him a fourth quarter look? Is this just more CIA Pop nonsense, saving something in our bag for the playoffs? I know the offensive game plan was totally vanilla, especially with Duncan ejected where we ran nothing but isos for Manu or Tony, with no movement whatsoever from Finley, Barry etc. It just seemed to me like Pop mentally checked out once Timmy got rung.
Our one defensive minus was atrocious transition defense, especially on Devin Harris, the only Mav to play above his head today. Some of it was poor effort to get back, but some buckets were unpreventable. Tony had six ghastly turnovers and forced a half dozen bad shots as well and put us in a bind quite a bit with some bad decisions. And he had an inexcusable brain cramp in the 4th, not advancing the ball past the half court line in eight seconds.
That being said, I'm not dumping on him as the goat of the game or anything. His jumper was actually pretty hot tonight and he seemed to be having more success with that than with the attempted lay-ups, where Diop was aborting a lot of our penetration. To be clear, Duncan's ejection was the overwhelming number one reason we lost. It really changed the whole game at both ends of the floor.
Also, we had a terrible game from the three point line, going 2-13 and most of those shots weren't even good looks. Give Dallas credit with that, they did an excellent job of not leaving us open, but I think we helped them out as well with shitty ball movement. It seemed like it got us forever to get into our offense all game and we were rushing/forcing everything with only a couple of seconds left on the shot clock. Barry and Finley were both MIA and we're going to need a lot more energy from them in the playoffs.
Actually most of Harris' damage was inflected on Jacque Vaughn who was clearly limited by a sore ankle. I thought he wasn't even supposed to play and I don't understand why he did. Beno couldn't have been any worse than him today.
Manu had a very rough last couple of minutes, which was upsetting not only because it directly led to a loss but also because until then he was having a pretty solid game I thought. Not spectacular by any stretch, but a "B" kinda game. He took too many jumpers, perhaps not wanting to risk an injury so close to the playoffs, but he took it in there against Diop & company a few times as well. I thought he battled Stackhouse as well as he could on defense and did a good job on Dirk and Howard the few times he found himself matched up against them. The turnover at the end was his only one of the game and it was a bad decision trying to go through a double team and trying to force something. But we hadn't hit a shot in over six minutes by that point so he was probably looking to get to the line. Just a shitty way to end a shitty game.
Lastly, I just want to point out that Avery Johnson is a lying fucking weasel. "I'm not going to play any starter over 26 minutes" my fat hairy pooper. What, did he think his boys would have some big lead against us by the middle of the 3rd quarter or something? He must've because you know, they're so much better than us. I just found it ironic that the man who told The Admiral that Jesus didn't love him because apparently Robinson's effort in some basketball game wasn't up to AJ's satisfaction that day has no problem breaking one of the Ten Commandments and lying his ass off.
Gamesmanship? Not tipping your hand? Whatever. The Spurs were going to play hard either way. They were playing to win as long as Phoenix was mathematically within reach. If you don't want to let the Spurs or the media know how much you planned on playing your starters, then just say "No comment" or "None of your business." Deliberately volunteering the information and then doing the opposite is a bitch move.
Really it just shows how classless and insecure Avery is, putting Dirk and Howard back into the game in the 4th after Duncan got ejected. Even with home court clinched Avery is scared shitless of the Spurs. He saw His guys, on His court, not being able to put us away with our best player in the locker room. He knows if we had gotten a fair whistle in games 3 and 4 we'd have likely won the series last year and he knows if the zebras don't interfere we're the better team this year. Every day between now and the Western Conference Finals AJ will get down on his knees and pray that something bad happens to the Spurs before they have to play us.
As if Tim Duncan didn't have incentive enough. Like he said in the postgame presser,
Well there you go Joey Crawford. Not only did you rob the best player in the NBA of his joy for the game, but you gave us the grizzly mental image of Duncan putting his head between his legs. You've unleashed a monster who will destroy everybody without mercy or guilt for the next two months and then graphically satisfy himself in public afterward. Well done Joey, well done.
Your 3 Stars
3. Fabricio Oberto - Six and six in 17 minutes. Oberto always seems to do a solid job against the Mavs, but Pop either doesn't trust him enough or trusts him too much. I really don't like him as our only big, but with Duncan he's fine. Everyone is fine with Timmy.
2. Robert Horry - Played about as well as he can for ten minutes between the 1st and 2nd and led the team with a +6. Should've seen the floor in the second half.
1. Tim Duncan - The real MVP of the league, and it's not even close.
Record: 58-22 Streak: L-1
Up Next: @ Memphis Grizzlies
The last segababa of the year and I have no idea who's playing for them or us and I don't care. I imagine we'll see plenty of White, Ely, Butler and Beno. If I ever get around to recapping it, it'll be my shortest one of the year, guaranteed.