Game 75 Vs. Phoenix: Spurs 92, Suns 85
Pffft. Seriously is that the best they got? You're telling me that this is supposed to be the second best team in the West, an actual contendah, and we can dismiss them so casually with no Brent, no Horry and a passive, gimpy Manu? We threw, at best, a "C" offensive game at them and it was still no contest. The Suns...::giggles::
C'mon now. You know what the Suns are like? Your annoying kid brother/sister. You let them bother you and screw around for a few minutes but quickly grow bored with `em and just smack `em upside the head and so they can go cry to mommy. They're small, they're soft and they're weak. If the Mavs are honestly more worried about them than us, then it's an indictment on them too as far as I'm concerned, for they are way too overconfident and haven't really been paying attention to how we've been laying the pimp hand down on folks these past two months.
Anyway, I haven't said this very often this year, so take note - Pop made a genius coaching decision. The last game we played these guys Barbosa killed us. None of our shooting guards could stay with him and they were still killing us with the pick `n' roll between Nash and Sore Testicles Aching Terribly.
This game though, the ol' drunk finally figured it out. We've got one guy who has a prayer of staying in front of the Brazilian Blur and he's The Wee Rapping Frenchman. Pop went to that match-up, switched Bowen on Nash, and gambled that Finley/Ginobili could hold off the much taller/bouncier Marion.
The tactic worked brilliantly. First off Tony did his part and Barbosa didn't get a hundred lay-ups. The team also did a masterful job of getting back in transition, not letting LB burn them there when Tony was the one taking the shots. Manu or Fin or Bruce were always sprinting back the second any shot was launched.
Secondly, Bruce's well-earned defensive reputation and extra size/length bothered Nash a lot more than Tony could defensively and he was allowed to be a little physical with the hoser as well. Bowen totally bothered the timing of the pick and roll with Amare and had a huge role in making the Suns' offense look clunky all night.
Thirdly, because D'Antoni is a complete moron, the Suns couldn't exploit the one weakness in our defensive strategy - having Finley/Manu on Marion. We consistently guard this guy better than anybody because we know he's a complete fraud in the half court game. What is he, their fourth option or fifth? I can't decide. He gets all his points off transition, three pointers and offensive rebounds. We take all that stuff away and he's reduced to being a spectator most of the night. It's one thing when Bruce shuts him down, but when our guards do it, well that's pretty sad. The Praying Mantis has been in the league for eight years now and he still hasn't learned how to dribble or developed any kind of low post game. No wonder he's always subject to trade rumors every offseason.
Finally, the whole defense worked because a) Pop stayed big most of the game (38 minutes) and b) Duncan was magnificent back there as the lynch pin. He had five blocks, numerous other alterations and just made life a total nightmare for the Suns forwards. He was free to challenge shots because Frankie, Fab and Fin all did a superb job of scooping up the defensive boards. Of course it helps that the Suns are one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA. Hmmm. No defense and no rebounding. Somebody explain to me how they're contenders again?
We stymied the Suns so badly, taking away their lay-ups, their threes, their transition garbage, and their bread and butter pick and roll that we reduced `em to a bunch of pansies, shooting uncomfortable hitch-laden 20 footers. Picture Fab or James White chucking jumpers and you've got the right idea. The only guy on that team whose form stays consistent inside the three point line is Nash. It was just an ugly, ugly thing to watch, this supposed uber-offense getting tied up in a pretzel. Or it was beautiful. Depends on the perspective I guess.
Whatever. I'm guessing when the playoffs start these guys will be the biggest Kobe fans on the planet. Just about everyone from ESPN to Abbott to the TNT gang has pretty much conceded the second round match-up to us already and assume the only way the Mavs/Suns WCF go off without a hitch is if we get upset in round one. Will we put them away in five? I doubt it. But we will win. They're soft and can be worn down, especially Nash, no matter how much they try to hide him on defense. When Pop needs points all he has to do is take Bruce off the floor and play Manu, Fin and Tony together and ze Canadian is how you say...FUCKED.
Of course no matter how well we played in our own end, the win wouldn't have been possible without our offense getting its shit together in the 2nd half. 37 points at halftime wasn't cutting it and I made my feelings clear on the matter on Spurstalk. For a stretch there it seemed like either Tony or Frankie took every damn shot. Parker had 10 points on 8 shots at half, not bad but not great either and since he is our point guard, I felt he had some culpability in the team's low first half point total. Is that unreasonable?
Naturally when he ended the evening with 35 points on 22 shots, I took a lot of shit for it. Everyone conveniently forgot where his numbers were at when I lodged my complaint. 35 on 22 is obviously great. If the little guy could get to the line 14 times every night I'd have no issues with how many shots he puts up. It's those 20 points on 19 shots kinda nights that get me all grouchy with him.
In addition to Tony's monster game, Fin came up huge, sticking five threes and Duncan had his way inside with Amare most of the night. Really the only two things that stopped him from having a completely dominating performance was a horrible night from the stripe and the fact that Tony was scoring so easily on his own. This was the wimpiest I've seen Stoudemire on defense since his rookie year, just completely non-competitive. For such a physical specimen, he's still incredibly immature and mentally weak and can be taken out of a game just by facing some early adversity. Even The Big Bug on the Mavs has learned some resiliency by now.
Outside of Bell and Kurt Thomas, none of the Suns have a clue how to play a lick of defense. That they're such a successful regular season team is proof positive of how far the overall quality of play has slipped in the NBA these past two decades. There's no difference between them and Nellie's Run TMC Warriors of the early 90's. This should be a low 50 wins team. I guess these things will happen when there are only three or four legit point guards left in the whole world, just as few centers to control the paint and defense has been outlawed by the commissioner for everyone except us and Detroit.
I maintain that the only reason we're allowed to play as physically as we do and get away with it is because none of our players are thugs or felons. Believe me, our guys still may whine a lot about fouls, but we're not committing flagrants and dropping any "motherfuckers" on the refs and don't kid yourself, they notice and appreciate those things. And it's a never-ending cycle. We're allowed to play harder than our opponents, they get frustrated by this and start fouling harder and harder and complaining more and more and before you know it come the technicals, the flagrants and the ejections. And the more our team turns the other cheek, the more the refs admire our restraint and reward us in the future.
Last year's series against the Mavs, Games 3 and 4 were the first time in forever where I saw the refs blatantly against us instead of either for us or neutral. I've shared my theory for why this happened and I don't believe it will occur again in the future. At least it won't against them. I make no promises for the Lakers, Suns, Cavs or Heat. Really the Dick Bevetta special is the only way this team doesn't go to the WCFs.
Unfortunately the game wasn't all rainbows and lollipops and big-breasted nymphs looking to please. Manu's night was uglier than Sam Cassell in HD. He got screwed on a no goaltend call early, fell hard on his back and shoulder in the 3rd and could never get much of anything going after that. The Suns, like everyone else, were throwing those traps at him when he was playing "naked" (without Timmy and Tony) in the 2nd and 4th quarters and still seemed to be awfully concerned with him even when the other two guys were destroying them.
Neither Pop nor Manu forced the issue by showing anything special - no curls, no backdoors, no give-and-gos, but I'm not too worried about it. If we need Manu to score against these guys, he'll score. And if they want to concentrate their efforts on him and have Tim and Tony carve them up silly, that's fine too. I don't think Gino cares either way so I won't either. Things like this bother me a lot more when we lose. I expect to see the "real" Manu very little before the playoffs unless the other two absolutely can't get anything going on a given night.
On a personal note, Friday was a big day for me. Three weeks ago this lady who works for the New York Times contacted my school paper and selected me to be one of eight college seniors to contribute three columns for their online magazine, "Times Select." The first of my three columns ran today. The theme is supposed to be "life after college" - what our plans are after we graduate and all that. They're even paying me for it. Since Matthew and PtR played a role in me getting this whole writing thing off the ground, I thought it was important to mention both him and the site and I am hopeful that it will lead to more traffic on here. I suppose some curious newbies might be shocked by this blog if all they know me by is political/social commentary and here I'm just going on and on about some stupid basketball team and swearing up a storm, but eh, what are you gonna do?
Anyway, here's the link if you're interested.
Times Select is only available if you're a NYT subscriber and you can only register to the website for free if you've got an .edu web address. Otherwise, there isn't much I can do. It was already made quite clear to me that it'd be illegal to cut and paste the thing, so I won't do that. I'm trying to not be too excited about the whole thing, but my family is going nuts. At the very least it's pretty decent to be featured on there considering that I'm a predictable hack and all...
Your 3 Stars
3. Michael Finley - Had to play 41 minutes because of Brent's absence and Manu's struggles and stepped up huge with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Solid defense on Marion when called upon and even a clutch putback on Tim's missed freebie. Very impressive.
2. Tim Duncan - Even with all the missed FTs and some bunnies he blew inside he still dominated both ends of the floor. He's been the best player since Jordan retired, and don't you dare forget it. I can't believe he's not in the MVP discussion, it's a fucking joke.
1. Tony Parker - They tried Nash or Barbosa on him and left Bell to guard a clearly struggling Manu. In retrospect it seems kinda silly, doesn't it? When he's hitting that 18 footer, there really isn't a whole lot you can do with him. Also did a good job on Barbosa in his own end.
Record: 54-21 Streak: W-2
Up Next: Vs. Golden State Warriors
Two losses behind the Suns, the two seed is still unlikely, but not impossible. The Warriors are hell bent on making the playoffs for the first time since Old Man Webber's rookie year, so I expect this game to be a bit more competitive than the total asswhoopings we've laid on them the past two times we've played. Still, this game is a segababa for them and Davis' knees aren't quite up to that methinks. Expect another big night from Tony and maybe a decent game from Schnozzo, if he feels like it.