Game 2 San Antonio @ Phoenix: Suns 101, Spurs 81 (1-1)
Crap. Choking. Gagging. Humiliation. Failure.
Fuck the Spurs, I'm talking about me.
God dammit. I studied for my Spanish final for a day and a half and I fucked it up royally. I remembered like nothing. I'm not being paranoid either. I finished last in the entire class, going right up to the two hour time limit. The professor actually had to tell me to stop, it was awful. The worst part is that I had a 70.7% coming into it and the final is worth 20% of the grade. It was out of 200 points so I figure I need a 134 to stay at 70.0 and 129 to be at 69.5, where he might round up. Honestly, I don't even know if I cracked a 100.
The thing of it is, I screwed myself even getting into this predicament. I took the class for Credit/No Credit thinking it would give me more wiggle room to pass. I thought a "D-" would be enough to do the trick. Then I found out that I had the wrong information and for C/NC a "C-" is the cut-off point. If I never switched the grading format a regular "D" would've been good enough and I'd have nothing to freak out over. I need like a 84 out of 200 to finish with a 65% D, and I don't think even I could do worse than that.
What sucks is I knew this stuff. I studied. I studied with my stupid patronizing, French-knowing editor and I was correcting his mistakes half the time. And even though I got only a 65 out of a 100 on the first exam, I improved to a 77 on the second and an 80 on the third. So the professor has to know that I know some stuff.
God this is a total nightmare. I can't graduate without passing this fucking class. I have plans dammit, I'm supposed to spend the summer hanging out with Katie and looking for a job. I cannot go back to this infernal hellhole.
I'm going to get what is probably the bad news on Monday, so my only hope is to go to the counseling office, explain to them my error, explain that I only switched to C/NC in the first place because I thought it would help me, not hurt me, and throw myself at their mercy. God knows I've given the school enough money by now. And I got them some good publicity with the NY Times; that has to be worth something, right? Right?
This weekend is going to suck.
And speaking of Katie, I have no idea what's going on there. She's so much easier to talk to in person. Our IM chats are a disaster, and she's not much for the phone either. I know I shouldn't complain. If I had to pick only one way for us to get along and communicate well, then obviously I'd pick face-to-face, but as a writer it's like a major bruise to the ol' ego for chats to go so poorly. I haven't really had that problem before - it's always been the opposite. Basically, my musings and flirting and small talk are no competition to cartoons, Something Awful, MySpace, and her obsession with animated porn. Obviously I want to return home very badly.
Not that I have any kind of guarantee from her that everything is going to end happily ever after. I really blew it the last time we talked cos I'm an idiot. We were playing this dumb game where we call each other household items. She called me a window vane, I called her a can opener. She called me a throw blanket, I caller her a Playstation 3 (I'd like to have her in my apartment, but not sure I can afford to).
Then things took a turn for the worse.
She called me the frozen hot dogs in her fridge, explaining that she doesn't really want me, but I'll do in a pinch. Ouch. Zing, but ouch!
So I called her a cat and told her she's fun to cuddle and play with in bed, but I'm worried about waking up with something itching me the next day (cats give me pink eye).
Um, she wasn't amused.
Apparently suggesting to a girl you like that she has a venereal disease isn't a good way to flirt. I apologized a bit but I think I hurt her feelings. Just having one of those weeks...
And somewhere in this pile of neurotic misery Game 2 is scrunched in. What can I say? Y'all saw it. The guys played well for the last six minutes of the first quarter, Pop started the 2nd with a tinyball Oberto-anchored line-up and the team promptly went into a nose dive it could never pull out of. A 30-17 2nd quarter put them in a seven point hole at half, 15 3rd quarter points from Timmy brought them no closer, and they got driller with another 30-17 stinker in the 4th to make it a rout.
As expected, the calls didn't go our way. Manu got hacked twice with no whistle, Tony took a couple of tumbles to no avail, and Horry was screwed once as well. Still, the refs weren't why we lost the game. We just couldn't bury any open shots in the first half and the more the game wore on, the more impatient and conservative Pop got with the offense. Eventually he went to an all-Timmy, all-the-time look, and that played right into the Suns' hands.
Really, if you think about it, it was D'Antoni turning the tables on Pop for '05. Two years ago we let Amare score all their points and shut everyone else down. Now they're doing that shit to us. They resisted the temptation to double Tim, let him go against Kurt Thomas one-on-one, and it worked perfectly. For one thing, Thomas is strong enough to force Duncan far enough from the basket that he's still going to have to exert a lot of energy to score. It's not a simple catch, turn around, and lay-in. Tim's a great athlete, but anyone will fatigue eventually if called upon to score every single possession, especially if you have a big ass dude leaning all over you in the post.
As long as the ball was in Duncan's hands it meant we'd be scoring only two points at a time (sometimes less if he got fouled) and none of our shooters would be hurting them. Not only that, but having so many guys play without the ball hurt us defensively as well. Like I always say, stagnation on offense leads to stagnation on defense. We looked like absolute slugs out there in the 2nd half in our own end and played miserable pick-and-roll defense on Nash. I don't care how good that little hoser is and how much he has the ball, it's pretty fucking embarrassing to have less assists as a team than he did by his lonesome.
You know what the team reminded me of? The '01 Spurs. Remember those awful Steve Smith-Danny Ferry years; when we were fully deserving of our boring reputation? God. Tony couldn't get to the lane, Manu was a dispirited mess, it was brutal. Ordinarily, if we just had a bad defensive night it'd be easy to dismiss the game and declare that everything will be okay, but Pop has a bad track record in the playoffs when the offense slumps. Instead of analyzing why something isn't working, he just goes deeper and deeper into a conservative shell. Remember '04 against the Lakers? This game left with me that same stench. When a team packs the lane and cuts off penetration, it tends to frazzle coach for whatever reason.
I don't know why. There are ways around every problem. Pop just has to look at some regular season film. Right off the top of my head, I can think of five different ways to get Manu going, for example, and except for a little bit of #2, I haven't seen any of them in these past two games.
1. Back picks instead of side picks.
2. Wing pick-and-rolls with Tim instead of top of the key pick-and-rolls with Oberto.
3. Backdoor cuts.
5. Iso up top, without a screener.
The bread-and-butter top of the key play with him and Fab is doing more harm than good. Both defenders are simply chasing Manu off it and forcing him to pass. Often Fab is neither quick or coordinated enough to even exploit this defense as he's not making his cut quickly or decisively enough. He doesn't seem to anticipate the pass and I don't know why not since no defender, big or small, is going with him. Outside of Duncan, Horry might be the only other big we have who can run this play adequately.
As far as Tony goes, his opportunities to penetrate will be there, but he has to be aware of being baited. Sometimes a team will let him wander into the paint, easy as you please, only to ambush him into a gaggle of bigs, a blocked shot or a turnover being the typical outcome. Just so I'm not mincing any words here, he was terrible in Game 2, easily his worst game since the opener vs. Denver. Just horrendous. Bad decision making, bad shooting, bad defense, bad everything. I knew we were in trouble before the game started because he said in some interview that Pop wants him to be aggressive because the Suns don't have a good defense. Ugh. See, things like that are what irk me about Tony. No other guy on the team would dare say something so inflammatory about an opponent. You or I can trash the Suns D all we want, we're not players. Tony has to know better than that.
Unfortunately, when Tony's not getting it done, Pop's only alternative to run the offense seems to be 4-down with Tim. He doesn't trust Manu to run the show, and that's unfortunate. Even when he's not scoring, he knows how to get the ball to the open man. He understands the concept of multiple pass ball movement and setting up the man who sets up the man. Tony's more of one-step, drive and kick guy. It works most of the time, but if an opposing defense is on its game, such linear thinking will not be enough to get an open shot.
Bruce hit some shots, but he just can't stay with Nash at all defensively. I guess the first time we tried this match-up it worked as an element or surprise more than anything else, but it's just not working, Nash is too slippery for him. And as long as Bruce is out there, Nash gets to conserve his energy on defense. Screw that. Let's just put Manu and Fin out there together and go at Nash relentlessly, whoever he takes. Post his scrawny ass up. Barbosa too. If they insist on guarding our point guard with their small forward, let's make them pay with a size mismatch somewhere else.
Horry passed up a few open shots, Barry and Vaughn couldn't hit anything, and Elson missed yet another dunk. Defensively they all stunk. Everyone needs to be better. Even Tim only played a 47 foot game and we can't have that. Maybe he was too exhausted from having to score the ball the whole time, I dunno. The effort just wasn't there in the 2nd and 4th quarters, and the guys seemed way too content to come home with the split.
Still, as badly as we played, we have to remember that the Suns got 106 points in Game 1. We're doing a poor job on Nash, but Marion isn't doing anything, they're not killing us with the three ball, and the transition defense has been alright. The rebound numbers from game 2 are misleading. They're only close because we missed way more shots and had too many turnovers. Our board work is fine. The bulk of our improvement has to come from offense, as anathema that is for Pop to cope with. He can't fall for the seductive trap of throwing it in to Mr. Dependable all the time. That's what the Suns want, just one guy hurting them. We need to stress ball movement and to come at them from all angles. Instead of trying to score against Thomas, Marion and Bell, their best three defenders, we have to exploit their weak links. This game tonight is there to be won, we just need more energy and creativity and trust in the whole playbook, not just the first page.
However, if Sore Testes Aching Terribly wants to help us out a little with motivation, who am I to turn that down. This whiny, ignorant booch has been at it for the past three days, calling out Bruce and Manu for being dirty. Apparently we're just supposed to let him go to the rim unimpeded so he can flex and do some push-ups. He's convinced that Bruce tried to injure his Achilles when Bowen barely grazed the back of his foot with his shoe. He's still stuck on the incident with Manu from four months ago, "He kneed me in the gonads!" even though he rightly got the foul called on him on that play for the forearm to Gino's grill. He seems to conveniently forget about that part of it.
God I fucking hate the Suns. Let's do this.
3. Shawn Marion - Only five points, but finished with a game-high +29 and made life miserable for Tony the whole night. Thomas is getting a lot of credit, but The Matrix was the key to changing the tone of the series.
2. Tim Duncan - Did his stoic best to keep this one from getting ugly for 36 minutes. Just ran out of gas and had little help.
1. Steve Nash - We're not gonna be winning too many playoff games allowing him 20 and 16. He was just a holy terror all game. We gotta make him sweat in his own end.
Wait, that came out wrong...