Game 6 Phoenix @ San Antonio: Spurs 114, Suns 108 (2-4)
Now that was neat. You can take your asterisks and shove them right up your pooper, we threw a total "A+" game at them when we absolutely had to have it, and the MJ Bulls weren't going to beat us yesterday. We were overdue to stumble into one of these sooner or later, which is why I find the asterisk talk so ridiculous. Not only had we won two of the first four games in this series with everyone at full strength, but we hadn't even played all that well in doing so. It took a monumental choke in Game 4 (as well as some spotty refereeing) for this series to not go back to Phoenix 3-1. How could any objective person fail to see who the better team was? When the Suns were at full strength we flat outplayed them four out of five games. Not once in Games 1, 3, 4, and 6 could a basketball fan watch this game and think to themselves, "Man, I totally think the Suns have them scared now."
They're good, but we're just flat better.
Amare is a holy terror in the post, but whatever he gives you at one end, he immediately gives up on the other. Is it any wonder that we only scored 88 points in the one game he missed? Not a coincidence. The Suns outscored their opponents by 7.7 with him on the court this season, and 7.1 when he was on the pine. Not that much of a difference.
Contrast that to Manu, where our margin dips from +13.7 with him to +4.3 without him. A 9.5 point difference, per 48 minutes. Or if you really want a laugh, have a gander at Timmy's chart. . We got outscored this year with him on the bench!
Stoudemire picked up a quick foul on Tony - naturally an And-1 since he can't even foul aggressively - and reverted to mere spectator on defense the rest of the night. He let Tim and Tony have whatever they wanted, reasoning that it was important for him to stay on the floor. That's how flawed his thinking is, and I think it's the root of D'Antoni's fatal flaw as a coach. D'Antoni equates defense to fouling. He cannot figure the concept of playing "D" aggressively and cleanly by just rotating well, communicating, and challenging shots by being in position to do so. When push comes to shove, he'll always try to outscore people instead of just shutting them down. I couldn't believe my ears when I heard him blame the team's offense for their failure to win a series. It's amazing Pop can keep his composure and not openly taunt his counterpart at every opportunity.
When you're scoring over a 100 a night against the Spurs, offense isn't your problem dude.
And when you consider Manu and Tony's contributions to the damning evidence between Tim & Pop vs. Amare and D'Antoni, the series gets even easier to figure. Tony is obviously not the point guard that Nash is, but he can claim to be legitimately one of the top five at his position at both ends. He has defensive value. He basically exposed Barbosa this series and did a hell of a job on Nash too when given the opportunity. Nash on other hand gets hidden and protected on defense more than any superstar in memory. And I lost A TON of respect for him, both with his over-the-top antics during the game (`Sheed would have been rung up about six times if he acted the way that little Hoser did) and with his seven minute bitch-fest in the postgame presser. What a fucking baby. Looks like you can take Nash off the Mavericks but you can't remove the Mavericks out of Nash. I swear to God, I wish we can go back in time to Game 5, let them play with Amare and Diaw, but with one catch - Nash has to guard either Tony or Manu for the game. Maybe after our 47th consecutive made lay-up, the media might figure this shit out.
But I doubt it.
The most absurd statement of the night came from D'Antoni, who called Stevie "the best player of the past ten seasons." Jesus on a boat is that ridiculous. YOU CAN'T BE THE BEST PLAYER IF YOU ONLY PLAY HALF A GAME!! How can a professional basketball coach be so ignorant of this basic principle of the game? I think our biggest mismatch all series was Popovich vs. D'Antoni. If the two coaches switch teams we probably lose in five, with Manu and Tony playing zero defense and committing 15 turnovers a night between them. It was stunning, watching the contrast of the two coaches all night. One was calm, composed, giving his guys useful direction and looking like he was playing against the Wizards in December. The other was a ranting, raving maniac, bitching the refs out damn near every possession and offering nothing more substantive from the bench then, "c'mon guys hang in there" and "Let's play harder, they'll stop making shots eventually."
I'm pretty sure the Spurs still win the series if Generic Coach A goes up against Generic Coach B, but I'm thankful that I don't have to find out.
Finally, these last two games illustrated the massive difference between Manu and Matrix. One disappears the more important the games get, and one nuts up. Considering the circumstances yesterday might have been one of the two or three best games Ginobili's ever played. We didn't miss playing with two bigs at all because the guy rebounded like a power forward. Add the six helpers, the four swipes, the total negation of Bell or Marion in his own end, and he was already having a great night.
And then there was the matter of 33 points on 17 shots. ::giggles:: I think Gino was growing bored of the Phoenix Suns. The goofy thing is that he finally started doing in the last two games what we've begged him to do all playoffs. 1) He drove right and 2) he didn't hesitate after catching the ball. He just went at his guy one-on-one before the screener (and a 2nd defender) could get there.
Honestly, I'm not sure if he and Pop discovered these things watching film, or whether Manu was just diabolically clever enough to have planned it that way all along. Maybe he just didn't want to show the Suns his full arsenal until we really needed it. It's akin to Timmy all of a sudden busting out eight three pointers in a game. "Oh, I always could do it, I just save it for emergencies."
I might be giving Ginobili too much credit, but looking at this picture, I wouldn't put anything past him. My favorite player is clearly insane.
Now that THE TEAM THAT COULDN'T STOP CRYING is behind us, it's onward to Utah. I'm guessing we'll see AK-47 on Manu (I'd rather have him on Manu then harassing him and swatting would-be lay-ups from the weak side, he's not that great of an on the ball defender), double teams on Timmy, and Bowen on Williams. They'll knock our big three on their collective fannies and dare the refs to call fouls. Rebounding might be a problem and I'm dreading the Boozer vs. Oberto and Elson match-up. Okur will guard Timmy, with plenty of help, so the onus is on the Fins and Barry's of the world to knock down shots. Still, I'm not too concerned overall, because just like with the Suns, we can take away pretty much everything defensively but the power forward. We can even cover Okur with a small as long as we don't leave him.
Last year we won Game 6 at Sacramento, in a 7:30 Pacific start no less, and still had to play Game 1 vs. the Mavs less than 36 hours later. We eked out a two point win, but had nothing in the tank for Game 2 and got blown out. No need to rehash the rest of the series. I think there's a decent chance we'll drop one of the first two at home, so winning in Utah will be a must. The bottom line is we've got too much momentum to be derailed now and I like us vs. anyone. Spurs in six.
Your 3 Stars
3. Tony Parker - Shut down Barbosa as usual, and a 6:1 A/TO ratio. Lovely.
2. Tim Duncan - Maybe that 10th block would've earned him the 1st star. He'll just have to do better.
1. Manu Ginobili - Like you're surprised. A Kevin Martinesque performance.
* my balls.