Game 5 Denver @ San Antonio: Spurs 93, Nuggets 78 (4-1)
Oh well, that's that. I know that it was fashionable to suggest that this year's Nuggets squad was way tougher than '05. After all, Pop said as much, Tim did, pretty much the whole organization trotted out that party line.
Of course they did. They're the classy San Antonio Spurs.
And they're diabolically clever.
C'mon, do you really expect them to help out the enemy? Pop isn't going to say, "They're still pretty much the same team as two years ago, and until they improve this and this and this..."
No. He's going to make it sound like the Nuggets are contenders right now and the Spurs were somehow lucky to squeak by.
"The Nuggets? No, they're perfect right now, don't need to change a thing, blah, blah, blah."
Yup, don't change anything, so we can beat your wannabe thug asses every single time.
I suppose if you want to be technical about it, the Nuggets fared a little better this time around. We outscored them by 51 points in the five games in '05 vs. 30 points this year, but mainly that difference can be attributed to a blow out win in Game 2 two years ago. Consider this much - as in doubt as both games in Denver looked for us for the first three quarters, at least we were relatively in control for the last two minutes or so. In 2005 it took overtime for us to win Game 3, so that 11 point winning margin there was misleading.
Just know that for all of Denver's supposed offensive potency - thanks to the arrival of Iverson - they actually scored four more points against us two years ago. We held that mighty offensive juggernaut to a mere 88.2 points per game, 17 below their average.
So yeah, I hate to say I told you so but... Spurs in five.
As for the specific game, what can you say? The three worst players in our ten man rotation all year played like absolute studs vs. the Nuggets. I mean, one can make a serious argument that Tony and Manu were our fifth and sixth best players in the series, which I would've thought impossible. Ginobili's postseason streak of leading the team in +/- for six straight series has come to an end. His countryman Oberto, of all people, was the guy to do the honors, finishing at +30.
Findog was the star in Game 5, drilling 8 of 9 threes and finishing with 26 points, a series high for us. He broke Bruce's record of seven bombs in a playoff game and helped to dispatch the Nugs about halfway through the 3rd quarter. His stroke is actually in full Bowen mode actually, as he's been looking a lot smoother from behind the line than in front of it. When he's taking threes he just catches and shoots. A lot of his two pointers are filled with jab steps, hesitation, pump fakes - they just look messy. It's like he's trying to do his best Manu imitation in the perimeter, but Gino's never been known for his 17 foot jumpers.
Speaking of Manu, I have no idea what the hell was wrong with him. He played only 17 minutes, and even that was too many. He looked like he was trapped in quicksand most of the night. Gino picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter and could never get into the rhythm of the game when he checked back in during the 2nd quarter. You could tell how much of a mental funk he was in because he lost Steve Blake twice for wide open threes. He played with a bit more energy in the third, but still couldn't buy a shot, and he finished 1 for 8 and four points.
Schnozzo finished the series sandwiching a couple of crap games around three solid efforts, but I'm still waiting for that breakout game from him. His shot looks terrible right now - he actually hit the side of the backboard once - and I would like to see him take it to the basket hard until the stroke comes back around. Unfortunately, the worse he shoots, the more people will sag off him, making it that much harder to take it to the basket. One thing I've noticed is that he doesn't seem to be very confident going behind his back on the dribble drive, and that needs to change. He's getting those one handed crossovers stolen fairly often now because he puts the ball in front of him and defenders have gotten used to it. If he put the ball behind his back he could catch people lunging and go right past them.
Likewise Elson logged only 17 minutes, but I thought he had by far his best game of the series, rebounding aggressively and generally being in the right place defensively. We're gonna need him to come up big for us against the Suns because I doubt Pop wants to spend too much time with Timmy on S.T.A.T. Oberto's got the kind of game that can burn the Suns for a few buckets, but I don't know what he can do against them in his own end.
I've heard it suggested that Barry will play a lot more against the Suns than the Nuggets, but I don't know how realistic that is. I think Horry's emergence has left Brent as the odd man out, really. Unless we play small, he's not going to get much time, especially if Fin continues to bury the long ones. The problem is I don't know if Pop will be able to resist the temptation to play small once the Suns trot out that lineup out there with Barbosa at the two and Bell at the three. Not only am I worried that Pop will do something drastic, along the lines of Findog at power forward, but I suspect we might be treated to the occasional Vaughn-Parker backcourt as well, and that sends shivers down my spine.
One line-up I very much doubt we'll see again is Mr. Parker in the nude. There's a reason Pop has barely ever used it in the regular season folks. Tony needs the star presence of Tim or Manu to calm him down out there, distract defenders, and keep him sane. He played three minutes without them at the end of the 2nd quarter, and the results were what you might expect - an 8-0 run against us, very loose defense, and Tony casting awkward 20 footers while four scrubs stood around watching. Perhaps Pop felt he had no choice but to try it, with Manu playing so poorly and Tim in foul trouble, but still, I never ever want to experience that again. Game 5 Tony, with clothes on: +19 in 33 minutes. Game 5 Tony, bareass nekkid: -8 in 3 minutes. Ugh. I can't be the only one to notice these things.
Either way, Pop made an important discovery the last time we played Phoenix. He put Bruce on Nash, messed up the timing and angles of the hoser's pick and roll with Amare a bit, let Tony neutralize Barbosa's speed, and took his chances with Fin/Manu on Marion. Obviously Bruce does the best job on Matrix, but really Finley or Ginobili can do almost as well. The guy gets all of his points on transition, threes, and offensive rebounds. He is not a dribbler, not a slasher, and not a low post threat. Theoretically size and quickness aren't prerequisites to stop any of his strengths. We just have to be smart and alert. The key will be weather we can keep him off the boards because otherwise I still don't see him doing much against us.
Really, it's very similar to Denver. If we can keep Amare and Nash in the low 50s between them and everyone else in the 40s, we should be okay. 100 points should be enough to win most of the games. Also, like Denver, I'm comforted by the fact that their coach stinks. So, here we go, Game 1 is tomorrow. All we gotta get is one of the first two and we put ourselves in position to win a ring just by winning the rest of our home games. The wheat has separated itself from the chaff and the playoffs begin for real tomorrow.
Spurs in six.
3. Tony Parker - 17 and 10, most of them to Fin, and more fabulous defense vs. Iverson. So much for the theory that we need him to score a lot to win games. It's the defense, stupid.
2. Michael Finley - Matthew's been barfing up so much crow of late, he's going to become a vegetarian once the playoffs end.
1. Tim Duncan - To the clueless NBA scribes out there, this is how an MVP plays during the postseason.
PS One last emphatic "FUCK YOU" to Mr. Carmelo Anthony. This cheap punk bitch shoved Gonzo in the back for absolutely no reason while the two were running back down the floor. Not only was Manu not killing them (just the opposite), but he didn't even have the ball. This incident is just the latest in a long list of wannabe gangster Melodrama for this whiny poser. He is a pathetic loser who can't do anything but score and I hope he never makes it out of the first round. Even Nowitzki can get you some rebounds or come up with the occasional assist. Anthony and Karl are made for each other and I can only hope that marriage stays together for years to come.