Game 33: Warriors 130, Spurs 121 (OT)
Well that sucked. In fact, it was a complete outrage. The Warriors laid down like dogs at Dallas, letting Dirk do whatever he wanted. They were miserable at home versus the Hornets, with Paul outplaying the Baron when it mattered. They play like world-beaters against us, seemingly hitting every fucking shot they took the last three quarters and OT and prompting the nighttime radio guy on KNBR 680, (the biggest sports station in the Bay Area) Damon Bruce, to declare that Davis "is the MVP of the NBA." Of course, Mr. MVP went out in their next game on the road, at Portland, and took a big steaming dump on center court last night, finishing with four points and one assist in 14 uninspired minutes. Fuck the Warriors, fuck them in their stupid fucking asses. I can't believe I've seen this disorganized gang of idiot savants win three home games this year. Do you realize the Warriors (9-7 at home) are under .500 in home in games I haven't attended? This is maddening. I'm like a jinx. To be fair, Manolis was at all these games too, and he was rooting for the Dubs, so go blame him.
I know everyone is going gaga about this game, saying how exciting it was, how fun it was, how even though it ended up as another notch in the "L" column, it was almost like a moral victory because of how they fought back and it was a fogafini and all that. Okay, maybe other folks, not hip to PtR since they're simpletons aren't technically using the term "fogafini," but you get what I'm saying. My point is that I'm here to tell you I was in agony watching this game. It was anything but fun for me. Even winning would've been satisfying, from the standpoint of the emotional lift it would've given the team to comeback from all the deficits, but it would have still been a Pyrrhic victory overall in my mind because by now I recognize what championship Spurs basketball looks like, and that's certainly not what I was watching out there.
Let's call a spade a spade: The defense was abysmal. I don't understand how it happened. The Warriors were a complete mess in the 1st quarter. It was literally dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble-contested fadeaway jumper every time down the floor for them. We were all making fun of their retarded Stephon Marbury offense in our box. I mean they looked dreadful and all signs pointed to a Spurs runaway. We were up 15-5 early, don't forget.
Then, out of the blue, they start mixing in a few passes. They snatch a few offensive rebounds and score on putbacks. They get some fastbreak gimmes off our turnovers. Just like that, we're the patsies, playing the role of the whiter-than-white Washington Generals to the Golden State Globetrotters. I wanted to vomit my guts out I was so disgusted.
Defensively we were all culpable. It started with Tony, who couldn't have been softer on the screens the Warriors lone big (usually Andris Biedrins, occasionally Al Harrington) would set to free up Monta Ellis for the top of the key jumper. Really Tony played Monta the way most people play Tony, just going under every screen and praying to God he doesn't drive anyway. To Frenchie McWonderbutt's credit, he at least picked up the defensive intensity somewhat in the second half. Anyway, the malaise spread from Tony to Tim. He was completely out to lunch in the second and third quarters, always two steps late guarding the rim, routinely letting smaller guys snatch boards from him, just basically floating around with both thumbs up his butt in his own end. Finally the disease struck Opus, and it led to our ultimate demise. I don't want to be accused of sugarcoating this any, so let me be very clear on this Manu's defense was beyond pathetic in the 4th quarter and overtime. He simply refused to stay on his man (usually crazyass Stephen Jackson, once in a while Davis or Kelenna Azubuike). It didn't matter who he was supposed to be on, he was always gambling, double-teaming the ball. It happened so often that you had to think it was by design, there was no way Pop would've let him do it that many times without pulling him and reaming him out on the bench, but still, all that doubling was useless and ineffective, it never led to any turnovers and all that it accomplished was giving the Warriors a bunch of wide open looks.
I don't understand why we did it. The Warriors love to shoot long contested jumpers. They live to shoot them. They need to shoot them. Why didn't we just let them clank themselves to death? The only guy on the team who showed any inclination to drive was Davis, and that was when Bruce was guarding him, so it was a macho thing more than a strategic maneuver. I always thought that the biggest tenet of our defense, the thing that Pop preaches more than anything else, was to guard the three point line and to make other people beat us two points at a time. And this game, for whatever reason, we refused to guard the line. We gave Davis and Jackson too much room time and again instead of crowding them and kept thinking that the percentages will catch up to them so let's let them shoot.
This was flawed, stupid philosophy. Davis and Jack don't shoot bad percentages because they can't hit wide open shots. Their percentages stink because they put up tons of long shots even when they're not open. If everyone played defense on Golden State the way we did for the majority of that game, then Davis and Jack would be the starting backcourt in the All-Star game, on merit.
Maybe the perimeter guys felt the need to back the hell up because they sensed that Tim didn't have it in him that night to be any kind of deterrent at the rim. I don't know. What I do know is that the team clawed back into the game with a lineup of Oberto-Bowen-Udoka-Ginobili-Vaughn and that that quintet actually managed to force a few bricks from Golden State, if only for a brief respite. Then Tony and Tim checked in and the game became a shootout again. The Warriors had a stretch where they scored 15 points on five possessions, with three bombs and two And-1s where Bruce got punked by Davis. After the second time it happened Pop benched Bowen for the rest of the game and went with Udoka.
I don't know how other people guard Davis, but we can't seem to figure it out. The first time we played them, we went with Tony, and he got posted up to death and we had to double and it led to easy baskets for everyone else. This time around we started with Bruce, then Udoka, then random Ginobili doubling and that didn't work either. He lit us up to the tune of 34 points, 14 assists and 0 turnovers, an inconceivable line against our supposed good defense.
This cannot be tolerated in the future. You can't let the guy score and pass. My recommendation is that we Amare him from now on. Let him get whatever he wants but don't leave his teammates, no matter what, under any circumstances. I don't care if Davis scores 60, if we stick on the other guys eventually he'll get tired and the rest of them will get frustrated and we should beat the Warriors handily. I still can't believe we lost to them, they're so exploitable that I'm gonna get sick again just thinking about it. The Blazers got dunks against their "half-court defense" on their first four possessions and the Warriors had to switch to a zone two minutes into the game. Two minutes! How do we let these guys play their game against us? Ugh.
Other aspects of the game besides our defense also left me crabby. First of all, WHY THE FUCK ARE WE STILL STARTING ROBERT HORRY? Give it up, Pop, he's terrible. He did nothing the whole first half, yet you started him anyway in the second half, he sucked again, and you immediately pulled him after a minute. What was the point of that? To embarrass him? To appeal to his sense of pride for future games? Robert Horry doesn't have any pride, Pop. If he did, he'd have retired two years ago. He's been stealing money for 13 regular seasons! He's perfectly at ease with it. He'll keep cashing those paychecks if you keep sending them. What part of this do you not understand?
Also, why can't Fab-O get some love? One lineup I would've loved to see would've been Timmeh-Fab-Findog-Opus-TWaRP. It never happened. In fact, Oberto was in the game strictly as Duncan's back-up and the two of them didn't share a second of court time together. Why the hell not? Weren't we pretty fucking good with the both of them in the starting line-up for the first two months? Weren't they combining well in the high-low game? I just don't get it. What was Pop afraid of, playing big and eschewing both Udoka and Bowen, that we'd play some bad defense? Oh God forbid we play any bad defense against the Golden State Warriors.
And what's up with eight minutes for Matt Bonner? What the fuck is that? The Red Rocket has probably been our most consistent player in terms of durability and effort this past month and he gets banished after one crappy eight minute stretch? Yeah, he took some bad shots against these guys. Who the hell in the game didn't take some bad shots? He deserved another chance.
Finally, I don't understand what the point of playing Manu 41 minutes (12 above his average) was if he didn't put up a shot in the last 12:56 of the game and had just attempt in the last 18 minutes of the game. He certainly started the game crappy, just as was the case the last time he was in Oakland, (it's the SF sex clubs, I'm telling you) but he was pretty frickin hot as the game went on and I was stupefied that Tony didn't look for him more and Pop didn't call more plays for him. Yes, I'm perfectly aware that we scored 38 points in the 4th, but it looked to me the more uninvolved Ginobili was on offense, the more he tried to make something happen on defense, and while that's sometimes a good thing, we're also painfully aware of the times that's a bad thing. Maybe he could've drawn a few fouls on Biedrins or Harrington and made things easier for Tim. Maybe being into the game more on offense would've led to him playing sounder defense. Who knows? Opus made a few nifty passes there at the end, but overall I shocked that Mr. 4th Quarter was such a decoy when the game was hanging in the balance. They didn't even go to him in overtime.
I guess anytime you score 121 points then by definition it means your team did some things well, and it was nice to see Tim having a big offensive night, and his free throw shooting was impressive. I mean, you couldn't imagine how god damn loud that arena was Monday night when he was shooting them. To have the focus to block that out, I'm damn impressed. And Tony had himself a pretty good night, all things considered, and obviously his three from the corner at the end of regulation was a huge shot. I really thought we were gonna win it after that, fuck. Udoka had some nice moments and was generally more effective on Davis than Bruce was and Fin hit some big shots there in the 4th. I also thought Oberto's defense was very good and Vaughn had a nice stint there in the second half. Manu was mostly Manu after a bad 1st quarter, still had too many turnovers, but his shot looked better and that fake on Jack at the end of the 3rd was sick. For the life of me I don't know why he didn't shoot it, it would've brought the house down, even on the road. Maybe him passing it up was like an omen that summed up the whole game: We were close, we fought hard, we did a lot of things right, but in the end we just didn't finish it off.
Now we've got a game against Detroit tonight, and they're fresh off a whipping at Dallas, and before that they lost a home game to the juggernaut Celtics. Both these teams, proud defensive no-nonsense clubs that faced off in an epic - yet sometimes hard to watch - Finals in 2005 seem to be at a crossroads right now. I expect the game to be emotional and hard fought, and maybe the Spurs have the slight edge as the home team and they're a little fresher, not having played last night, but who the hell knows what to expect from them right now? Going from facing the Warriors defense to facing Detroit's is like stepping outside into the Las Vegas air in July after having been inside one of their air-conditioned casinos for the past eight hours. The difference will hit you, immediately, like a jab to the face. I'm hoping the game will be like Game 1 of those Finals, where the Pistons jumped on the Spurs 17-4 early where we were shell-shocked from having faced the soft Suns the series before, but we eventually found our rhythm and went on to a pretty comfortable win behind some stellar play from Duncan and Gino.
The Spurs need to find themselves, and soon. Right now they look like any other club with three superstars with three different agendas and no discernible game plan, identity, or common goal. Maybe the Pistons are the perfect team to face to remind them of who they need to be to be successful. If they don't play like the Spurs tonight, they're gonna be drubbed.