First Round Game 4 @ Phoenix: Suns 105, Spurs 86 (3-1 Spurs)How refreshing. How smooth. I can't stop touching my wonderfully clean face. I owe it all to the Spurs. It feels like Eva Longoria shaved me personally, I feel so refreshed. Much better.
Well amigos, we could analyze this thing to death and I could go on a "2,000 word rant about Robert Horry" as I believe one of my smartass so-called colleagues referred to it, or we can call a spade a spade and recognize this affair for what it was.The Pussy Game. By now you know the M.O. No matter how good we look in previous playoff contests this franchise is just not ruthless enough to beat down a respectable adversary four straight times. They don’t have it in them to embarrass or humiliate somebody. This character flaw – if it even is a flaw – also happens to be the main reason I’m dubious about their chances of repeating. You gotta be a bunch of selfish assholes to win it back-to-back and when I look at our San Antonio Spurs, maybe it’s the homer in me, but I just don’t see a bunch of selfish assholes. Well, except for Tony, of course. But you knew that. Nope, pussy game, that’s all it was. They came out "inspired" as Manu would say, and from the get go the Spurs had no jump. I don’t know why I ever thought things would be different this time around. I guess I was suckered by how well the big three played. They’ve never put together a three game stretch in the playoffs averaging 80 something points (then again, they never had to, as they had able surrounding casts). And the Suns fooled me as well. The whole team looked like they quit after Game 3, Steve Nash chief among them, and I just didn’t think they had this kind of resolve in them, so credit to them for that. Phoenix made two notable tactical adjustments, scrapping the crippled Grant Hill and making Boris Diaw the focal point of their attack, both offensively and defensively. On offense they posted him up relentlessly, no matter who was on him (and we tried quite a few different people, all to varying degrees of failure) and often ran the offense through him, giving him the shoot/pass option. On defense he was given the assignment of guarding his countryman and best bud, one Tony Parker. I think it has to be said that he was successful at both ends beyond anyone’s wildest expectations, and certainly Mike D’Antoni’s. Our head man, Gregg Popovich, didn’t make counter-adjustments to the Boris bonanza until it was too late and when he did, none of them worked. In fact the moves that he did make only made things worse. Every defender who took his turn with Boris fared poorer than the one before and when we finally gave up all together and started doubling him. Now doubling Diaw is not the same as doubling Amare. This guy can actually pass. So much so, in fact, that when the Hawks first acquired him it was under the cloud of delusion that Diaw would be the second coming to Magic Johnson, a lanky 6’9" multi-skilled point guard. That franchise is so knowledgeable about the point guard position mind you that they passed up on both Chris Paul and Deron Williams three years ago in favor of small forward Marvin Williams, but that’s neither here nor there. My point is that if some NBA club – even the Hawks – thinks a fellow has the potential of running the point for them then one would assume that such a man would be able to pass it a little.
And the geniuses that we are, we doubled Diaw and let the Suns shoot a bevy of uncontested threes, basically dumping a gallon of "hunny" over our heads before venturing into Pooh’s forest. After doing so well singling the Suns all series and making them earn their points two at a time (or in the case of Hack-a-Shaq, one at a time) we gave up 20 three point attempts, of which nine were successful. Putting it another way, getting 27 points on 20 two point attempts would require 13.5 makes, or a 67.5% conversion rate. Even Spaceball didn’t shoot that well in Game 3.
Offensively we struggled mightily as well and the final numbers are much better than they deserve to be, thanks to some productive play in garbage time by the scrubs. Our main rotation guys in a word, sucked. Tim was terrible, he missed a bunch of jumpers he usually makes, he kept whining for foul calls that never came and he spent far more time in the post when the pick-and-roll had been so successful the game before. Tony meanwhile was mighty frustrated by Diaw and never got himself untracked, was never able to use the speed mismatch to his advantage, and was unable (or unwilling) to get his teammates involved. Manu meanwhile, depending on which side of the Spurstalk fence you sit on, was either soft and disinterested, or decent but thoroughly underutilized. 50% shooting is NOT a bad night. But only eight attempts? In 21 minutes? No threes? What the hell was that?
Look, I’m not living in some fantasyland. The Spurs effort and energy was so pitiful across the board that the result would’ve likely been the same even if D’Antoni had not made a single adjustment and the Spurs had gone to Manu more. The difference between the two teams was too great for simply tactics to explain away. They wanted, we didn’t, that simple, and onward to Game 5.
However if the goal is to win Game 5, and one would hope that it is, it’s not going to be as simple as showing up and trying hard. I just don’t think it’ll be that easy. The Suns have found something here with Diaw, on both ends of the floor, and it’s up to Pop and co. to adjust to it. Either that or hope he can’t duplicate the effort, and considering that it’s Boris Diaw we’re talking about, that’s not all too optimistic a scenario to expect, really.
Me? I’d let Diaw get his post up buckets, or at least attempt to, come hell or highwater. Don’t leave the shooters alone, no matter what. If we are going to double him, I’d try to be a little sneakier about it and come from his off shoulder, along the baseline and go for the strip that way. Or double with a big, so if he makes the correct pass it’s just two points instead of three.
Offensively I think we relied on Tony trying to take over far too much. He didn’t really have the best match-up, but we kept going to him time and again expecting him to turn it on like a light switch. Without a running start, I’m not enamored about his chances against Diaw. I’d like the team to – surprise – run the offense through Manu more. Through the four games his attempts have dropped from 24 to 17 to 11 to 8. That, to me, is stupefying, considering the percentage he’s shooting for the series. That trend has to change. Mostly the team just has to play faster.
Finally, we just have to play Barry more, that’s all there is too it. Finley and particularly Bowen (0 points, 0 rebounds, 0 assists and a slick -35 in 20 minutes) are both getting far more minutes than they’ve earned while White Jesus has been pretty solid all four games and no more of a defensive liability than anyone else. We need offense against Phoenix and we need to make Nash work. With Bowen on the floor neither of those things happen. I’d rather sic The Funneler on Nash once we have a nice safe lead and he can really bear down and go to work on him. With a deficit I don’t like the match-up at all.
I’m still extremely confident we’ll take care of business tomorrow. We’ve got the better team and the better coach. D’Antoni is a clown and it was embarrassing how anal he was on Saturday, even with a huge lead. He played Diaw and Bell to death, even though the matter had already been decided halfway through the 3rd quarter (and that’s being generous). Hopefully they wasted some energy and that one day turnaround between games will affect them a bit. And getting ejected with such a big lead? That’s amateur hour in its purest right there.
This man is badly over his head and he needs to be reassigned to a less responsible position in the worst way. Let’s do the noble thing and not prolong his charade any longer.
All three of them were probably thinking about tits just then. We're all right.
(Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Your Three Stars (Such as they were)
3. Manu Ginobili – I don’t care what anyone says, he wasn’t that horrible. I mean, he wasn’t good, but I can’t really find three Spurs who played better.
2. Damon Stoudamire – Garbage time superstar. Currently probably playing better than The JV, for what that’s worth.
1. Brent Barry – His four rebounds were four more than Finley and Bowen got. At least he kinda tried.
P.S. Now that you mention it Wayne, you’re absolutely right. I really don’t want Robert Horry to play anymore. I don’t think he provides anything of value to the team and is much more of a detriment, in every possible way, than an asset. It would please me tremendously to see him in a suit from here on out. /End rant.