Yesterday night I watched in horror as the Lakers beat us in our own house.
I sat in the library, staring listlessly for the next few minutes at the choppy Chinese internet feed and contemplated the implications of this loss. At this point the collective mind of Spurs Nation had only one question: could we beat the Lakers come playoffs?
After analyzing the box score, reading countless recaps, and watching highlights replayed in every imaginable laguage (in all of which the most understandable word was "Kobeeee!") I just closed up shop and went home to bed. Forget finals, there was no way I could concentrate at this point.
I woke up the next morning to see what the world had to say about that wretched game.
Click, Click, Click.
Headline: Spurs lacking answers for Kobe, Lakers by Johnny Ludden.
In a nutshell this was what Ludden had to say:
"...deep down, the Spurs also left Thursday knowing this: For them, the Lakers are matchup hell. That doesn’t make the Spurs different from most of the NBA, but it also won’t help them in May. Duncan hasn’t looked right since he took a few games off to rest his knee, but Pau Gasol also has consistently given him trouble since arriving in Los Angeles. The Spurs never have had an answer for Lamar Odom’s athleticism and length. Nor can they match the depth of the Lakers’ bench."
I feel a little better actually. And this is why.
Even though our win over the Lakers this season was far from convincing (Roger Mason heroics, obviously) you have to say they are incredibly weakend without the presence of Andrew Bynum. Yesterdays game was the first post-Bynum-injury matchup and to be fair I was expecting to win. We lost. But hey, 24 hours later I'v come to accept the fact that whatever happens happens.
There's a one thing in that article from Yahoo which is true. It's that Duncan has not been himself since his knee injury. Without him playing at least decent basketball even a die-hard Spurs fans such as I would acknowledge that we are nothing. But that's the same for any team. You think LA could even beat OKC without Kobe (Dallas certainly couldn't even with Dirk)? And speaking of him, without the German Wunderkid the Mavs would be about as good as the WNBA All-stars.
The point is that this article is an incorrect application of what happend in Thursday's game to all Spurs-Lakers matchups.
Gasol is an excellent player and there's no telling what I would do to have him suit up next season in a Spurs uniform; but to suggest that Duncan can't match up against him is absolutely preposterous. He had a great game on Thursday, (10/15 23-11-3) theres no denying that, but I mean like we all agree, Duncan hasn't been himself. All you would have to do is rewatch last seasons Western Conference Finals to see the outcome of a heathy Gasol-Duncan matchup. In Game 1 Duncan racked up 30 points on 12/25 shooting and 18 rebounds compared to Gasol's 19 points on 9/16 shooting and 7 rebounds. Sure Gasol seems more "efficient" but thats because he gets to shoot that open J Kurt Thomas gets to shoot half the time. I mean if you actually WATCHED the game instead of just looking at the boxscore you would have seen Timmy going wild inside over a cowering Gasol. Not to bore you with more statistics but the same story pretty much replayed itself for the next 4 games. In just boards alone Duncan racked up 16, 21, 17, 15 compared to Gasols 7, 5, 10, 19. The bottom line is right now, Tim is tired, beat and can't play even close to full throttle, but when he does, and we reach the Conference Finals again expect Gasol to phone Kupchak and request a trade to somewhere out East so he doen't have to keep getting embarrased every post-season by the Big Fundamental.
To insinuate that the Spurs have been searching all these years for an answer to Lamar Odom is to make a complete mockery of the franchise. Yeah sure he is "long and athletic" but where has that ever gotten anyone (see Kwame Brown). Yesterday it seems like he had a pretty good game, especially if all you did was look at the stats sheet. The main numbers that stood for Odom were his 6 offensive rebounds, which resulted I presume, from his unrivaled athleticism. But again if you actually watched the game isntead of reading recaps and boxscores you would have noticed that Odom grabbed 3 of his 6 offensive boards in the first quarter. There is absolutely no need to explain to anyone that the first quarter on Thursday was a total abberation. To score 35 points in one quarter on any NBA team other than the Warriors is just uncommon to say the least. So, the happenings of the first quarter aside, Odom managed another average night over the remaining 3 quarters 2/11 shooting 5 points and 7 rebounds.
I don't know why anyone thinks that a bench which consists of Vujacic, Powell, Mbenga, Walton and Farmar is that great. I mean Farmar is out of control half the time, Walton is only in the NBA because of his last name (although he has improved over this year), and Sasha...well lets just say he's not that fierce. At least all the players on the Spurs bench know their roles. There is George Hill whos turning out to be one of the best pickups of the season, Bruce Bowen a proven defensive specialist, Kurt Thomas a smart player, great rebounder and can hit that open J, Oberto a decent defender and good passer and of course its absolutely superflous to point out that we have Manu Ginobili a bench player that is better than 99.9% of the NBA.
There are two conclusions to this post 1) Ludden's application of last nights game to all Spurs-Lakers matchups is wrong and 2) We lost last night but that was becasue of a horribly embarrasing first quarter.
Anyways, as a final word to all Spurs fans: fear not. And to the Lakers: see you in May.
Another quote from the Ludden article:
"Kobe Bryant had just snuffed the life from the San Antonio Spurs, coolly drilling a 3-pointer to send fans streaming into the brisk South Texas night, and even he was not prepared for the response that greeted him.
MVP? Deep in the heart of Texas? Lakers Nation had taken over the home of one of its most bitter rivals, surprising no less than Bryant himself."
This is what happens when you're sitting in the Lakers section, you get the wrong idea...and also it was the horrible attempt at a halfcourt trap and the shambolic rotation the resulted in an Odom to Gasol (ironic I know) layup after Timmy's shot that really sealed the game.