The other day, I sat down and made myself watch the replay of the last Knicks, Spurs game. This was not a fun exercise, for some reason. Amidst the carnage of the last really bad game the Spurs have played, I started thinking about how pretty that court is. Do they film Knicks games through some special lens that evokes nostalgia in the TV audience? Perhaps this magical lens is ground from unicorn horn, polished with the sweat of Willis Reed. You have to admit that there is a certain glow about Madison Square Garden, all the more so now that so many of the classic old arenas have been replaced by fancy new, corporatized, skybox-studded, glam domes.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, I think the Spurs have a great home. Beats the heck out of watching a basketball game in the cavernous Alamodome. Giant Blue Curtain, I do not miss thee. By all accounts the team loves working and playing at AT&T Center, and it’s a great place to watch a game, take the family. All the same, I do have a soft spot for the old Hemisfair Arena. Sure, you had a pretty good chance of sitting behind a concrete pillar that blocked out half the court. Maybe it was something of an eyesore, and it wasn’t lit all that well. But there was an intimacy about Hemisfair that’s hard for a more modern facility to recapture. And there was history. That’s where the San Antonio Spurs began. Where Gervin, Silas, and a young Robinson roamed. Where the Baseline Bums were at their rowdiest. That’s why, as wonderful as the Spurs home is, it’s a shame that Hemisfair no longer exists. It would be awesome to still feel the echoes of those bygone teams.
Well the Knicks have that, in spades. They have plenty of bygones. When they are at home. Fortunately, they are visitors tonight, and even though the name "AT&T Center" is about as bland and corporate as they come, the boys in silver have done a pretty darn good job of giving this building a little of its own history. They have had a lot of success here over the past decade, never more true than this season, where thus far the Spurs have only lost two games, the best home record in the league. Teams do not like visiting this place. Maybe Gregg Popovich could care less about threatening the seventy win mark, but I bet he values getting home court for the play-offs. It’s one big reason why these games matter, if the Spurs need any further motivation than the ten point loss that felt like a thirty point loss a couple of weeks ago at the Garden.
So that’s enough of a nostalgia moment. This is about the present, and the immediate future. Time to let the past be the past. Time to let bygones bygones. And hey, maybe even play a little defense while we’re at it. It’s game time, folks, and there really is no place like home. I am feeling optimistic on this one. The Spurs’ defense was starting to come out of its doldrums before our last two game skid, and since Boston has looked steadily better. A good indicator of how we just might clobber New York this time around is the way the Spurs handled Denver a few nights ago. There were long stretches of stifling defense in that game, and the high flying Nuggets were held to 97. Here’s hoping for some more of the same tonight.
San Antonio Spurs vs New York Knicks
Where: AT&T Center
When: DATE, 7:00 Spurs Time - Timezone Converter
By the Numbers
PG: Felton had an amazing game last time around. I have read about how he was continually in Larry Brown's doghouse in Charlotte, and that he is thriving under D'Antoni's offense, and he certainly looked great in their first match-up with the Spurs. He's putting up nearly 18 points and 9 assists per game. Last time the Spurs played off of him often on the pick and roll, and he hit a lot of pull-up jumpers. I hope to see Tony play tighter on those shots tonight, and to aggressively attack the rim like we know he can. I'm giving an ever-so-slight edge to Felton here. Prove me wrong, Tony!
SG: Landry Fields is a nice rookie. He has an epic sounding name. But Manu is having one of his best seasons, ever. I look for Ginobili to shoot better than he did against the Raptors, and to bring his usual bag of trickery. Also, maybe stretch his free throw streak another ten or so.
SF: Chandler's averaging 17 a game and 6 rebounds. RJ has struggled a little with his shot lately, but still doing great things for the team with timely baskets, tough defense, and a couple of dunks (or thwarted dunks off the rim) each night. I take Rage.
PF: Amar'e versus Duncan. Well, if we just compare points, Stoudemire is having a career season. He's what makes this team go. Duncan is letting others do a lot of the scoring, but still playing fantastic defense, passing the ball, setting crunching screens, and sometimes acting as the NBA's largest point guard. Nice try, Amar'e.
C: Turiaf is banged up and will probably play off the bench. Don't know much about this Gallinari fellow. But he looks to be about thirteen years old. I'm thinking Blair is licking his chops.
The other night in Houston, the Knicks got very little from their bench. The Spurs have been missing the Red Rocket, but they still have one of the best benches in the league. This could definitely be the difference maker tonight.
Mike D'Antoni has a system that is effective, if somewhat counter-intuitive. I firmly believe that you either succeed by doing it better than everybody else, or you succeed by doing it different. D'Antoni takes the second approach, and he does it very well. Then there's Pop. Gregg Popovich gets a lot of praise on this site, and I think it's mostly deserved. Has he ever been out-coached? Sure. You know what, though? Not lately. Popovich is relentless in his expectations, but he's flexible in how the team gets there. He will try anything, and has. I see Pop and his staff coming up with some interesting adjustments to counter the Knicks. Advantage, Spurs.
The Knicks looked like world beaters last time around, but they are still sort of hovering around .500. The Spurs are going to want a little revenge after those last few minutes of wound-licking on the bench in the fourth quarter in New York. The team will be fired up and focused, and the staff will have a plan.
The Spurs are developing some swagger right now, and I mean that in a good way.
Spurs make it 8 in a row.
Key(s) to the Game
Key 1 - Defense. Spurs need to stay focused on defense, especially the pick and roll.
Key 2 - Pace. Nothing wrong with San Antonio scoring 120 points tonight. But playing at the D'Antoni pace is fool's gold.
Key 3 - Bench. Dice, Neal, Hill and friends need to contribute big points and defense.
Spurs Planet (Anyone remember AusTechSpur? ATS? Wane Vore? This is his site. Go check it out. -jrw)
Posting and Toasting (SB Nation)
WOAI 1200AM; Audio League Pass[streaming]
As always, NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area.
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