Tim: "The court dimensions seem to be off by 2.5 centimeters. Floor density a little lighter at 15.3 cubic centimeters. Need to adjust my bank shot's spin to approximately 35 rpm's..."
Manu: "I wonder which side of the backboard and angle I'm going to use when Gortat tries to block my shot..."
Tony: "Hmm... didn't know they had fine-looking 'cats in the desert. Orange tank top, check and stored..."
"Reunited and it feels so good," is how a line from the song goes, and although the San Antonio Spurs' Big Three haven't been that far removed from playing together, it has been about a week already since we saw the trio dominate a depleted Minnesota Timberwolves team. It's somehow fitting that they got back to sharing the court against a very familiar foe in Steve Nash, Shannon Brown (!) and the streaking Phoenix Suns, who by all accounts, playoffs or no playoffs, have exceeded expectations.
Speaking of familiarity, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili playing on the court best represent one's experience with very close, long-time friends. You might not see them for a year or two or even more, but when you finally get to meet, there are no gaps in conversations, no brain farts in reminiscing the good and bad times, and the old jokes somehow never get stale while new ones just add on to the hilarity. Unlike your ugly intermittent internet connection, the link up is seamless, communication is water-translucent, and the feel for each other's tendencies is like having the same set of neurons mapped in different brains. That's how it felt like after the Spurs trio once again stood tall over their counterparts from the desert at the conclusion of a high-energy battle.
Having had the fortune (or misfortune) to write about a ton of the games last season, I'm constantly thinking of ways how to talk about THE game (as judge Timbo puts it) because really, it's not about sounding like an Associated Press writer but rather, just being somebody who doesn't know jack about basketball and simply wanting to make people feel weird and uncomfortable that they're hanging out on a blog. Yeah, I went there.
Visual approximation of davis in a conference.
So for this instance, you guys are in (bad) luck because I'm going to discuss the game side-by-side with my experience of being in a half-day conference. The good(s) -- 1) I get to step out of work and go to a nice hotel, munch on some darn fine cuisine; 2) I get to wear a suit; and 3) I get to sleep while some rich old men talk about how they're going to make more money. The bad -- 1) I have these awful cold sores (NOT herpes!) that prevent me from fully enjoying the buffet table; 2) I'm forced to wear a suit ; and 3) I have to listen to some rich old men talk about how they're going to make more money.
The hotel was just a stone's throw away from my office, so I get to work a little bit early, check email, drop some lines on the game thread in the hopes of sounding smart and witty. After 20,000 comments on PtR, it had come to my attention how pathetic I am for still needing affirmation, but hey, sometimes one can't help but be affirmed like Pop still putting DeJuan Blair in the starting lineup even if he only plays 15 minutes. Okay, I guess we can say the same for RJ when he was still here, except Pop puts him longer as if to tell everybody but RJ, "Look everyone! Richard Jefferson is an awful basketball player! Everyone, look!!!" I just realized how my life and RJ's career seems to be similar. Now I'm a little bit depressed.
Back to the office, my boss arrives and asks "Yo, what time's that thingie we going to?" as if to sound cool when the fact remains he's earning boatloads of cash, automatically making him uncool forever. So the trusty little soldier that I am, looks at my watch (it's 9:15 am) and because I thought I did read the invitation correctly, I say "10 o'clock, plenty of time." He replies back, "okay, cool" and it again drives me nuts. Dude! You. Are. Not. Cool. Okay? God, why do I have to deal with this? Why me? Whyyyyyyyy???
At 10:00 am, we're still at work while he's happily chatting away with a colleague. I was getting a little restless, so I pull up the invitation from my email again and notice that the conference was supposed to start at 9:20. Big oops. I tell my boss the truth and he's like, "okay let's go" with as much Stephen Jackson-like swedge as he can. I get my jacket, we're brisk walking towards the hotel while I'm trying to hide the glee in my face for having shaved off a good chunk of time from having to sit around and listen to people blab about the economy. Psh. It's freaking 2012, people! The Mayans have spoken and they've chosen Steve Nash to be their sacrifice! Obviously, I know this because of Steve's hair, which has something of a Mayan feel to it for all its creepiness. And the fact that he's 67 years old and can still ball. This end of the world buzz is not rocket science, really.
As we enter the ballroom, there's a panel discussion going on about something that nobody really cares about. We all know everyone's there for the free food. We find seats in the back -- very strategic by the way, since it's located near the coffee table and exit if in case you want to partake of the hotel's snazzy comfort rooms. I make an effort to "leave a souvenir" every time I go to these things, if you know what I mean *wink*.
By this time, the Spurs-Suns game have already started, and I'm furiously switching between Twitter and Yahoo boxscore trying to get the latest updates. The name Tim Duncan keeps on popping out (Timmy jumper! Timmy banker! Timmay And-One!!!) that made me almost squeal in delight, except that I had to avoid judgmental gazes from a nice-looking middle-aged lady sitting beside me stealthily trying to see what I was doing, and of course, my boss who later on admitted he was checking out the Lakers-Warriors game (he's a Laker fan... I know, just my luck).
On the Suns' end, Shannon Brown (16 points, 7-10 FG, 3-4 3PT in the first half) is having the game of his life, dropping bombs and just overall trying to do his best Kobe Bryant impression. You know, that Shannon Brown who used to play for LA and couldn't hit the broadside of a 400-pound, 80 inch-wide Boris Diaw to save his life. Also in the first half, Sebastian Telfair magically became a basketball player again, scoring 11 points on 5-6 shooting. I expressed my disgust about this to Wayne Vore on Twitter, and he promptly replies with "Werd." Yep, that's wisdom coming out of my 60-ish-year old former PtR boss.
Divine intervention or not, the conference's first panel discussion mercifully comes to an end just as it is halftime in Arizona, and we get to have a nice 10-minute coffee break. Yay! We transfer to an adjacent room and I kind of sleepwalk my way to the coffee counter (I'm still wondering to this day how I managed to get food and coffee without spilling anything on my very white dress shirt) but not without stopping by at another table to pick up a croissant and butter. I was giving the stink eye to a bowl filled with yogurt cups but successfully kept myself from getting one because people might think I was just there for the food, which is actually true. These guests didn't seem to be as dumb as they thought they were, I guess.
At this point, I gather that my cover as a phony conference participant has been blown (T-W-S-S) so I hurry up and pour myself some coffee, but put too much cream on it. Now let me tell you this. I'm not really a coffee drinker, especially in the morning. If I have to -- because sometimes, as social creatures, we need to blend and act cool so we do things like social smoking, drinking, kayaking, surfing, beach volleyballing, etc. -- I drink the coffee black like the Spurs' non-fiesta, menacing colors. Maybe put a little sugar so I don't end up spit-spraying the liquid to whoever poor chap in front of me. I avoid milk or cream just like how Diaw dodges team nutritionists, because really, the combination of coffee + cream is....um... rather....uh... explosive. So yes, I completely forgot that I had that gurgling in my stomach, innocently trying to get back into the thick of the game, I mean, the conference.
Visual approximation of the coffee being digested in davis' stomach.
Oh great, Panel 2 is starting and I could totally give a shit about suits talking about energy and power but the panelists all belong to the big, bad, oligopolistic oil companies! It's like hearing Blair teach Gary Neal how to play defense. Of course, normally, I tune out at the speed of light and resume fiddling with my phone to see if we've finally crushed the living cactus out of the Suns. Much to my chagrin, Phoenix has taken the lead as the Spurs have gone cold, while Shannon from American Pie keeps on pie-ing the Spurs on his way to a career-high 32 points, and Marcin Gortat pounds the rock with his own custom-made Polish hammer. The horrific 3QC is barely averted with some timely combination of Mabohi Leonobiaw (Manu jumper, Diaw interior hoop, and Leonard dunk off a Diaw pass with Gino getting the hockey assist) to still have the Spurs on top, 84-83 heading into the fourth.
My boss leans in to point out to me that there's this guy in front of us who's been sleeping the entire time, and hasn't woken up during applause and even during the coffee break! Oh my god is he dead? I asked boss for permission to check the dude's pulse, but he calms me down and says the guy's pretty notorious for sleeping through entire conferences. I think at one event, he snored so loudly it echoed all over the room. I wanted to give him a Bruce Bowen-type flying kick to the face just to see how deep his sleep was, but didn't want to risk getting booted off the hotel and missing on the food. As I was trying to contemplate how to survive the conference, the second panel ends and all of a sudden the conference is over and it's lunch time. Woohoo.
Tim: "Hey, Steve, sorry for that hip check back in '07."
Steve: "No, man. It's fine."
Tim: "No, really... I'm sorry."
Steve: "What? No, it wasn't even you! It was that thug Horry... it's alright."
Tim: "You were supposed to get a ring then... I'm really, really sorry."
Steve: "Tim, stop making me feel bad, okay?!! I said, I'm fine!!!"
Tim: "Oh, okay. Well then, about that free agency of yours after this season...Pop has this awesome wine cellar..."
We literally make a dash to the dining area and I madly tried to sample every single course laid out on the buffet table, all the while trying to think about Boris Diaw so I don't have to feel bad about myself. While eating, I was keeping abreast of the fourth quarter happenings, and felt a sense of calm knowing Tony Parker has decided to take over the damn game. Tony goes on a personal 6-0 run of pull up jumpers, assists on a basket by Diaw, and drains another jumper for good measure to put the Spurs up by 11 points and totally takes the air out of the arena. Nash tries to score a bit but at this point, really, resistance is futile.
Despite the Spurs going cold in the last four minutes (our last points coming by way of TP going 4-4 from the free throw line to ice the game, helped in part by critical offensive rebounds by Manu and Bonner), I continue chowing down my food until I was stopped dead in my munching tracks. The coffee + cream lava has surreptitiously risen to the top (or fallen to the bottom, depends on your perspective) of my system, and damn, was it ready to go like Kobe's trigger finger. I tried holding it off, acting coyly and laughing with my colleagues, but the volcanic eruption cannot be held any longer. Meekly, I ask where the bathroom is, acting like a total weirdo by telling everybody I'm going to pee. Sure man, because it's normal to just stand up and pee in the middle of your meal, right? Busted.
But, c'mon! I was desperate and to get to the nearest loo, I had to ride an elevator. WHY do these things happen to me?! Let me walk you through my thoughts: okay, slow walk, act cool... let your butt move like how it normally does. Wow is that a really yummy black forest chocolate cake? Wait, no I cant... argh this elevator is taking TOO LONG. Oh shhiiii... this place is about to blowwwww ahh nooo hold it hold it hold iiiittttt. Where's that damn door lock? Ah yes, all set... *explosion / mushroom cloud*
Visual approximation. Yes, just a plain visual approximation. Of whatever you can think of.
- If you think about it, run-and-gun basketball, or more specifically, the Suns' Seven-Seconds-Or-Less basketball is as much a mind game as it is an exercise in testing one's stamina and physical limits. Since the D'Antoni days, the Suns just send wave after wave after wave of offense at you -- layups, dunks, and the back-breaking three-pointers -- that on any day can and will crush a team's spirit. The Spurs were just the perfect foil for them, never really getting rattled with the offensive onslaught because they were sure that at some point, the waves will stop. And then they have this system that the team follows to the rule: they just execute them flawlessly like robots, and sooner or later, they'll find themselves on top. Ditto for this game. Tony Parker said it best: "Shannon Brown was making crazy shots so we felt like if we could hang in there things were going to turn and they’re going to miss at some point, and they started missing and we played better defense."
- Tim Duncan is in the best basketball shape of the latter stage of his career. I think the Slim Tim frame fits him really well, and it shows in his game. He might get bumped off out of position a little more these days, but having additional quickness to beat people to certain spots on the floor is better than him being an immovable object.
- Spurs have won 8 of the last 9 games, currently riding a 5-game win streak. When was the last time we were closing the regular season this strongly? In the '03 championship season, the Spurs finished 18-4 in its last 22 games with an 11-game winning streak; the '05 edition, 12-10 in the last 22 games; and the '07 team, 16-6 of its last 22 contests.
Your Three Stars
3 - Manu Ginobili - 13-5-5, 6-10 FG, 1 gorgeous steal and 1 TO. I mean, we all loved last season's starter Manu, but off the bench? He's truly a golden god.
2 - Tony Parker - 24-4-7, 9-17 FG, 2 TOs. It's his team, his time. I didn't think we'd see 2008-09 Tony Parker ever, but he's just upped the ante this season.
1 - Tim Duncan - 26-11-2, 11-16 FG, 1 steal, 1 TO. Getting two days' rest has been really great for Timmy, and hopefully, the effect will still be the same in the playoffs.