There are parts of life that are supposed to make clear, logical sense. Things are planned out, and executed to the fullest of your capabilities. Planning a career, for example, is one of the most structured things you can do. Let's say you're a kid, and you want to be a writer when you grow up. First you'd write for your high school newspaper. Then maybe you'd start up a little blog just to get some traffic. After that, you go to college, major in journalism, and write for a student-run publication. During your 4 years, you create a Twitter account to network with like-minded writers, work hard, graduate, and BOOM! Now you're a writer; fresh out of college with a degree and a couple job offers.
Sometimes, though, stuff gets weird.
Think about your hypothetical writer self. What if you change majors? What if college wasn't right for you, or you couldn't afford it? What if you end up face down in a ditch 40 miles away from campus without any of your clothes because you got too nervous about finals and entered into a fugue state for a couple of days?
I bring all of this up because, to be blunt, basketball is really, really freaking weird. Yes, there's always a set strategy for games. There's a plan in place to build a franchise. Whether on the hardwood or in the GM's office, there is some sort of process to be trusted.
However, more often than not, stuff ends up going wrong. In some games, shots just won't fall. Maybe the opposition figured out the perfect way to exploit your pick-and-roll defense. Maybe a key player went out on the town the night before the game and isn't feeling too hot.
Wednesday's game between the Spurs and the Nets epitomized the idea of basketball getting odd quickly. It started out as a perfectly normal early-December game, but in the 4th quarter, the game got turned on its head. In the first 7 minutes of the quarter, the Nets scored 13 points, were up by 10 with the Spurs struggling to make shots. Out of nowhere, the Spurs put out a unit consisting of Cory Joseph, Danny Green, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, and Tim Duncan, they played their tails off, and cut the lead to a single point with two minutes left.
They could never quite get the lead, though. Danny Green had an open layup on a baseline. Tim Duncan had a good look at the rim. No matter how open the opportunities were though, the Spurs came up empty until the Nets were up 3 again, and Green hit a last-second three-pointer to put the game into overtime.
The shenanigans continued in overtime, even if they were more self-inflicted wounds than anything else. With 1:13 left in the extra period, and San Antonio down 2, Ginoobili got a rebound, went down the court, and tried to go full-Poo-Gawd with a PUJIT 3 instead of taking his time and setting up offense for a good shot.
The teams traded misses for a couple possessions, and then the Nets' Mirza Teletovic rebounded a missed Spurs 3 with 28 seconds left. With a 4-5 second gap between the shot clock and game clock, Popovich wanted to play out the possession, get a stop, and hold for the last shot. But, when he yelled "DON'T FOUL" from the sideline, Green misheard him and fouled Teletovic, giving the Nets a fresh shot clock they could ride out to the end, and taking the Spurs' potential final shot away. Of course, the Spurs trapped hard on the next inbounds, got a turnover, and had a shot to win the game. But the valiant effort fell short as Manu Ginobili's three-point attempt clanged off of the rim.
A lot can happen over an 82 game season. Some of these things can be planned for. Some will leave you speechless. At one moment a team can be riding high on an 8-game winning streak, the next they can fall short in a game by no one's fault but it's own. Embrace it all, because it's all basketball.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
"The Nets wanted this game more than the starters did, I think...They might not agree with me, but I don't really care. Because I'm right."
Personally, I think the Spurs played just as hard as the Nets. They made some mental mistakes late, but the effort was there. They missed a lot of open shots over the course of the game, and some bunnies right at the rim in overtime. Overall, I'd say the Nets outplayed the Spurs; not that they outworked them. Tim Duncan is inclined to agree. But Coach Pop doesn't care. Because Coach Pop is right.
Danny Green - 20 points, 6-11 from 3PT, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals, 2 assists
Green really only played well in the 4th quarter and overtime, but that's still the best individual performance from the game. He caught fire from beyond the arc, hitting 4 of his 6 threes in the final quarter, one of which sent the game into extra time.
NUMBERS ON THE BOARD
- 35.6: San Antonio's putrid team field goal shooting percentage.You can't win a basketball without being able to put an orange sphere into a cylindrical space.
- 19: Cory Joseph's plus-minus for the night; the highest for the game. Due to Tony Parker struggling for most of the game, Joseph got most of the minutes at point guard in crunch time. He did not disappoint. He played a hellish style of defense, pressuring Williams up and down the floor. On offense, he'd push the ball up in transition and get the halfcourt flow moving quickly. Joseph was instrumental in the Spurs' 4th quarter comeback.
- 0.2: After missing a three-pointer to go ahead by 1 with few seconds to go in overtime, a rugby scrum broke out for the ball as the clock got closer to 0. After blowing the whistle and reviewing the play, the officials ruled that there would be a jump-ball with 0.2 seconds left. That meant that the Spurs' only chance to win was to somehow tip the ball to someone, and then get a shot up in that tiny increment of time. The rules of time and space proved too worthy of a foe, and the Spurs left Barclay's with an L in hand.
- The Spurs played the best defense I've seen from them all season during their 4th quarter comeback. A unit of Joseph/Green/Ginobili/Leonard/Duncan hunkered down on defense with 5 minutes to go in the 4th quarter, and never looked back. They pressured Brooklyn into bad shots late in the clock time and again, rebounded, and pushed the ball up with tempo to get good looks. Although they missed some shots that could have won the game, and ultimately came up short, you have to tip your cap to the way that group performed in that portion of the game. Now if only it were to happen over the span of 48 minutes.
- Mirza Teletovic played out of his mind on Wednesday. The 3rd year forward from Bosnia & Herzegovina exploded for 26 points on 9-13 from the field, with a deadly 5-7 from beyond the arc. He spotted up from 3, handled the rock a bit, and made some great plays in ATO sets as part of his spectacular scoring performance. He was all over the floor, and made sure the Nets came away with a win. Teletovic also had 15 boards and 2 assists on the night.