Can we all agree not to really talk about this game?
Not that this was a complete schedule loss from the get go. Tony Parker played. Manu Ginobili played. Tiago Splitter did his thing (more on that later). The Lakers are a pit of dysfunction and cow meat. It was entirely conceivable for the Spurs to come in and lay the proverbial smack upon Swaggy P and the Funky Bunch.
You are undoubtedly more than aware that did not happen.The Spurs gave little effort on either end of the floor. Kendall Marshall was unconscious from beyond the arc and the Lakers barely gave the Spurs a fighting chance on the way to what might be the most impressive Laker win since the All-Star Break. Not that that says anything about the Spurs mind you; the Lakers are just that bad. Gregg Popovich was so interested in this game that he gave a six second press conference summarizing it before shuttling off to watch the climactic end of Mavericks-Grizzles. Honestly, this was a Spurs game in name only, and probably doesn't deserve to be talked about in much detail.
Which is why, dear readers, I must do some misty-eyed reflecting upon the season that has been. This has been my first year of Pounding the Rock coverage, both on the blog and on the Twitter feed. I was hesitant about joining the PtR, and sports blogging community in general, when the call was put out for submissions for rehashers. As I've said in one specific comment thread, I come from a background in music and movie criticism; I have never written anything longer than 140 characters on sports. Well... that's not true. I did write (on a music site) that I thought the Warriors were going to beat the Mavericks in 2007. I'm psychic, by the way. But I was never anything more than a fan with a verbose streak.
So this season has really been about melding that verbosity with the critical eye necessary to analyze such beautiful craftsmanship as the Spurs create on a basketball floor (most) every night. It's been about getting to the arena right when they open to doors so I can watch Jeff Ayres practicing the post moves he won't ever get to use in a game (although he did sink a midrange J tonight). It's been about intently monitoring the cadence and frenetic energy of Danny Green's karate routine right before the lights go out in the AT&T Center. Or about measuring the statistics on the number of times a contest in the HEB Beach Ball Mania game completes the trifecta of striped red ball-striped silver and black ball-striped red ball (it's infinitesimal... seriously, nobody does it).
This season has been about work. Fun work; work that regularly involves a lot of snark and a couple of beers. But work, nonetheless. With the exception of the beers, I feel like this mentality mirrors the outlook of Spurs players and coaching staff going through the regular season. Sure, there are the barn burner games, like overtime in Memphis with it's heroic Manu Ginobili layup. Or the utter shellackings like March 28th in Denver. Or the tragic games, where it seemed, but for a moment, that all might be lost before it even began.
So much of this season must've seemed like busywork for the Spurs. The endless cavalcade of injuries, the pesky scribbling of uninformed malcontents about the necessity of Duncan's retirement, or the Spurs inability to defeat "quality" teams. The Spurs used 30 starting lineups this season; credit for keeping things interesting, but Pop can't have felt like this regular season was anything more than an extremely long wait before the real fun begins.
Because now the real fun begins. Walking into the arena tonight was incredibly exciting for me. Not because of Fan Appreciation Night, an even the AT&T Center celebrated by handing out posters. And certainly not because I was going to see a liberal amount of Jordan Hill's unconscionable new hairstyle. I was gripping my ticket a little tighter than I normally do because the slog is finally over. The real countdown can begin in earnest . Pop can wake up from his hibernation.
It has been a strange change from winter to spring this year in San Antonio. One minute it will be quite cold (relative to San Antonio of course, which is around 40 degrees), yet wait an hour and you might see massive storm clouds or a heavenly wave of warm wind cause the weather to momentarily attain blissful perfection - clear blue skies, a slight wind, 75 degrees. As April goes on, these days become more an more common. Sure, they will very soon be replaced by sweltering summer oppression, but for the moment the weather sublimely matches the mood around the AT&T Center. No one is, today, injured. No team has more than 62 wins. And the Lakers are going home for the summer.
This regular season has been a job, in real and imagined ways. But as I step outside this morning, completely oblivious to what weather San Antonio might throw at me today, I am brought to smile by the simple thought that at long last, the work is over. The Playoffs are here.
Standard Pop Quote
I'll just leave you with this.
Nobody else has contributed to the Coyote Watch this year. I didn't really expect it to catch on, it has barely anything to do with the game itself. But tonight was a legitimately special night, and not just because of the fan appreciation that was going on.
The Coyote has been celebrating 31 years of being a Pantless Wonder this year. The celebrations have ranged from hilarious to generally pretty Coyote-ish, but tonight got me in and the sweet spot. Instead of honoring the Coyote (again), as has been custom during the first commercial break of the game, the AT&T Center PA Announcer, and the Coyote, shed like on someone else. John Fisher has been the man following behind and helping the Coyote be the Coyote for 31 years. I had no idea that this was the case, but looking back on it I don't think I can remember anyone else ever being a part of the Coyote's close cadre. The Spurs honored him with a custom jersey with the #31, signed by the Spurs and the Coyote himself. The Coyote then motioned for all of the fans to stand and applaud a man who has worked tirelessly for 31 years so that the rabble could have a decent shot at hugging a giant furry.
That my friends and I were the only ones who stood was borderline travesty. But disregarding that, I feel it must be said that John Fisher, though I've never met him, must be a really special guy. He's stepping away this year, and although I doubt the Coyote's frantic antics will change dramatically, I think I will probably miss John Fisher, now that I know the depth of dedication to the craft of mascoting.
I dunno. Cory played pretty well I guess. He had some nifty drives. He wasn't a total waste, as he has been the past few games. Let's just go with that. Congrats, Cory Joseph. You were the MVP of this near farce of a game.
The sheer magnitude of delusion that must go on in Nick Young's head during a basketball game astounds me. It's not just the bonkers shots, or the brainless defense, or even the excessive celebration after every single miraculously made fallaway prayer of a three. There is one sequence that epitomized exactly why I will never understand Nick Young.
In the fourth quarter, right before Damien James brought the ball across the timeline on offense, Nick Young made a sloppy and obviously unsuccessful slap at the ball. James dribbled backwards, away from the hand, but didn't take advantage and continued to jog back up the court. Something about this irked Young. Young threw his hands up at the refs, as if he had been wronged in some way. Dissatisfied at their ignoring his please (more than likely out of sheer bafflement that he would be trying to draw a call in that situation), Young decided to throw himself at James and pretend as if he was being wantonly charged into.
This ploy did not work. He was charged with a foul. Nick Young was caught. But, to Nick Young, this subsequent foul was just another along the line of injustices done to him on this particular sequence.
I have no idea what was going on in Nick Young's brain at that moment. I still don't. He epitomizes bad basketball, and that he now plays for the Lakers makes me giggle uncontrollably.
By the Numbers
- 3,698 - Number of points scored by the Spurs bench this season. There are question marks about this bench's ability to translate their success into playoff precision. Even if they don't, this number is ludicrous.
- 40 - Placement on the NBA All-Time Assist Leaderboard for Tony Parker, surpassing a Chicago Bulls role player named Michael Jordan. A friend of mine opined that this actually seems low for Tony, I felt obliged to point out that while I agree, one must remember that until the last 6 years, Tony Parker was not what you would call a "pass first point guard." His first several years in the league he was barely even a league average passer for his position. That he has excelled so far as to pass Jordan is an incredible feat.
- 39 - Boris Diaw's shooting percentage in April. This is concerning. We will need Boris' offensive repertoire at full bear this playoffs if the Foreign Legion is to continue outliving its predicted sell-by date.
- 1 - Losses when Tiago Splitter scores more than seven points. Thought for sure we had it tonight. Ah well, maybe this is the exception that proves the rule, eh?
- 62 - Wins. Let it soak in, and appreciate the excellence. We are watching a rare team do rare things on the biggest stage for that team's profession. I can think of no greater honor than getting to write about that team.
- 16 - More wins. 16 more.
- 0 - Perhaps the most important stat of the night... the amount of money I will spend on a Whataburger taquito Thursday morning after Fan Appreciation night got taken over by an overly generous Coyote. God love that guy. Also have you seen the taquitos lately? There is nothing -ito about them anymore.
Bird is the Word
Anyway we could get the Mavs-Grizzlies game on the LightHouse? M'kay. Thanks.— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) April 16, 2014
Can't argue with this. Far superior game.
Only Bloggers Left Alive— Eric Freeman (@freemaneric) April 17, 2014
GO SEE "ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE." Jim Jarmusch doing a vampire movie should excite you, for many reasons. Also, #TildaSwintonOverEverything
(He missed)— Dan McCarney (@danmccarneysaen) April 17, 2014
Tiago Splitter tried a corner three. It was not a terrible miss. We're all still alive. Not sure how those two things work in the same universe... but there you go.
No comment. Other than I LOVE THIS.
Hey, uh, you guys... Um, this is fake, right?... RIGHT?! pic.twitter.com/lRJ5ZTYmER— Caleb Saenz (@calebjsaenz) April 17, 2014
Ah jeez, now we got the Weezy Curse on us. Pack it up guys!
Spurs are about as locked in as those Kardashian girls growing up. And I'm assuming they had super permissive parents.— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) April 17, 2014
Jeff got pretty weird.
I don't feel appreciated— Patrick Fenelon (@Patrick_Fenelon) April 17, 2014
What, the t-shirts and free Lasik surgery aren't doin' it for ya?
Kevin Love is a DEAD RINGER for Brand New frontman Jesse Lacey. I feel like I've mentioned this before.
Playoff basketball weeeeeeeeee pic.twitter.com/Ej5gmPEBJM— Quixem Ramirez (@quixem) April 17, 2014
Odds and Ends
- Matt Bonner was on the hunt for rebounds tonight. I have no idea why and I'm sure nobody asked him post-game, but something felt more intensely predatory about Matt's rebounding technique tonight. He at one point stole a rebound from teammate Damien James so forcefully that he had to apologize to James at the next dead ball. What?!
- In what might have been the Sequence of the Game, the sputtering Spurs offense turned into a Washington Generals routine as Boris Diaw tripped over himself in the lane and went sideways in the air, only to underhand flip the ball to a covered Patty Mills at the three point line who launched a desperation three at the end of the shot clock... only to have it airball. It was that kind of night.
- For those who kept up with the NBA Championship Belt, we have a winner for 2014. And, you guessed it... THE NEW YORK KNICKS ARE THE HEAVYWEIGHT NBA CHAMPIONS OF THE WORLD. Go figure. The Spurs finish fifth in Championship Belt Winning Percentage, holding the belt for the second longest period of time (11 not necessarily consecutive games), and posted a 78.57% success rate when holding or competing for the Belt. But that doesn't matter, because the Knicks are the champions now. I guess we just have to live with that.
vs. Dallas Mavericks, Sunday April 20, Noon CST
No more joking around. The Spurs have business to attend to. Let's get down to it.