The Spurs beat the Suns. In NBA parlance, that makes the Spurs the "better" team. The beauty and tragedy of professional sports is that they are a bottom line business in which winning is all that matters, and losers are relegated to historical footnotes.

Okay, fine. I'll take my medicine and accept the fact that the Suns lost. I'll even (grudgingly) accept that the NBA "did what it had to do" by suspending Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw for Game 5.

What I will not accept, however, is the ridiculous notion that the Spurs were simply a superior team and the suspensions didn't have a significant effect on the outcome. Are you kidding me? Does anybody realize just how close this series really was? It was a dead heat in almost every statistical category, and it should be noted that the only truly dominating performance was put forth by the Suns in their Game 2 blowout. Let's take a closer look at the raw numbers.

Scoring: The Suns averaged 100.5 PPG (603 total points) to the Spurs 100 (600 total points). The Suns failed to reach 100 points only once -- surprise!! -- in Game 5. The Spurs failed to reach the century mark three times.

Shooting: The Suns shot 47 percent (226-for-477) for the series. The Spurs shot 45 percent (220-for-481). The Suns also shot 41 percent (37-for-89) from three-point range, while the Spurs shot 36 percent (44-for-122). The interesting part is that the Spurs attempted 33 more three-pointers than the Suns, which is the exact opposite of what I would have expected. The Suns shooting percentages for each game were as follows: 46, 52, 48, 48, 40, 48. Notice how they had their worst shooting performance in Game 5, when they were missing their leading scorer and best percentage shooter? I'm sure that was just a coincidence, though, and had nothing to do with Stoudemire's absense.

Rebounding: The Spurs averaged 41.6 RPG (250 total) and the Suns averaged 40 (240 total).

Assists: The Suns averaged 20.3 APG (122 total) and the Spurs averaged 18.5 (111 total). The Suns had their lowest assist total (18) in Game 5.

Steals: The Spurs averaged 7.8 SPG (47 total) and the Suns averaged 5.5 (33 total). The Suns worst game for steals was Game 5, when they had only three.

Blocks: The Spurs averaged 6.3 BPG (38 total) to the Suns' 6.1 (37 total). The Suns, however, outperformed the Spurs in this category in every game except Game 5, when they were missing their best interior defender and had only three blocks.

Turnovers: The Suns averaged 14.5 turnovers (87 total) to the Spurs' 14 (84 total).

By the numbers, this series was exceedingly close. The Suns worst performance, by far, was their critical loss in Game 5. They fell way below their series averages in every category except (surprisingly) rebounds. They led for most of that game, by the way, and only fell apart at the very end before losing by a mere three points. And there are people out there -- experts and analysts who get paid to break this stuff down -- who honestly believe that the Suns missing Stoudemire (their leading scorer, rebounder, percentage shooter, and best interior defender) and Diaw (his backup) when they already had a thin bench had no effect on the outcome.

Whatever. Those people are living in the NBA equivalent of the Smurf Village. It feels like an attempt to convince the fans that everything's okay, that officiating and league adjudication have no real effect on the eventual outcome of any series. But there's something wrong in the NBA. It's been wrong for a long time, and there's no sign that it's going to get better anytime soon.

Think about it. The NBA suspended Kobe Bryant twice this season for flailing his arms after a shot attempt and tagging his defenders in the chops. The league called Kobe's arm swipes "unnatural" moves and insisted that they endangered his opponents by striking them in the face. Then, after all that, they let Baron Davis pop Derek Fisher in the face with an intentional elbow, Al Harrington club Carlos Boozer in the face, and then allow Jason Richardson to clothesline Mehmet Okur. There wasn't a single suspension nor even a fine! Oh, did I forget to mention that Raja Bell got a one-game suspension in last year's playoffs for clotheslining Kobe Bryant? Where's the consistency? And don't even get me started on all the stuff Bruce Bowen pulls.

(Although I will say this about Bowen. Remember earlier this season when the league office called him directly and told him to lay off the "foot defense"? Well guess what? He's still doing it. Another example of how the league can't or won't police its players appropriately.)

That's what it's come to. Whether it's Dwyane Wade getting almost 20 freethrow attempts per game in the Finals or Joey Crawford suspending Tim Duncan for laughing, both casual and serious fans have reason to wonder what the hell's going on. It's also important to note that Crawford had every right to hit Duncan with a technical in that game. After all, the NBA enacted a zero tolerance policy against players complaining about calls. And everybody who knows the sport knows Duncan was doing just that. Hey, zero policy means zero policy, right? Whther it's stepping up off the bench to check on a teammate or bitching about a ticky tac foul. Crawford had the right to interpret that rule the way he did. But then the league came out and said what he did was wrong, even though they gave him the power and authority to do it.

Officiating is terrible. The league's tyrannical attitude towards certain rules and unwillingness to consistently enforce other rules is embarrassing and shameful. It's really sapping all the joy out of watching basketball for me. I might be done with the playoffs this year.

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Anonymous Jaz said...
Totally agree with you. Did you catch the NBA lickspittles on TV before yesterday's game pronouncing that Bruce Bowen is NOT a dirty player?

My only interest in yesterday's game was the forlorn hope that Sloan would get someone to clean Bowen's clock.

Blogger mmmm beefy said...
because of the game 2 blowout all the Suns stats are raised. So if you are going to look at this mathematically you statistical analysis uses a sample size too small and the game 2 numbers are an aberration and therefore those numbers should be disregarded. There is only 1 number to prove who is better and like it or not the Spurs won that one 4-2

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Sorry, mmmm beefy, I disagree. The Suns stats are pretty consistent from game to game, barring Game 5. Check it:

Scoring: 106, 101, 101, 104, 85, 106.

Rebounds: 35, 39, 39, 42, 42, 43.

Assists: 20, 25, 20, 19, 18, 22.

Shooting percentage: 46, 52, 48, 48, 40, 48.

Steals: 5, 10, 5, 6, 3, 5.

Blocks: 5, 6, 9, 5, 3, 9.

If you were making a graph, the line would be pretty straight except for Game 5, where all the numbers (except for rebounding) drop. Besides, all the FTs the Spurs got at the end of Game 6 inflated their stats. Even barring those inflations, their is a pretty evident statistical trend.

Anonymous Sean said...
I absouletly agree with you. If you watch a game from the 80's or early 90's, it seems like the refereeing is a lot more consistent AND there aren't as many ticky-tack fouls as there are today. I've never understood why David Stern doesn't pop in a tape of a Lakers-Celtics game from that era and see how entertaining it was without a stoppage of play every five fucking seconds.

Another thing: why do star players get all the calls? It's not like it makes the game any more entertaining (unless you like watching free throws), and it certainly hasn't helped in promoting any of the league's stars. In fact, it's had quite the opposite effect.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Um, time to let it go, dude. Nobody is saying Stoudemire and Diaw's absence didn't make a difference, but come on, admit it: The Spurs were going to win this series anyway, just like probably 75% of the "experts" predicted that they would!

Like it or not, the Suns have no one to blame but themselves for the loss. True Championship teams overcome adversity, they don't make excuses. If the Suns were truly the better team, they would have won the games they lost. Stop enabling their victimization just like all the other bloggers out there and just look forward to next year, when the Suns will have all new excuses for losing in the playoffs.

Blogger Evil Ted said...
The Spurs may have well been the better team, and may have well won the series, but we won't know how it would've gone down with both teams at full strength for 7 games, which is a crying shame, no matter whom you root for.

Does Basketbawful (and I, for that matter) like the suns and want to see them win? Damn straight. Love Nash. Want to see him get a ring. YET, it would have been just as ridiculous if Bowen and Duncan had been suspended for WALKING OUT ONTO THE COURT EARLIER IN THE SAME GAME. But they weren't, because this "zero tolerance" policy is really "zero tolerance depending on what I [David Stern} have been eating that day, or how I feel about life that day, or whether I'm feeling in a Spursy mood or a Sunsy mood." This guy must go. His time has passed. He is years beyond his ability to operate this league in a savvy, consistent manner.

Forget Spurs vs. Suns. Big picture: the league is broke, and Stern can't fix it.

Anonymous danny ainge said...
#!@&#^!! the league is broken alright

Anonymous Token Euro said...
I thought the series was close the first four games with SA already having a slight edge. It was however pretty much over once Ginobili started heating up (27 ppg before game 2 vs Utah). This Spurs team might be the strongest they've ever had. Agree?

Blogger Basketbawful said...
SA didn't have an edge after four games. Obviously, the series was tied. But the numbers break down like this through the first four games:

Scoring: PS - 103 PPG, SA - 99 PPG

Shooting: PS - 48%, SA - 45%

3-Point Shooting: PS - 44%, SA - 37%

Rebounds: SA - 165, PS - 156

Assists: PS - 82, SA - 74

Turnovers: SA - 59, PS - 55

Blocks: PS - 25, SA - 23

Steals: SA - 30, PS - 24

So the Spurs had the edge in rebounding and steals only; the Suns were better in every other category (and the Spurs had more turnovers per game). So I'm not sure why everybody thought the Spurs had an edge going into the Suspension Game. I think it's selective memory, or a general rewriting of history.

I should also note that the Suns were only down one point when Nash had to leave Game 1, which was lost, in part, because Barbosa (who was subbing for Nash) made two critical errors in the last minute of the game. People claim that the Suns only won Game 4 because of "iffy" officiating in the 4th quarter, but I could easily make the argument that the Suns lost Game 1 because of Nash's injury.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Can you believe it? You're not even man enough to approve my comments because you know I'm right and you're wrong.


Blogger Basketbawful said...
Hello mr anonymous,

First of all, you're an idiot.

Second of all, you're a jackass.

Third of all, I don't really pay any attention to challenges regarding manhood from anybody who doesn't have the balls to attach a name and email address to their comments.

Fourth, you are an idiot. Yes, I've said it before, but it seemed worthy of repeating.

Lastly, I approve all comments that aren't spam or tirades full of naughty words. Before you start pissing and moaning, you should consider the legitimate possibility that you comment simply didn't go through due to an error with the server. That sometimes happens. Feel free to repost it and I will gladly post and read your comments before dismissing them completely.