San Antonio Spurs:
The Spurs have some issues, most of which were on display last night against the Pistons. By the end of the first quarter, San Antonio was down by 15 points and never really recovered. Sure, they managed to reduce what eventually became a 20-point deficit to single digits late in the third quarter, and they tried to make a game of it in the fourth, but they just didn't have the juice to get the job done.
Not that the Spurs didn't try
. Want proof? Tim Duncan averages about 33 minutes per game. He played 40 last night. It's only the third time this season he's played 40 minutes in a game (one of the two other times came in Monday's overtime loss to the Warriors). It's pretty unusual for Gregg Popovich to bust his rotation like that, unless the game is particularly important. And this game was very important. Personally, I think that Pop wanted his team to beat another credible team, for their psyche moreso than their record (which is more-than-respectable 23-11, tied for fourth best in the Western Conference).
You might not realize this, but the Spurs have gone 6-8 since December 11. And their victories weren't what you'd call impressive. They beat only one credible team during that stretch: Denver (21-13). Their remaining wins came against Chicago (13-20), Memphis (10-25), New York (9-25), and the Los Angeles Clippers (10-22), whom they played twice. Meanwhile, they got beaten by Golden State (twice), Phoenix, Memphis, Toronto, Denver, Detroit, and the Los Angeles Lakers.
So yeah, they're still beating the bad teams (most of the time), but they're losing to the good ones. Of the top eight Western Conference teams, the Spurs currently have the worst record
(7-9) against teams that are .500 or better. In fact, of those eight teams, only the Golden State Warriors (10-11) are also below .500 against .500 teams.
Now everybody knows that the Spurs tend to set the regular season to cruise control. They did that last year, but still won 58 games and (more importantly) a championship. And it's also important to remember that their big guns -- Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili -- have all missed time due to injury. But still, the Spurs feel a little older, a little less talented, and a lot more vulnerable than they've seemed in quite a while. So while they might have been a pre-season favorite to defend their title for the first time in the Tim Duncan era, the road to that repeat sure has gotten a lot bumpier.Fun fact:
It snowed in hell last night. Seriously
The Suns' problems with extreme suckitude have been well documented -- by me, anyway
-- and last night's game against the Jazz was no exception. Mind you, the Suns were without Steve Nash, Shawn Marion, and Grant Hill, they were playing on the road in a notoriously difficult place to play (the Jazz are 14-3 at home), and it was the second of back-to-back games (the previous night, they beat the Pacers in overtime). So let's just say that they didn't have a very good shot of winning this one anyway.
They scored 86 points (24 points below their average), shot 36 percent (13 percentage points below their average), and dished out only 17 assists (10 below their average). They only scored 12 points in the third quarter, their lowest point total in any quarter this season. Think they missed Steve Nash just a teensy, tiny bit? Now, I realize every team will suffer without its superstar, it's slightly more alarming in the Suns' case, because they look absolutely helpless without Nash. People always ask whether Nash's ascent to MVP-dom was due to his own innate talents or the system in which he plays. If you watched last night's game, or any Suns game in which Nash doesn't play, you know that Steve Nash is
the system in Phoenix.
I also can't help but mention that, in the face of added responsibility and increased playing time, Boris Diaw promptly sank to the occassion, scoring only 5 points on 2-for-6 shooting, listlessly grabbing a couple rebounds, and dishing out zero assists. How me managed to cram that kind of productivity into a mere 34 minutes of playing time, I'll never know.
Still, as poorly as the Suns played last night, they can take heart in the fact that they were, by no means, the most poorly-run offense in the world...Saint Louis Billikens:
I'm not a big fan of college basketball (unless it's my alma mater or March Madness), but I couldn't not
mention this travesty
: The Billikens set a modern Division I record for fewest points in a game with 20. Saint Louis went 0 for their first nine shot attempts. At one point, they missed 23 consecutive shots and finished 7-for-48 (14.6 percent) from the field, including 1-for-19 from 3-point range. They had scored only 7 points by halftime, a performance that made their 13-point second half look positively scintillating.
Their best shooter was a kid named Luke Meyer
, who shot 2-for-7. Tommie Liddell
was their worst, at 1-for-12. The team's leading scorer on the season, Kevin Lisch
, scored 2 points on 1-for-9 shooting. What does a coach even say
to his team after a performance so historically dreadful?
Well, Rick Majerus, the Billikens' coach, noted after the game that this was his first year with Saint Louis and that he did not recruit the team. "It's like being a stepparent. I didn't pick them. They didn't pick me." Not exactly a "We will fight them on the beaches" moment. But the analogy was probably appropros, since his team got spanked like a red-headed step-child.Fun fact:
If you're anything like me, one of your first thoughts upon reading the last story was, "What the hell is a Billiken?" Well, according to Wikipedia
, "the Billiken was a charm doll created in 1908 by an American art teacher and illustrator, Ms. Florence Pretz of Kansas City, Missouri, who is said to have seen the mysterious figure in a dream." Apparently, many moons ago, someone thought the Saint Louis football coach
, John Bender, resembled the doll and the name stuck. Basically, the Billiken looks like Buddha and the Bat Boy
had a love child. But don't take my word for it: Go look for yourself
As reader Chris pointed out, "There's a gem of a game listed in the Bilikins article: 'The fewest points ever by a Division I team was set by Arkansas State in a 75-6 loss to Kentucky in 1945. It was matched by Temple in an 11-6 loss to Tennessee in 1973.' Can you imagine going to see a game where the final score was 11-6? 11-6??? Now that's historic sucking."
Wow...11-6. That's the kind of score you would expect from a slow and particularly agonizing football game. But basketball? When did James Naismith die? Because I'm pretty sure that game is what killed him. I think I'd rather sit through consecutive viewings of Waterworld
and The Postman
than have to witness an 11-6 basketball game. Okay. That might be overstating things. But still.
Labels: Bat Boy, Phoenix Suns, Saint Louis Billikens, San Antonio Spurs