The San Antonio Spurs:
Basketbawful reader Chris
wrote in regarding something that was said about the Spurs on Wednesday night that I noticed as well: "With the Spurs' second loss in as many days, I guess they got stat cursed by the pre-game runup on the ESPN broadcast. I remember hearing this in the game preview as the Celtics-Hawks tilt winded down: 'The Western Conference should've put the Spurs down when they had the chance.' Well, apparently Wednesday AND Thursday night proved that the conference still has quite the chance to leave San Antonio's basketball team well in the dust."
Do they ever. These two games seemed to prove that the Spurs' time as legit contenders has gone the way of the $40-per-hour factory job. And I say "seemed" only because I, like many other people, don't feel entirely comfortable counting San Antonio out. However, that's due more to their championship past than their iffy present. And it's very, very iffy. I've talked about this before, but there simply isn't enough talent after Timmy D, TP and Manu. And what I mean is "scoring talent." Their defense is fine -- currently tied for eighth in defensive efficiency
-- because they use a proven system that requires discipline, hard work and concentration moreso than speed and athleticism. Plus Duncan is the unshakeable foundation of that defense, so as long as he's around, it's going to be solid.
But most of the Spurs are like guys showing up to a gun fight with soggy ice cream cones. Sure, Roger Mason is having a career year (12.8 PPG) and George Hill has been better than expected (a evidenced by that hot streak
in late November), but come on. They're starting Michael Finley (who's so far over the hill he can't even look over his shoulder and see the hill anymore) and Matt Bonner (who's, you know, Matt Bonner). Bruce Bowen is done. Kurt Thomas is awfully close. Ditto for Jacque Vaughn. And the fabulous Oberto can't even stay on the floor these days (although that's supposedly due to a "sore foot"). Who's going to step up and make a difference in the regular season? The playoffs? Nobody. And it's not like the Spurs have much in the way of trade bait. A package of Bowen, Thomas, Vaughn and Oberto might get them some old tinsel and a bag of reindeer droppings. Maybe.
Now, the popular justification for these two rather ugly losses -- in which San Antonio managed only 83 and 78 points while shooting 38 and 37 percent respectively -- is that they were due to weariness. After all, the Spurs are the oldest team in the league and were faced with a really difficult back-to-back situation against two division leaders. Heck, after last night's game, Gregg Popovich came as close as he ever comes to making an excuse. "Everybody gets tough back to back. The timing wasn't great. Coming in at 3:30 (a.m.) wasn't good. Orlando will have something in its schedule where they'll have a god-awful back-to-back. It evens out in the end."
Fair enough. But reading between the lines, Pop seems to be inferring that we can expect the Magic to drop a couple the next time they're forced to play two toughies in two nights. (And they just might: Orlando’s next back-to-back series is in mid-January, when they face the Lakers and Nuggets on the road on consecutive nights.) And I guess you could say that's been part of the Spurs' championship formula this past decade: Don't sweat the small stuff. Some games are lost before the team plane even lands. All you have to do is make the playoffs and let experience (and Tim Duncan) carry the day. Okay.
But still...Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker:
Because of the sorry state of the supporting cast, at least one of these guys (and/or Timmy) have to be on it every night. Last night, they were not: TP finished with 9 points (3-for-17) and 4 turnovers while Manu was only 4-for-12.Suns versus Blazers:
Well, it was an exciting game with lots of scoring (the final tally was 124-119) and an atomic explosion by Brandon Roy who, like many guards before him, discovered last night how much fun it is to play against the Suns. And, as Basketbawful reader Clifton noted: "STAT CURSE!! Early in the game, before Roy really caught fire, Tim Kempton uttered, 'Y'know, players tend to get reputations in this league, and we heard when he arrived that Jason Richardson didn't play any defense. Well, we haven't seen that tonight. Brandon Roy has had his hands full so far.' Then, of course, the rest of the game happened, and Roy exploded for 52 points (5-7 from three, 14-27 from the field overall, 21 trips to the line with 19 makes)."
There was very little defense played in this one. And I only say "very little" because I blinked a few times and might have missed it. I'm just assuming. In point of fact, it was like Mike D'Antoni was still coaching the Suns. And the Blazers. Phoenix shot 57 percent and Portland hit for almost 52 percent...and they basically won it down the stretch by isolating Roy or Travis Outlaw over and over and over. It was kind of annoying, actually, like losing a game of NBA Live to some dumb kid who knows nothing about basketball but manages to outscore you by using one or two guys. Sure, it was fun to see Roy, who's a real class act, go off for a big-time career high, but I don't see how this makes the Blazers better. Roy and Outlaw both hit some really tough shots while their teammates just kind of stood around and watched. Their offense was actually kind of stagnant. You just couldn't tell because the Suns can't guard anybody.
Speaking of Phoenix, well, I'll let Buck Nasty take this one: "They are who we thought they were. The Suns, when they run, can still score. But the Suns will still get torched when they do. However, the Suns, when they don't run, still can't play a whole lot of D. And when they slow down they can't score well. So I think the obvious choice is to run and gun as best as they can, then work the half-court when forced, because outscoring is better than slowing down, not scoring, then getting outscored by about a million screen and roll plays."
Seriously. As I've said before, if you have to lose, you might as well look good, have fun, and score a lot of points while doing it. But man, I have no idea who or what the Suns are or what they're going to be at the end of the season. It's nothing but confusion and inconsistency. Porter seems to have already given up on his new defensive philosophy. Or the players have. It's hard to say at this point.The big men:
More from Clifton
: "Both Blazers big men were dull tonight -- Greg "Lumpy Addams" Oden was in foul trouble throughout and only played 17 minutes, was somewhat of a factor inside, but it was a statistical dead heat with the Vanilla Gorilla, who logged 30 minutes (J-Prizz had less points, including 3 bricks in 4 attempts from the line, but pulled down 3x as many boards). As far as Suns' bigs, Shaq played his newly-created position of point center
pretty well, but Lopez was his usual self (7 minutes, one basket, one board, zero defense), and Amundson -- whom the Suns love because he hustles, and because he rides a bicycle
-- logged 5 minutes and touched the ball twice (a rebound and a turnover). Note: I just read that article again, and I still love how they try to squeeze as much positive juju out of Amundson as possible. "He's willing to do whatever it takes, including cutting his hair when Jerry Sloan told him to do it if he was going to join the Jazz." Good Lord-- a haircut??! Look out, everyone, he'll do ANYTHING!!"
I would also like to point out that Oden finished the game tied with Rudy Fernandez in rebounding...with 2. Somewhere Wilt Chamberlain is rolling over in his grave. Probably because he's still having sex.Kobe Bryant:
While Luke Walton was taking a shower in the Lakers locker room, Mamba took his clothes and all the towels, and then he started flushing all the toilets so Luke would be scorched by scalding hot water. Luke ended up with first and second degree burns on his torso and man region.
Labels: fan submissions, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, Worst of the Night