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.

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Blogger chris said...
I didn't know you could get a sore foot that prevents you from playing the next night, through 40 seconds of utter lacktion. Maybe Oberto needs to start copying the "learn how to jump higher" program you've got, for better foot usage? It can't be any worse than what he's doing now.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I can call getting a hand in the face playing good defense. Roy was just in a "groove" last night, everytime he shot th ball it went in. It was also nice of the refs, by the way were terrible I think on both ends, to hand Mr.IRoy some nice freebies by the means of 20+ freethrows. Good lord, who does the NBA think he is, D Wade or something? Just one of those games!

Blogger chris said...
Meanwhile, Hollinger covers something I'm not sure will show up on Shaq's Twitter feed - his upcoming milestone of 5000 missed free throws:

Anonymous Anonymous said...
"Roy and Outlaw both hit some really tough shots while their teammates just kind of stood around and watched."

I know there are a lot of Steve Blake haters out there, but, uh, he had 22 and 10 last night... hardly what I would call "standing around and watching". And before you say "I watched the game and he sluffed on D with 3:12.976sec to go in the 4th which led to a layup when they were only up 4 and the fans were restless etc etc...", I'll have YOU know, that I watched the game, and Steve played well. I'm just sayin'...

Blogger Wild Yams said...
They were talking on TNT last night about how Shaq has been the Suns' best player this year, and they might be right, which brought up a couple questions for me: Should Shaq be back in the All Star game this year after missing it last year? If he really has been the Suns' best player this year, then does anyone else from Phoenix deserve an All Star spot? Amare seems like one of those players who almost would get a spot by default, but has his play this year really warranted it? What about Nash? He seems like he'd be grandfathered in or something, but he's been way off this year so I don't know if he deserves a spot. Does anyone from Phoenix deserve to be in the All Star game this year?

Greg Oden is one hell of a lumbering player out there.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
AK Dave -- Go back and reread what I said a couple sentences before that: "...and they basically won it down the stretch by isolating Roy or Travis Outlaw over and over and over." I wasn't saying that other Blazers didn't make meaningful contributions throughout the game. I was saying that, in the later stages, Portland was running isolation plays almost exclusively. And it worked, so I guess you can't fault it. But the Blazers were one or two "heat checks" away from losing that game at the end. I, personally, don't think it's good basketball to rely on one-on-one play, even when it works.

Do you see what I'm saying? It's not a knock and Blake. It's more of a knock on the play calling, which was poor. The Blazers got saved by a handful of REALLY tough shots and foul calls off one-on-ones.

Wild Yams -- IMHO, Shaq should be a reserve center in the West. He's got the stats, and the fourth best PER in the league at the center position (behind Superman, Ilgauskas, and Yao). Combine that with the fact that he's a better fan draw than, say, Andris Biedrins, Nene or Andrew Bynum, and I'd say Shaq warrants a spot on a fan-centric All-Star squad. Amare? No way, not ahead of Duncan, Nowitzki and Gasol at the PF. And the PG spots should go to Paul and Billups, so that's a no-go for Nash, unless they want an extra PG who's going to set the table for everybody else.

Blogger Wild Yams said...
Mr. Bawful, I'm inclined to agree with your assessment of which Suns deserve All Star slots and which don't. Shaq is more dominant in stretches this year than he's been in the last two, but he clearly doesn't have the conditioning to keep it up. Last night was a prime example: 17 pts, 3 boards in the 1st half but only 2 pts, 3 boards in the 2nd half. Like the TNT guys were saying at the half, the Suns need Shaq to be a guy they can run their offense through in the 4th quarter to be successful. Even with that limitation though, when Shaq has been on this year, he really has looked something like he used to; and considering the other guys Shaq is competing against for that 2nd center spot are all super young, Shaq should probably get it.

I definitely think Amare and Nash don't deserve to be All Stars this year. Amare's 2nd in forward votes so far though so he'll probably be voted in, but Nash is far enough behind that he'll need the coaches to put him forth to get in the game; and I think that unless there's an injury to someone ahead of him he's probably not going to make it.

Who is more to blame for the falloff of Nash and Amare this year: the presence of Shaq or the absence of D'Antoni?

Blogger benschon said...
Ike Diogu monster jam!

That he missed. And he missed his other point-blank attempt, too. And then he was pulled from the game. Quality minutes, for sure.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
unintentionally dirty quote of the night by Blazer's radio Brian Wheeler talking about Brandon Roy: "DO IT, DO IT, DO IT, DO IT UNTIL YOU'RE SATISFIED!!!" This had me absolutely rolling. Hilarious.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Devin Harris and Vinsanity are currently BIGTIME

Blogger Silly Bitch said...
that the daily kobe fact includes luke walton mockery with such frequency lately warms my heart

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Check out the picture of Jason Kidd's son. He apparently disapproves of last year's trade too.;_ylt=Auhe4y1hcVf3VhoH5nx8Vr.8vLYF?gid=2008121917&prov=ap

It reminds me of Jason Kidd's quote when he went to the Suns: "We're going to turn this team around 360 degrees."

Blogger Cov said...
can we stop calling Amare STAT? I read that Shaq article I can't believe Shaq actually calls this cat that. So far this season we should just call him STA. "what up STA. How many you have last night?"

"14 and 6"

"Well...yall will figure it out"

Team never just figure it out. Either you got it or you need to make a trade or get a new coach. As long as Shaq is there this team will be mismatched.

Amare on D is like a girl making her first foray into porn. Dodging everything that comes

Blogger Clifton said...
Potential statistical anomaly of the weekend: The Birdman (Chris Andersen) played 17 minutes vs. the Suns and never shot the ball. No FG attempts, no free throws. No offensive rebounds, either. Did have 6 total boards and 2 steals, though. In addition, Dahntay Jones started, played 13 minutes, and only had one shot attempt (missed, although he was 2-2 on free throws).

Not much to riff on about the Suns when they turn in a decent effort such as this. The Dragic Watch is now at 4 straight DNP-CDs. Still waiting to find out which point guard the Suns are going to sign (I think they have until Monday officially, iirc).

This was also the 12th straight game in which the Suns allowed more than 100 points, and 16th in their last 17. However, that one game out of the last 17 was... drum roll!... the Klahma City Turbulence, well before anyone considered giving them back their O's, and even at that the Suns let them score 98. That's like 130 in regular-team points.

Blah, blah, "emphasis" on "defense," but I dunno, this team seems like they're figuring themselves out. They've won 5 of 7, and in the two losses (@ Lakers, @ Portland) they were certainly right in the thick of it, as opposed to getting blown out in all of their previous losses on the year. This could be the start of a very good run. Their schedule: four days off, Spurs come to Phoenix for Christmas, three days off, back-to-back @ Klahma City and @ Memphsuck, two days off, Clippers in Phx, four days off, Indiana in Phx. After the OKC/MEM B2B on 12/29-30 and until they start a 6-game Easterner on Jan. 18th, they only have two away games, both just a hop and a skip away (@ Clips 1/11, @ Denver 1/15), AND the Clips game is an early-afternooner, so they'll jet home before sundown. Lots of home cookin' coming up, in other words.

Parting shot: Amusing that Bell whined about not being a running team, and the thing that really sparked them into opening it way up again was getting rid of him.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Can you in the future remind people again why Kevin McHale is such a horrible GM? Recently you've said a lot about the whole Kevin Love for OJ Mayo trade. How about you also mention the Randy Foye for Brandon Roy trade. Foye is averaging 14pts along with 5 assists per game while shooting a crappy 40% on the year. BRoy is carrying the Blazers by averaging 23, 5, and 5 on 47% shooting. I wouldn't trade a bug eyed pug for Randy Foye.