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Damn It Feels Good To Be a Gangsta

By Michael Erler on December 10, 2006.

Game 20 Vs. Los Angeles Clippers: Spurs 111, Clippers 82

Well, that was anti-climatic. Silly me, I thought the Clips would actually give us a game. Oops. Right now we’re just crushing everybody. In fact, our last three games have all been pretty one sided. It’s almost as if we added something to our arsenal, starting with the Warriors game that we hadn’t had before when we were slumping…

Eh, screw it, I have no idea what it is. I’ll figure it out though. Right now, let’s just enjoy the ass-kickin’ montage, eh? Right now the Spurs are Peter Gibbons, and the rest of the league is Initech.

More and more it seems clear to me that we’ve got the best team. The Oberto/Elson combo at center is leaps and bounds more productive on both ends of the floor than ‘Sho/T-Rex was last season, Bones Barry is playing about as well as he can possibly play, coach is finally using the right guy at backup point and giving him decent minutes to boot and even Findog and RoHo are rounding into form. The big three are looking as solid as ever, alternating big nights as needed, but nobody really stealing the show.

I’m a full-fledged believer in the Michael Lewis/Rob Neyer/Bill James “Moneyball” new-school method of baseball analysis, and one of their main commandments about baseball teams is that you can tell how good somebody is by their run differential. How any team, regardless of talent, coaching, or “veteran experience” does in close games is largely based on luck. When a play here or there at the end determines a game’s outcome, you can’t really make a definitive statement about the quality of either team that day. But you show me a club that wins a ton of blowouts, and I’ll show you a good team. And well, though 20 games, the standings tell the story. The Spurs scoring differential is 9.2 points a night. The next best team is the Rockets, at 6.4. This is why, even taking into account the Mavs’ recent hot spell, I still think Houston is the best bet to face off against us in the Western Conference Finals. Really my only concern about the Rockets is whether T-Mac and Yao can hold up.

As for this game itself, what can I say? The first half was an absolute clinic. We could have played anybody last night and it wouldn’t have mattered. You know how coaches have that cliché about a team needing to play as well it can for 48 minutes to win? For us it’s simply not the case. Most games all we really need is one great quarter, maybe two, and it’s plenty good enough to get the job done. And I suspect that deep inside Pop knows this. No wonder he’s always got that grumpy look at the end of games these days. He knows it’s going to be hard to yell at the team about anything. I bet he’s glad we’ve got four games in the next five nights, because it’s really only these kinds of situations that will present us with adversity or a challenge.

Except for maybe three or four notable exceptions, our opponents really won’t matter for the rest of the season. That might sound cocky, but it’s true. Teams won’t challenge us, situations will.




Long road trips.

When we’ve got our full roster healthy and playing average for them, nobody on the planet can beat us. Unlike some other teams we’ve blown out this season, the Clips had no excuse. None. They were fully rested (their previous game was on Tuesday) and fully healthy. And we just smoked them.

While the level of our execution was inspiring, it certainly wasn’t very interesting. Actually, the only intrigue I found in the game had to do with one Tony Parker. Now, before I get started, let me point out if haven’t been crystal clear in my flowing praise already, that the entire team is playing incredibly well and that ANYONE who isn’t Pop or one of the assistant coaches would have to be an unbelievably irrational asshole, a complete nitwit, a total lowlife, and a nitpicking muckraker.

Now with all that being said, well I’m kinda ticked off at Tony.

Why you ask? How in god’s name could you upset with a guy for a having a career high 15 assists? Are you sick in the head?

Of course I’m sick in the head. And he could have (and should have) had 20 assists.

The first half of the game was one of best two quarter stretches I’ve ever seen Tony play. He only took two shots and missed both, but he had 12 dimes, setting up teammates time and again with wide open shots. You know, like a real point guard would. The team certainly wasn’t missing his scoring because his passes helped the Spurs score a whopping (for them) 65 points in the first 24 minutes.

Yet, here was Parker’s quote afterward about his first half: “They (the Clippers) were kind of forcing me to pass it because they never really left me open,” Parker said. “My teammates kept making shots, so I decided to keep passing the ball.”

Forcing you to pass. Oh, you poor thing. Next you’ll tell me Eva forces you to go down on her every now and then. What a shitty life you have. Let’s just have Andrew Lloyd Webber write Les Misarables: Part Deux about the burden of being an NBA point guard and having talented teammates and stuff. Gimme a break, Frenchie. Who are you, Mike Vick?

Anyway, despite us decimating the Clips in the first half just with Parker passing the ball, he still couldn’t process that the two things weren’t coincedential – that they had a very real and easily explainable cause and effect relationship. In the third quarter he took eight, count ’em eight shots, including a couple of wayward jumpers, and lo and behold we scored just an average 25 points for the period after managing 33 in the 1st and 32 in the 2nd.

And people wonder why I complain about Tony Parker. If he always played like the guy who showed up in the 1st half, I’d be the biggest Tony fan on the planet. But even after playing in a fashion that enabled his team to run up a 20 point lead and even with the Clippers making zero adjustments defensively at half time, it was like physically paining Tony to not shoot the ball. In the 3rd quarter he effectively told the team, “Hey, we’ve got a big enough lead, I’m gonna get mine now, no matter how open anyone is.” And that pisses me off.

In closing, just in case you don’t get my point:

(For the record, it took me 10 minutes to find a picture of Tony on Yahoo! that shows him passing. I had to navigate through countless shots of some naked white guy. Just so you know the sacrifices I’ve made to get my message across.)

Your 3 Stars:

3) Manu Ginobili – I kind of feel guilty giving this to him. It could have just as easily been Tim or Brent or Fab or like three other guys. We’re playing so well right now that the pale triangle is like openly mocking their opponents, trying more and more audacious passes, shooting from further and further away. They’r
e like that intramural 3-on-3 team that have played together for years and purposefully playing in a league two levels below where they should play, just so they can feast on all the freshman newcomers who just signed up because “they thought it’d be fun and a way to get some exercise.” Still, 22 points in 20 minutes is pretty neat. I loved the Pop quote about wishing he would play more minutes. I agree, Pop, that is most unfortunate. If only there was a person who was in charge of rationing out the playing time on the team. Like a manager or coach or someone. D’oh!

2) Francisco Elson – Along with Oberto he did an excellent job on Elton Brand, rebounded well, provided some decent help defense and killed the Clips with his ability to run down the floor ahead of the other big guys. His oop to Tony’s alley drew a loud scream from me in an empty sports bar. I’m glad he’s not in the doghouse anymore, we’re gonna need this guy a lot in May and June.

1) Tony Parker – The point of my rant wasn’t to belittle him. I just wanted to point out that he played so amazingly well in the first half that I had no idea why he wanted to change anything. I want to see this Parker more often.

Record: 15-5 Streak: W-4
Up Next: @ Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakeshow has surprised some folks so far this year, but if you look at their roster their record makes sense. They’re probably deeper at forward than any other team at the league. Odom has been playing at an All-Star level, Walton is having a career year, and they’re getting valuable contributions from guys like Ronny Turiaf, Mauice Evans and Vladimir Radmanovic. Obviously a lot depends on whether Mamba plays or not, but I’m guessing that Phil specifically held him out of the Hawks game so he can lace ’em up for us. We’ll need Bruce to be on his game and I’m guessing Manu will finally crack the 25 minute plateau.

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