A Game Only A Spurs Fan Could Love
Game 46 @ Los Angeles: Spurs 96, Lakers 94 OT
Nice shot. Never do that again.
That amigos was old school Spurs basketball. On the road, hostile environment, nobody could shoot, the Lakeshow was threatening to run away with it during the entire third quarter, but we just wouldn’t fold. I fucking guarantee you this was Pop’s favorite win of the year because not only did the guys play hard and play together, but for once they seemed to figure out that they’re not the Phoenix Suns and they didn’t win three rings by playing like the Phoenix Suns.
I mean this was a game where we we shot so poorly that we should have lost by 25, but we played so well that we should have won by 25, if that makes sense. When you think about it, the physical act of shooting the ball is a very small part of the game. There’s all the dribbling, passing, cutting, screening, rebounding, guarding, switching, etc., etc. And except for shooting the ball we played about as well as we possibly could. We rebounded it great from both ends, (god knows we had enough shots to go after on the offensive end) gobbling up 16 offensive rebounds while allowing only five to the Lakers. We played great defense the entire game, held everybody but Kobe in check and some of the shots he was making were absolutely insane. Give him credit, the guy was in the zone all afternoon and both Bruce and Manu played him as well as anybody could, but it was useless. Really we were very fortunate Kobe is trying to be Mr. Leader now and passing the ball to get everyone else involved because the old Bryant would have killed us today. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, we played really well. Even took care of the ball all game, turning it over just eleven times. Vintage rodeo road trip stuff.
Shooting the ball without being able to see the basket is just classless taunting in my opinion.
Of course, the win wasn’t without its faults. First off, our innovative taskmaster decided to start the road trip with that timeless tactical classic – bringing Manu off the bench. On its face, it’s not the worst move in the world, but when we did it with Barry in the playoffs two years ago it was because he was struggling so badly that we tried it as a desperate tactic to get him going. Now Brent is our only reserve who’s been worth half a damn this year, so changing what’s working with him makes no sense. With Finley, who’s been a starter just about his whole career anyway, it’d be a wee bit more logical. Of course if it were up to me Fin AND Manu would be starting, but coach has a man crush on Bruce. In what I’m sure was a total coincidence, Brent went 0 for 4 today and was a total non-factor.
Secondly, Pop resorted to putting Vaughn in the game after Beno bricked three shots in seven first half minutes. So Jacque got his chance… and clanked three of his own in four minutes and fell down while executing a spin move with nobody guarding him. I swear to God, for the good of the team we need to put Vaughn in the sports coat and dress Butler or Williams or even White, (although I know that maneuver might cause the internets to crash it would cause such a fuss) because the temptation to keep Beno glued to the bench is too much of a cruel mistress for the head honcho.
I will concede however that he did a good job of not going to smallball today (LA playing Bynum 44 minutes might have had something to do with it). Add up Tim’s, Fab’s, Elson’s and RoHo’s minutes and you get an even 100. That means only six minutes of the Oompa Loompa shit and -ta da!- we rebounded well.
Finally, the real reason the game was such an eyesore and that we were down by nine with a little over five minutes to go was that nobody could throw it into the ocean for us. Not only did the two backup points and Bones combine to go 0 for 10 from the field, but the quartet of Tim, Manu, Tony and Fin each shot significantly below 50%, all of them missing at least ten shots. In fact, our field goal % of 33.7 was the second lowest figure of Pop’s tenure in a game we wound up winning. U-G-L-Y. But somehow, down 75-66 with five minutes to go, we went on a 14-2 run with Manu hitting two threes and a free throw, Tony hitting a pair from the line, Tim laying one in and Bruce nailing a huge bomb from the corner. We would’ve won the game in regulation in all likelihood, but Manu missed a free throw that would have made it a two possession game. A Radmanovic three off a crazy offensive rebound tied the game at 80 (the refs should have called Duncan for his 6th foul on Kobe’s attempted dunk) .
After an Horry airball where he was hacked pretty good by the Colorado Casanova, the Lakers had a chance to win it at the buzzer, but the Hustlemaker made a hell of a block (or was it a steal?) on Kobe after he had pump faked Bowen out of his jock. For his trouble Manu got slugged in the face by a flailing Bryant (punk bitch) and had to miss the first three minutes of OT. His absence looked like it would prove costly as the Spurs went down by four quickly in overtime, but Tony caught fire when we really needed somebody to step up and scored seven straight Spurs points to keep us in it, even though the Lakers scored on five of their first six possessions.
The last 1:13 was crazy. Manu drove down the lane on Radmanovic and got perhaps a sympathy call from the refs, but he hit two from the stripe to make it 91-90 us. Kobe came right back and drilled a ridiculous jumper with Bowen all over him to give the Lakers a 92-91 lead with a minute to go. Finley missed a three from the top of the key and Kobe missed an awkward runner from four feet away when Manu got in his way at the last second and made him alter the shot. Spurs ball, down one, 30 seconds to go. We get it to Duncan facing the basket at the free throw line and he faked Bynum right before driving left and laying it in to put us ahead once more. 93-92 Spurs, 20 seconds to go. We had a foul to give and Bruce used it, but was damn lucky the refs didn’t give Kobe continuation as he proceeded to dunk over Duncan’s head. It mattered not, however, as he canned another 20-footer over Bowen soon after. 94-93 Lakers, seven seconds to go and it looked like our valiant effort would be wasted.
I guess the basketball Gods wouldn’t let us lose for playing so hard or maybe it was karma for Bryant busting Gonzo’s mug, but somehow, inexplicably, incredulously and miraculously Finley a three from damn near 30 feet away after Tim, running out of both time and options, kicked it out to him and the ball hit nothing but net. One hopeless heave by Radmanovic, after Bruce did a great job of denying Kobe the ball on the inbounds and it was all over. A hell of a character win to start our long journey in style and hopefully a sign of things to come in every aspect but the shooting.
I do have one favor though. Please God, no more Mark Jackson assignments for us. I am hopeful that this game was so hard to watch for casual fans that ABC won’t show us again unless we make the Finals. Jackson is so bad as a color man that I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. He answers his own rhetorical questions, he makes twenty year old musical references to Michael Jackson like some black Chris Berman and he feels the need to remind the audience over and over and over again that a) he’s from New York b) Kobe Bryant is a better athlete than he ever was and c) he couldn’t guard anybody.
My three favorite Jacksonisms of the game.
3) Comparing Manu to Earl Campbell (because their physiques are so similar)
2) “You can catch more flies with sugar than you can with honey” (after Bynum got a T for bitching out the refs).
1) “Manu with the dagger to give the Spurs hope.” That’s right, it was the first time in history where a three pointer to bring a team from a seven point deficit to a four point deficit was classified as a “dagger.” As Matthew (who I was IMing during the game) put it, “Because when you need hope, you knife somebody.”
Please get mouth herpes, immediately.
Anyway, this is the toughest 3 stars of the year. We have four legitimate candidates, and I just can’t decide. It’s too hard I tell you. I can’t even include Horry, but he deserves an honorable mention.
3a) Manu Ginobili – Pretty awful most of the day shooting it, but he hit a couple of bombs late in the fourth and made the defensive play of the year so far for us on Kobe (you know that shit was going in) to send the game to OT.
3b) Tony Parker – Also miserable all day, but he kicked ass in OT, breaking Smush’s ankles repeatedly and was very clutch when we absolutely needed it.
2) Tim Duncan – Just missed a triple double for the second straight game and was our one steady rock from beginning to end, really playing MVP level basketball in all facets of the game. I’m a bit concerned though that we’re running our offense through him as much as we ever have with Manu and Tony on board and I don’t know he’ll hold up for the long haul. Some drive and kick games from those two might ease the load from Timmy a bit, but we need the other guys to hit shots.
1) Michael Finley – 6 of 16 is by no means great, especially when he never went to the line once (hell he didn’t even set foot in the paint) but give Fin this much: Every time the Lakers threatened to pull away, he hit a three to keep us within striking distance for a couple more minutes. For once he was a lot better from downtown (5 of 10) than from two (1 of 6). Pop’s face not changing expression at all as Findog’s prayer went in was hilarious. It’s like he was thinking, “Shit, now he’s going to shoot from everywhere for the next two months.” Matthew called the make “bittersweet” for this very reason. Oh well.
Yes I’m aware I just wrote back-to-back-to-back top 3 lists. It’s three AM and I’m not getting paid, so fuck off.
Record: 32-14 Streak: W-2
Up Next: @ Utah Jazz
Already lost once in Mormonville, but we didn’t have Ginobili the last time and the Jizz (cos they’re mostly white) haven’t been playing very well of late. Plus AK-47 might not play because of a sprained ankle or at best he’ll be gimpy. If we can shoot it over 45% and maintain all the other things we’re doing well, we’ve got a good chance.
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