If That’s What Kissing Your Sister Feels Like, I’m Kidnapping Mine and Moving to Kentucky
Game 5 San Antonio @ Phoenix: Spurs 88, Suns 85 (2-3)
With all due respect to my colleague Matthew, I couldn’t disagree more about how it feels winning this game. At first, when the suspensions were announced, I admit I felt guilty about it. Hell, I even suggested that we should sit Timmy for the game just to protest against the national attack of our team’s integrity and principles. Looking back on it, I feel kinda silly writing that now, but heck, it made Deadspin, so yay me. If the national sports media wants to use one incident to villify our entire franchise; if everyone’s memory and perspective about the Spurs are that lacking, then fuck it, I’m through feeling guilty and sympathetic for the Suns.
In fact, fuck everyone.
It’s one thing to be upset with David Stern’s ruling, but why take it out on players who had nothing to do with it? KSAT in San Antonio reported that a bomb threat was phoned in at the Spurs hotel Tuesday night and that fans were honking their car horns all night outside the hotel in hopes of disturbing the players’ sleep. I mean, really… Then when the game ended TNT’s Craig Sager couldn’t even conduct his usual postgame interview on the court because some idiots were throwing water bottles at them. You may have noticed that Manu got interviewed inside the tunnel a short while later.
It seems as if the entire sports media – an entity that’s supposed to neutral mind you – is actively rooting against us now. Bruce Bowen is being treated like a cross between Bill Laimbeer and O.J. Simpson, despite the fact that he hasn’t had any drama the past two games. Everyone’s taking shots at Manu for being a flopper (how is that dirty exactly?) and nobody seems to remember that this was the same guy who nearly got his eye gouged out in Game 3. Where was the national outcry over the Suns’ dirtyness? Exactly how many times does Oberto have to be manhandled under the basket before someone notices? We’ve had both Tony and Elson undercut this series, but we’re the goons.
The difference in this series hasn’t been the actions of the respective teams, it’s been their reactions. When bad things happen to us, whether it’s a hard foul, drawn blood, or a bad call, we say our piece to the refs but quickly move on. We don’t retaliate and we don’t complain to the press afterward. The Suns react poorly and complain about EVERYTHING.
Here’s three things I don’t understand about the Horry incident:
1. How come nobody has said word one about Bell charging into RoHo immediately after? Horry was already walking away from Nash. It didn’t become an altercation until Raja charged into him. How come he didn’t get in any trouble for instigating things further?
2. How can anyone sit there and tell me that Amare was just a concerned teammate and that he had no bad intent? What a crock of shit! Nash was crumpled on the sidelines and Amare wasn’t walking straight toward him at all. He was walking diagonally, ready to make a beeline right into the scrum. The only reason he didn’t do anything was because four Suns assitants dragged him back before he could. If he pulled a Kermit Washington on Manu or Tony, then would we still be the dirty team?
3. Finally, if Diaw and Stoudemire were just being “concerned teammates” then what does that make Pat Burke, Jalen Rose, Kiwi, etc…? What does that make our reserves who didn’t budge an inch? Were they all just shitty teammates? Was Beno Udrih thinking to himself, “Man, screw Robert Horry. I wouldn’t piss on him if he were on fire.” Did Marcus Banks just stand there because he’s bitter that D’Antoni likes that overrated white boy Nash over him? Are Amare and Diaw the most sensitive, caring teammates on the planet, willingly risking suspension to check on their little buddy? Puh-lease.
Whatever. Everyone wants to talk about the great game the Suns almost won, nobody wants to give us any credit for coming back from 16 down. We were the bad guys for ruining their sports movie. Because it’s our fault that their coach played the same four guys to death. If you’re never ever ever gonna play bench players, no matter how physically desperate for bodies you are, why even have them on the roster? The Suns literally have six guys who never play. Our coach plays ten guys every night, no matter how much three or four of them suck and…
well I guess I have no point.
No, screw that. I do have a point. No matter how crappy your scrubs are, at least play them in the regular season so that you won’t kill your guys before the playoffs even start. And who knows, maybe one or two of them will surprise you. Suns owner Robert Carver (a total assclown of nearly Cubanian proportions) has said that he’s not willing to pay three guys superstar money every year if they’re not even going to make the Finals, and supposedly this year was their core’s last shot to get it done before, I’m guessing, buh-bye to the Matrix. But maybe the Amare suspension will serve as a reprieve from the governor and Carver will think the group was good enough to go all the way, but just got unlucky. Either way, this organization desperately needs a strongwilled GM who can stand up to D’Antoni and demand that either he starts playing a 9.5 man rotation next regular season or he look for a new job.
I think the person I’m annoyed with most of all is Simmons. His column, written before Game 5, was absolute hypocrisy, on so many levels.
1) His “tuck-rule” analogy is a total flip-flop. After it happened he argued that it was a good rule, that it was fairly called, that the Patriots totally deserved to win the game and that anyone complaining about it was a crybaby and a whiner. He even tried to rationalize it, saying if Jon Gruden was less conservative with his play-calling in the 4th quarter, the Raiders would’ve killed the clock and won the game outright. Now that the Pats have 3 rings (and are favored to win a 4th this year) he’s more objective about the whole thing and concedes it’s a stupid rule. What a jackass.
2) He doesn’t like that Bowen is a chippy, dirty player, but defends the good ol’ days when players were allowed to beat the hell out of each other. The reason Bowen is effective is because other players hate to play against him. Tim loves Bruce. Ask Isiah what he thought of Laimbeer and Rodman. Ask Magic what he thought of Rambis. Ask Jordan what he thought of first Oakley, then Cartwright, then Rodman. You need gritty, chippy players to win. Is it any wonder that the Suns have more of an edge now because they have Bell on their roster?
3) Speaking of Bell, I found it ironic that Simmons has focused on Bowen and ignored all the liberties that Bell has taken on Manu and Tony over the course of the series. The only difference is our guys don’t complain to the media after games.
4) Has he been watching the series at all? Practically every time Tony’s covered Nash, we’ve gotten the better of the matchup. Whenever Bowen’s been on him, Nash has destroyed Bruce. One would think that Nash would be begging for Bowen to cover him all game, especially now that so much has been said about Bruce that the refs are targeting him.
5) Simmons has been on the Suns’ nuts all year, saying how much he loves how they play, loves their free-flowing offense, and he conveniently ignores that they’re the softest team in the NBA, even with Bell. If this team played in the 90s with the Bulls, the Pistons, and the Knicks, they would have the shit beat out of them and been lucky to wi
n 47 games. When Bird’s Celtics were hammering these Suns on the boards by 30, Simmons would’ve been mocking these guys to no end.
6) I’m getting sick and tired of how much Simmons trashes foreign players. As if American players never tried to exaggerate fouls before 2002. This guy was kissing Manu’s butt in ’05 and now he slams him at every opportunity. It’s gotten to the point that Ginobili could practically have his eye gouged out and people accuse him of flopping. Did Simmons make one mention of the cut under Manu’s eye? No. You know why? Because Ginobili doesn’t whine like a little girl about the fouls he gets after a game to the press. Even when he’s gotten flagrant fouls against him and guys have gotten ejected, like Melo, Manu never said anything bad about anybody. Simmons’ rant is both racist and xenophobic. Stop blaming foreigners for everything.
7) Yeah, defenders flop more to draw offensive fouls. So what? Look at all the advantages offensive players have now. They can set moving picks. Defenders can’t hand check. The guys can carry the ball on their dribbles like The Professor. Yeah if somebody played like Bell 15 years ago he’d probably get decked. But if somebody dribbled like Tony or AI 15 years ago, they’d commit 30 turnovers a night. Games evolve and rules are interpreted differently over the years. You aren’t even allowed to cover receivers in the NFL anymore or pitch inside in baseball. Simmons should fucking grow up.
Really, no broadcaster on the planet should be allowed to bring up the topic of flopping without starting with Raja Bell. The guy is absolutely shameless about it. Did he go three straight possessions last night without falling ass over teakettle on the floor? I know every Spurs fan will immediately think about that play late in the fourth quarter when Manu barely nudged him with an elbow and he hurtled backwards, but that wasn’t even Bell’s most blatant flop of the night. There was a play in the 2nd quarter I think where he was running back down the floor with Elson, behind the play no less, and Francisco lightly brushes by him. Bell launched himself toward the sidelines like he was stealing 3rd base. I fucking despise him.
8) The goofiest part of Simmons’ blog was the part about Bruce being some incredibly coordinated athlete who knows what he’s doing at all times. I was reading it, just bewildered. Has he ever SEEN Bruce play? Coordinated? Um dude, there’s a reason we hide this guy in the corners on offense. He can’t dribble the ball twice before traveling with it or losing it. He’s had routine passes bounce off his hands out of bounds at least a dozen times this year. He reguarly shoots air balls on six foot floaters. He might be the least coordinated wingman in the NBA. He has ZERO basketball skill outside of the ability to move laterally on defense. I swear to God if Bruce was half the athlete Bill described him as, he’d average 17 a night.
And if he’s so dirty, how come he only gets involved in one or two incidents a year? This guy plays against the opponents best perimeter scorer 82 nights a year plus playoffs. If he was that dirty, wouldn’t it come up more often? How come tough guys like Kobe, LeBron and T-Mac never have any issues with him but total bitch-ass crybabies like Allen, Vinsanity and Stevie Franchise do? Is that just a coincedence?
The media are looking for excuses to root for the Suns because we’re too boring and unmarketable. Now we’re the dirty team. Along with the foreigner team. We don’t have any guys where they can run a half-time feature about the different personal meanings of their 59 tattoos. We don’t do cutesy dances or hand gestures after made threes. If only one of our stars was a registered sex offender… alas.
What about the game? I watched most of the 2nd half at a party for SDSU’s newspaper staff next to a colleague of mine who’s a huge Suns fan. He actually told me he’d take Bell over Manu and I don’t believe he was totally inibriated when he said it. He said it early in the 3rd quarter, I think Manu only had four or six points at the time, so I knew it’d be a good omen.
I think the team came out soft and intimidated to begin the game. Maybe they were suprised to be booed as a team every possession. Duncan didn’t have anything early, Tony and Manu were tentative, and nobody knew what they were doing on offense. The offense was so out of sync that not only were we taking mostly jumpers, but they weren’t even open or in rhythm jumpers. Nobody looked like they wanted to play or shoot the ball. Defensively we weren’t that poor except against Marion. We couldn’t figure out who to guard him with. Seemingly every possession somebody else picked him up (or didn’t). Neither Finley, Oberto or Elson could do anything with him for the first 24 minutes and he had 20 first half points on 8-11. As horiffically as we were playing, we started to get something going late in the 2nd with the Manu/Tim pick and roll (Gonzo had 3 of our 4 halftime assists) and I knew that all things considered, 44 points at half wasn’t at all an unacceptable amount to allow Phoenix.
The gang regrouped at half, Pop started Manu, did his best D’Antoni impression and hardly played his scrubs, and we started siezing momentum, little by little. We’d make mini-runs, they’d make mini-runs, back and forth. Our offense couldn’t put a monster stretch together because once we got Timmy going, they started to double and we couldn’t knock down the open shots any better than we could the contested ones.
Finally the dam burst in the fourh quarter and we hit six of our last seven threes to crawl back into it for good. Down 79-71 with a tick over five minutes to go, we smacked ’em with a 13-2 run to turn the game around for good. Fin hit a three, Manu made a hat trick of free throws after Nash hurtled into him on a three point attempt, Tony made a 19 footer from the top of the key, Tim sank two big freebies to tie it back up after the Suns took their final lead of the game, and then Bruce hit the crusher from his usual spot, right in front of the Suns’ bench.
The zebras tried to give the Suns one last little bit of help, forcing Timmy to the line when he had already passed the ball to Manu before Bell touched him, but his clanks didn’t cost us this time. The Suns had run out of gas. Would it have killed D’Antoni to play Rose, Burke or Banks for a couple minutes, with Phoenix up between 6 and 12 practically the whole second half? We’ll never know.
Here is what I do know. All the experts and yahoos who expect the Suns to steamroll us in Game 6 just because Amare and Diaw are back are in for a rude awakening. These games don’t get played in a vacuum and the fatigue is cumulative. Nash, Thomas, Marion, Bell, these guys are all exhausted. We can run them out of the building tomorrow if we put our minds to it. Timmy can have his way with Thomas from the opening tip if the Suns don’t double. As long as the zebras give us a fair shake, we’re going to win this one going away, by 12 to 15 points.
Three tips for Pop…
1) Start Manu. The backup charade has gone on long enough. We’re in bigboy territory of the playoffs now and he needs to play major minutes. If we get him going early we’ll get the fans into it and if we get the fans into it, the Suns will lose their spirit quickly.
2) Play Brent at backup PG. So far in the playoffs Barry has 24 points at home, 0 on the road. Obviously that stat has negative conotations. But tomorrow we’re at home, so let’s look at it as glass half-full.
3) Bench Jacque Vaughn. -17 in six minutes? That’s unfathomable. How much worse can you or me do? -22? -24? That should be like a reality show next year, “How Much Can a Regular Guy Screw Up an NBA Team in Five Minutes?” Seriously, how badly does he have to play before Pop gets it?
Guys I’d rather see as our backup PG: A)
Gonzo B) Bones C) Beaner D) Flight. My graduation ceremony is tomorrow so once again I won’t be able to watch the game live, but I’m feeling pretty confident about this one.
3. Shawn Marion – Monster first half, giving the Suns a big lead, disappeared in second. I’m as shocked as you are.
2. Manu Ginobili – 26 pts, 10 rebounds. His 15 points in the 4th were more than he’d scored in four of the previous five games. Had a couple cringe-inducing turnovers there though…
1. Tim Duncan – Got better as the game went on, was an absolute force of nature on defense late. Forced the Suns to abandon their defensive strategy as poor Kurt Thomas had had enough.
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