Worst 36 Minutes All Season
Game recaps are not my forte, and Michael is certainly working on a brilliant recap of game 5 even as I write this. Even so, I’m compelled to write that last night I witnessed the worst 36 minutes of basketball I’ve seen all season. It started in Cleveland and continued in Phoenix.
I have yet to watch a complete Eastern Conference playoff game. I’ve watched highlights and a quarter here and there, but not a complete game. Frankly, I have little interest in the teams — except for the threat they might pose to the Spurs — or their style of play. I do like to watch individual players, like Jason Kidd and Vince Carter, but the conference as a whole holds about as much interest for me as do the WNBA or the NHL, which is to say, very little.
What I saw last night was bad beyond belief. The Nets managed to score just 6 points in the fourth quarter. If that weren’t bad enough, they still managed to beat LeBron’s Cavaliers by 11! How is that even possible? The Nets led by 18 at the end of three – a big lead, but not insurmountable. If the Cavs had matched their best quarter of the game (21 pts in the second), they would have only lost by three! But instead they scored just 13, and lost by 11.
Those 12 minutes of basketball defy description. Inept. Pathetic. Ugly. The Spurs-Suns game hadn’t started yet, so I watched the disgusting display with little interest, and waited. Little did I know that the next 24 minutes of basketball would be nearly as bad.
I had mixed feelings going into the game. I thought Horry’s forearm shiver on Nash in game four was uncharacteristic, uncalled for and completely classless, especially coming from a seasoned veteran like Robert.
I watched that game with Bramlet and predicted then that Horry would get suspended, and rightly so.
What neither of us knew then was that Stoudemire and Diaw would also get suspended. Granted, they both left the bench and the rules are the rules, but it just didn’t feel right to have the Suns lose their top scorer for a decisive game five. It wasn’t the way I wanted the Spurs to win.
Then again, I didn’t think we needed to make up for the league enforcing its rules so severely by doing something crazy like benching Duncan either.
As it turned out, it didn’t matter that Duncan was in the lineup, because the team was thoroughly ineffective for the first 24 minutes of play. The Spurs would play their worst quarter all season in the first — 13 points — and their worst half after 12 more minutes — 33 points.
Where was that mental toughness the Spurs are so famous for?
I can’t be sure, but I suspect that Tim, Tony, Manu and even Coach Pop couldn’t shake the feeling that the game had been fixed on their behalf, the outcome predetermined. Of course, I have no way of knowing this.
Maybe they felt like they deserved to win only if they played poorly, or let the Suns lead for most of the game?
That’s exactly what happened. The Suns took a 12-11 lead with 4:55 left in the first and would hold on to that lead for nearly the entire game, until Bruce Bowen dropped a dramatic three point bomb from the corner with just 36 seconds left in the game to give the Spurs a 84-81 lead.
Until that moment, it was as if the Spurs felt badly playing against a smaller, outmanned Suns. Did they play so badly because they felt like throwing the game, or at least wanted to give the Suns a shot at winning? Maybe.
How else do you explain the Spurs finally leading by three after having trailed nearly the entire game and then Duncan misses both free throws with 24 seconds left?
Never mind that Duncan was fouled by Raja Bell after he passed the ball to Manu Ginobili and shouldn’t have been shooting free throws at all. Duncan was shooting 7 of 9 from the charity stripe up until that point. Was Duncan exhibiting a mental collapse or self-sabotage?
Thankfully, Ginobili and Finley did all the remaining free throw shooting and the Spurs held on to win 88-85.
Manu had this to say after the game:
CRAIG SAGER: You’ve won a couple of rings with the Spurs. Talk a little about the series so far with Phoenix. How would you describe it, particularly tonight’s game?
MANU GINOBILI: Well, it’s about competing. Making it to the Finals is just about that. Playing really hard. Execute your offense, your defense. And play for 48 minutes. That’s what happened in game four. We played great for forty two, probably. And they … after that they came back and we stopped. Today was probably the opposite. They played great for forty two and we came back in the last quarter. So, you can’t relax for a second in this series because you’re done. So we’ve got to learn from that and go to six and do our best game for forty eight.
I’ll leave the three stars to Michael, but my vote would be for Duncan, Marion and Ginobili, in that order.
Here’s hoping that the Spurs play their best game for forty eight tomorrow night and close out the Suns.
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