I Can't Believe We Won That Game!
Game 10: Spurs 90, Rockets 84
Ohmygodohmygodohmygod. We won. When it looked like all hope was lost and we would choke once again, we won. I didn’t think it was possible, the team was looking so meek and soft for so long. I was left playing a game of 20 Questions to myself like a crazy person for an hour afterward, “We won. How’d we win? Is the score a misprint? Did that really happen?” Three days later I’m still exhilarated, nervous, pacing.
No, not about Spurs-Rockets, dummies.
I’m talking about Turkish football, of course. Soccer. Last Saturday my homies had a do-or-die game at Norway to qualify for the Euro 2008 tournament. The Euros are the second biggest international soccert tournament in the world, after the World Cup (wiseacres basically call it the World Cup minus Brazil and Argentina because outside of Europe those two South American countries are the only ones that are real powers in soccer), and they also occur quadrennially, so that soccer nuts only have to wait two years for a major tourney.
Back in March, I never thought we’d be in this position. On the 24th of that month we stomped our arch rivals, and the defending Euro champs, 4-1, at their home turf no less. An unthinkable, unfathomable result in world football and one that left us with a 4-0-0 record in qualifying with eight games to go. Surely a juggernaut such as us would have no problem sowing up one of the top two spots in our group and clinching our place into the Euros by game 8 or 9 of qualifying, no?
No, as it turned out, not so much. After the miraculous Greece game our national team went into a tailspin, going 1-2-3 over its next six games, including a home loss to Greece (just 1-0, but still) and a jaw-dropping road draw against the winnow Maltese. As a consequence after ten games we were left out in the cold staring in, third in our group with 18 points. Greece meanwhile used the humiliation we heaped on them as a rallying point, benched their goalie Ted Danson, and went on a 5-0-1 tear to clinch the group. Manolis naturally has given me a lot of shit for it, as well he should.
Anyway, the second spot in the group was now held by Norway, with 20 points. We had a shot to overtake them in Game 11, but only with a road win. All they needed to do was get a home draw and they could make their travel plans for Austria/Switzerland while we could go shed the tears of regret on our pillows of remorse. Things looked even bleaker when one of their defenders fired home a bicycle kick, of all things in the 11th minute and Turkey was down 1-0.
But then… oh wait, that’s right I already spoiled the ending with my introduction. Let’s just go the clip. You’ll notice our homer announcers are barely audible during Norway’s fantastic goal but quite animated indeed over what appear to be, at best, two average strikes by the good guys.
So now after 11 games Turkey has 21 points to Norway’s 20. By no means can we relax. Our last qualification game is Wednesday, at home against Bosnia-Herzegovina, a side we lost to 3-2 on the road a few months ago. We have to win the game, definitely, a draw won’t do. Norway’s last game is at Malta, for crying out loud, and there’s no way they won’t win that one 7-0 or some ridiculous thing. If they win and we tie, they’d edge us out in the final standings 23 points to 22 and we would have choked away a tournament birth yet again.
Frankly, I’m getting tired of seeing that. In the ’04 Euro qualifying all we had to do to get in was get the better of a home-and-home with freaking Latvia. Stunningly we lost 1-0 over there and in the second leg we were actually up 2-0 at one point, meaning all we’d have to do is finish with that score and we’d be in, but they came back to tie and we were out. In the ’06 World Cup qualifying my boys won a huge road game at Ukraine, eking by Denmark and Greece to finish second in our group, but then we lost the home-and-home playoffs to Switzerland, 6-4 on aggregate (a 2-0 road loss, a 4-2 home win with road goals counting double).
We haven’t participated in a major tournament since the ’02 World Cup, where we had an impressive result, finished third place, lost to Cup winners Brazil 1-0 in the semis. Six years is a damn long time and I don’t want it to be eight. For the love of all that is holy, please let us beat goddamn Bosnia-Herzegovina tomorrow.
Alright, alright, enough about the important stuff. Let’s discuss your precious (yawn) Spurs.
Yes, they did somewhat avenge their first loss of the season, and beat the formidable Rockets at home. And yes, it was nice to see Timmy bounce back with a huge first half and us doing a respectable job of containing the Big Chinaman. But really, how excited am I supposed to be considering A) they didn’t have Tracy McGrady and B) LUIS SCOLA WENT OFF ON US.
(AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Look, I know I should be happy that we beat them up on the boards. Coming in I certainly wasn’t expecting us to have a 4o-31 edge there. But there were several reasons as to why that stat isn’t nearly as impressive as it appears. For one, there were just less missed shots for the Rockets to rebound, particularly their own. They shot 50.7% and committed 16 turnovers. They only shot like 40% the first game and that percentage was with all the easy second shots they got. The first shot percentage must have been in the 20s. So yeah, I’m not too thrilled about letting a team missing their best player make more than half their shots, but that’s just me.
Secondly, their two smallish rebounding demons, Chuck Hayes and Molezi Wells suffered through some bad luck in the game. Hayes got only 13 minutes of run because of foul trouble and Scola’s great night so he wasn’t a factor. Wells had to play shooting guard instead of small forward with T-Mac out, so he was out on the perimeter instead of the block where he’d usually be setting up shop, and also we had the luxury of being able to put Bruce on him this time around, which helped. Mainly I think we have to remember that Wells’ biggest weakness as a player has always been his inconsistency. He just doesn’t come to play every night so a pathetic showing from him might have more to do with his biorhythms or his internal wiring or whatnot than anything we did.
(Photo by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images)
Gosh, look at me being so humble. I sound like Pop right now. “We caught Bonzi on an off night…” Lame.
Offensively, things were slightly more encouraging. Tim got the better of their single coverage this time around and made Houston pay, scoring 20 first half points before petering out and finishing the night with 25. They did double him more in
the second half, but it didn’t affect our three point shooting one way or another. We made 5 of 8 in the first half and 4 of 8 in the second. I don’t know how we got off way more looks against them this time around, maybe we rotated it better or something (Findog had five assists) but if I had to guess, I’d say that McGrady’s absence had something to do with that as well as he’s certainly a better defender than Wells when he sets his mind to it.
(Photo by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images)
Finley certainly did come up big, scoring 17 points on 7-0f-8 shooting, probably his best night as a Spur since Game 5 vs. the Nuggets last year, and it was nice to see him do it on the heels of the thrashing I gave him after the Dallas game. Dude even managed to garner his first offensive board of the season to boot. However his emergence, and that of Brent’s as well, will inevitably lead to more Tinyball from Pop (+8 in 15 minutes this game) and that is always a troublesome thought. The centers have to step up their game as 4 points and 7 rebounds in 33 minutes won’t cut it from Fabcisco Elserto.
Still, I can’t help having a bad feeling about this Rockets team. They don’t have McGrady and they shoot such a high percentage. Duncan gets 20 in the first half and we can’t shake them. We make 9 of 16 from downtown and they don’t blink. And now Scola is figuring out how to play in the league (he had another big game the next night). Right now they’re having a lot of great games individually, but the chemistry isn’t there yet for them to turn it into a collective effort. But by March I fear this team will be absolutely frightening, a much bigger threat than the Suns or Mavericks and really their only Achilles heels will be inconsistent 3 point shooting and the fragility of their two superduperstars.
We do have four championships, so it would be mighty ungrateful to bitch, but it certainly appears as though our front office made a colossal boner (not to be confused with a colossal Bonner) with Scola. I know the miserly owner made them do it, but to the Rockets? Jesus on a boat was that stupid. They were plenty good as it is and now they’re practically unguardable. The guy’s a sneaky bastard, flopping more egregiously than Sideshow Bob, but he’s got way more offensive skill. Plus he knows Manu’s game very well, and the three charges he drew from Opus last Friday made me all kinds of grumpy afterward.
(AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Beno Udrih’s success with the Kings I can handle. For one, the Kings are shit. For another, he was never going to play well here as a reserve. For whatever reason he has that starter’s mentality, just like Fin, and it wasn’t in him to give it his best and focus for 1o minutes a night as Tony’s understudy. He consistently played much better for us on those rare chances he did get to start, but definitely not well enough for the coaching staff to ever consider benching Tony. I mean, there is no argument who’s the better player. Still, maybe deep inside Udrih never let go of the fact that he destroyed Parker in some international game when they were both teenagers.
I don’t know how the Bean Burrito’s mind works and frankly I don’t care. I’m just bitter we couldn’t even get a good draft pick out of trading him because he was out with the broken pinky in preseason when he could have been showcased around.
Scola is a completely different story. Not only did everyone know he could play, but he could have started on our club right away with Tim shifting to center. That nonsense from Pop about “Scola wouldn’t have gotten many minutes behind Timmy” is utter nonsense. The high-low game between the two of them would have been devastating. Trading him for nothing, to a rival no less, was indefensible when it was done, remains indefensible now, and will always be indefensible. I’m happy Scola’s getting a chance to play in the league finally, and on my second favorite team probably, but as a Spurs fan I’m going to have a hard time forgiving Peter Holt for this one because it very well might come back to bite us in the keister come May.
(And this post started off so happy…)
Your 3 Stars
3. Michael Finley – A positive sign of things to come or one fluke good game out of ten? We shall see…
2. Manu Ginobili – Another nine rebound, seven assist night to go with the usual 19 points and clinching lay-up to ice the game. Just so you know, he’s still 1st in the league in PER, and he’s 1st by a three whole points. This is after 10 games folks, 1/8 of the season. 1/8 isn’t a fluke, it isn’t a blip. It’s a chunk. Ginobili has been the best damn player in the league for a whole chunk. I’m afraid to even think about it anymore.
1. Tim Duncan – But it’s still about Timmeh. Because you’re not a fool, are you?
Up Next: @Atlanta Hawks
A one game road trip to the dirty dirty before we come home for a segababa against the Magic. Yeah, that absolutely makes sense. Not to spoil it or anything, but we won. Both teams scored 11 points less than I thought they would. Recap coming in a few hours…
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