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In Tinyball We Trust

By Michael Erler on November 23, 2007.

Game 12: Spurs 128, Magic 110

First, quick bit of business. Just in case you care (and odds are strong that you don’t) here is the relevant Youtube soccer clip. Okay there, I won’t mention EURO 2008 again until the group draws are announced on December 2, I promise.

Sorry it’s taken so long for me to post about what was unquestionably our most fun to watch game of the year, but between working a lot on the weekend, my NCAA ’08 addiction and a severe case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, it’s been difficult. So, before we get to the fun stuff, let me give you a peek into my depraved mind just so you can all collectively mumble to yourselves, “There but for the grace of God…”

You see, some time after the game I was over at SpursTalk (alwaysalwaysalways a mistake) and I happened upon a thread entitled, “Game Thoughts: Spurs at Magic Nov. 21″ by the one and only TimVP aka Mr. Kori Ellis. He does basically what I do here, except it’s not funny, entertaining, or accurate. To his credit, at least it’s timely and not like written haphazardly four days later, but I digress.

Anyway, in his account of the game, Mr. Ellis wrote, “This was a classic Bruce Bowen game. In the first half, Bowen is put on Rashard Lewis and shuts him down (Lewis was scoreless other than a layup with 12 seconds to go in the first half when Bowen was out of the game). In the first half, Hedo Turkoglu was 6-for-7 with 16 points. Pop switched Bowen onto Turkoglu in the second half and Turkoglu goes 3-for-11 in the second half, while Lewis goes 4-for-7 in the second half without Bowen on him. It was a very good night defensively for Bowen and it really illustrated how great of a defender he is. It’s beyond scary to think of the day when the Spurs don’t have Bowen.”

Our special Turkish aroma makes us practically unguardable.
(Photo by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images)

Now I like to think I pay more attention to the games I’m watching than the average basketball fan. And I was pretty sure that Bruce was guarding the Turk from the beginning, not just the second half. So I re-watched the game. And charted it. Possession by god forsaken possession.

Why? For you people. I do it for you.

Hedo points: 9/18 2/6 3pts, 6/7 FT 26 pts, 5 assists

Vs. Bruce 3/7, 0/2 3pts, 3/4 FT, 9 pts, 3 assists, 1 turnover

Vs. Finley 1/2, 1/2 3pts, 2/2 FT, 5 pts
Vs. Oberto 2/2, 1/1 FT, 5 pts
Vs. Manu 2/3, 4 pts, 1 assist
Vs. Udoka, 1/1, 1/1 3pts, 3 pts
Vs. Duncan 0/1, 0 pts
Vs. Barry 0/1, 0 pts
Vs. ?, 0/1, 0/1 3pts, 0 pts
Vs. Tony 0/0, 0 pts, 1 assist

Bowen Vs. Other People

Vs. Bogans 1/1, 1/1 3pts, 3 pts, 1 possession
Vs. Nelson, 1/1, 1/1 3pts, 3pts, 2 possessions, 1 no shot
Vs. Lewis 1/2, 2pts, 10 possessions, 7 no shots, 1 switch
Vs. Howard 1/1, 2 pts, 3 possessions, 1 turnover, 1 no shot
Vs. Arroyo 0/0, 1 possession, 1 no shot

Possessions Vs. Hedo

Bowen: 45 Possessions, 7 FGA, 3 fouls, 3 assists, 1 turnover, 8 switches, 23 no shots
Manu:
18 Possessions, 3 FGA, 1 assist, 1 foul, 1 switch, 12 no shots
Finley: 4 Possessions, 2 FGA, 1 foul, 1 no shot
Udoka: 3 Possessions, 1 GA, 2 no shots
Barry: 3 Possessions, 1 FGA, 2 no shots
Oberto: 2 Possessions, 2 FGA, 1 foul
Duncan: 2 Possessions, 1 FGA (block), 1 no shot
Tony: 2 Possessions, 1 assist, 1 no shot
Vaughn: 1 possession, 1 no shot

Just to clear up any questions, a “no shot” is when a player literally does nothing on a possession. He doesn’t record a shot attempt or an assist. Often, particularly in Hedo’s case, he doesn’t even touch the ball, as Jameer Nelson and Dwight Howard were pick-and-rolling us to death. A switch is when a screen or some zone rotation makes a player go from guarding one player to another. In this case I credited both guys with having had a defensive “possession” against Hedo. The guy who had him first got a “switch” and the guy who had him second got the net result of the play.

I didn’t paste the possession-by-possession chart here because it would’ve been too long, but trust me when I tell you that my initial instincts were confirmed. Bruce did indeed start the game on Hedo and was quite poor, giving up a pair of lay-ups and a couple of easy assists. Whenever the Magic bothered to set a screen for Hedo, disaster soon followed, as neither Fab-O or Findog could do anything with him. Bruce also was late on closing out on three pointers by Keith Bogans and Nelson. Overall he started off guarding Turkoglu on 45 possessions, vs. just 10 for Rashard Lewis.

That shouldn’t mean, mind you, that Opus was any more effective, Hedo blew by him for one lay-up, had plenty of room for a top of the key jumper he swished, and lost Gino on a pick-and-roll for an uncontested 18-footer from the left that he clanked. In fact, Turkoglu’s 9-of-18 shooting night is incredibly misleading as it could’ve just as easily been 15-of-18. He missed a couple of bunny lay-ups, and most of his other bricks were wide open as well. We really didn’t do a thing to stop him and we certainly didn’t deny him the ball. Often times the Magic simply ran a two man offense and both Turkoglu and Lewis were content to stand out in the perimeter and look for exposed cleavage.

It’s okay to admit Bruce had a bad night, TimVP. It happens to everybody. Sure, it may happen to you particularly often, but hey, the world would be a boring place if we were all the same. All we need to know about what Pop thought of Bowen’s effectiveness, on the odd occasion the Madge bothered to go at him, was that he took Bruce out of the game for good with 8:41 to go and the score at 101-95 for the good guys, and we promptly blew Orlando’s doors off with a closing 27-15 spurt. Oh, and Bruce was a team worst -5 on the night.

Okay, now that that bit of ugly business is behind us, let’s get to
the good stuff. Immediately I knew we were in for a fun night because for some reason, Matt Bonner was allowed to address the crowd before the game, probably to warn them about the dangers of drinking and driving before the Thanksgiving holiday or who knows what. Apparently, his speech took a detour and I’m not sure what he said exactly, maybe he told everyone to boo Pop until he gets some playing time, but it sure did get a reaction from the bench.

What a group of dour, miserable bastards. Actually, if you look at the picture carefully, you’ll see Bones privately seething that someone else on the team can be publicly funny. You’d have to be a Spurs fanatic to notice or understand this stuff…
(Photo by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images)

And Pop responded by giving him a DNP-CD. Classic.

Anyway, Pop started the game with his regular line-up, going big with Timmeh and Fab, but against an Orlando club that trots out basically two small forwards in Turkoglu and Lewis, that tactic was quickly discarded in favor of Tinyball. Basically, we had to do it. Even I, the world’s biggest tinyball critic, concede that against this club, we have little choice. None of our bigs can remotely guard one of their forwards (then again, going by the above chart, our smalls couldn’t either). And neither Frankie or Fab are talented enough offensively to exploit the match-up at the other end. Howard is going to always guard the post guy, regardless of whether it’s Tim or our centers, and Duncan’s not going being used properly shooting 15-footers against Turkoglu all night.

Matt Bonner would’ve been an option, except he a) can’t guard anybody either b) isn’t playing well right now and c) his playing would’ve probably come at Brent’s expense. Barry has become sort of the Spurs designated Tinyball specialist and the majority of his playing time comes in this fashion.

Defensively we were a mess all night. Orlando shot 56% from the field and 50% (10-20) from downtown. A little bit of it was just nice shooting from them. A lot of it was terrible effort from us, as there was often considerable distance between their shooters and the closest “defender.”

The only reason we won is because we put up 18 more shots, thanks mainly to six more offensive rebounds and eight less turnovers.

Unfortunately, we don’t even have the “packing the lane” excuse either because Howard got 7! dunks according to the official play-by-play, and they might have missed a couple. He’s simply too big and strong for Tim or anyone else to be remotely capable of guarding him and outside of doubling him every time down, you’re looking at a guaranteed high percentage shot every time they throw it in to him. He’s basically a young Shaq but with a slightly better free throw stroke and the good sense to not open his mouth except when eating. Sure, Orlando wildly overpaid for Lewis, but they may have stumbled into the best frontcourt in the NBA.

Not even the ol’ “Stick your hand up his ass the next time he jumps” ploy could stop Howard from slamming it on us. Oddly, it only made him want to dunk more…
(Photo by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images)

Is Orlando the prohibitive favorite to come out of the East? I’m not sure. Their point guard is woefully inconsistent, but so is the Celtics’ Rajon Rando. Really the Eastern conference is pretty young at that position in general, so outside of a meeting with the Pistons, the Magic are okay there. Still, you get the sense the coaching staff doesn’t fully trust Nelson yet, as he’s only playing 31 minutes a night. A bigger concern is Orlando’s bench, or lack thereof. Like other perimeter Dukies before him, J.J. “The Best Shooter in Basketball History” Redick is a joke. 0 of 1 from the field and a -12 in 4 minutes against the Spurs. ::giggles:: Brian Cook and James Augistine have some size, but the former is soft and the latter is a rook. Adonal Foyle is a decent defensive center, like the Mavs’ Diop, but it’s 4-on-5 at the other end with him. Maurice Evans could provide some defense and size as a swingman, but we’ll have to see.

Already it seems as if the LEastern Conference is down to four clubs, realistically. Orlando, Boston, Detroit, and I’ll throw in Toronto because of their firepower and point guard play. I like the Madge’s chance against the Celtics, they match-up with them really well, but I’m not so wild about them against the Pistons. Against T-Dot, it’s a toss up, a free-for-all every game that would make Golden State vs. Phoenix blush. I worry that the media hard-on for Boston will make it tough for this club, or any other outside of Cleveland to get its share of calls when they meet the Celtics in the playoffs. I will say this much for Orlando though – they have a gigantic edge over everyone else in the conference tactically, thanks to Coach Hedgehog.

Hey ref! You call one more offensive foul against my guys and I will come over there and beat you to death with my gigantic penis. Right here, in front of everybody, I’ll do it!
(Photo by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images)

Offensively, what can I say? Numbers don’t begin to do the game justice, but I’ll throw some out anyway. 51.6% from the field, 13-of-24 (54.2%) from deep, and a franchise record 3 turnovers. And this was on a segababa after the team flew home from Atlanta for crying out loud, not exactly a 40 minute puddle jumper. We had 30 assists on our 48 field goals and many were of the spectacular variety. The non-spoken communication between Tim, Manu, Tony, Fab and the fifth Beatle (Bruce/Brent/Fin) is bordering on the spooky right now.

Just when I thought he’d peaked, Tony has raised his game to yet another level. He’s clearly playing better now than at any point last season, including the playoffs, because finally he’s developed a passing court sense to go with his unparalleled ability to create lay-ups for himself. He’s not wasting nearly as many possessions as he used to, he knows how to get to wherever he wants to go on the court, and he’s reading defenses much better than he ever has in the past and even setting them up when the mood strikes him. Opposing teams are so petrified by his ability to penetrate that the Spurs have more wide open shooters than ever. Too bad such a thing is too complex to ever keep track of (though lord knows I’d try) but I’m willing to bet we lead the league in uncontested shots.

If you think he penetrates the lane easily, just wait a couple years until the sex tape with the missus surfaces.
(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Still, our most unappreciated and underrated player is Oberto, by a mile. I can’t stress enough that outside of being 6’10” the guy has NO PHYSICAL ABILITY. Athletically he has zero business of being in the NBA. But he has a near genius-level basketball I.Q., at least on the offensive end of the floor, and he gets the most of what little he has, getting open off screens, tracking down offensive rebounds and most impressively with his clever passes to Timmeh in the high-low game. It’s really a perfect marriage, him and the Spurs, because I can’t think of another system where he’d have even middling success. There are other unselfish clubs out there, but the Suns and Warriors play too fast for him and I don’t think he’d mesh well with the L’il General in Dallas or Jerry Sloan in Utah. Toronto maybe, but I doubt Sam Mitchell would ever be smart enough to play him. Hell, it took Pop a year and a half…

Finally, even though it likely means more Tinyball frustration in the future, I’m overjoyed to see my third favorite player, Bones Barry, back on the court and contributing. The Spurs are just more fun to watch when he’s out there doing useless idiosyncratic Brent Barry things, like turning around and giving their bench a wink after his fifth bomb of the night. I think our best highlight line-up would be TWRP-Opus-Bones-Timmeh-Fab-O, but Pop never uses it because Pop hates me. I am hopeful that no matter how well Brent plays and how poorly Fin does (3-of-13, lovely) that coach won’t change a thing there. Don’t fix what isn’t broken. The least damage Finley can do to our roster is by playing the first six minutes of a half with the other starters.

Let’s see you do that, you hilarious ginger fuck.
(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Anyway, that’s it. It was a tight game for three quarters, but eventually we boatraced one of the two or three top teams in the East 128-110. Just remember, the Spurs are drab, boring,and play an unattractive brand of basketball. Somehow, someway, I’ll try to pry my eyes open through another 92 or so of their games this year. I’m a masochist, I guess.


Your 3 Stars

(You know both he and the team is playing well when Manu puts up 27-4-5 including a four point play and a three point play on back-to-back possessions and I don’t mention it. Except I just mentioned it. Eh, screw him, he didn’t deserve the 3rd star I gave him the night before in Atlanta…)

3. Tim Duncan – He started off slowly on the scoreboard and couldn’t do much defensively against Howard, but he played progressively better as the night wore on and showed the youngster a couple of things in the fourth. Mostly he gets the nod for a season high 16 boards when he played the majority of the game as the only big, and five assists.

2. Brent Barry – 7 of 8 from the field, 5 of 6 from downtown. Good thing we rested him for this one by giving him a DNP in Atlanta because without him we were sunk tonight. I wonder if maybe the guys and the coaching staff could overlaugh at Matt Bonner’s jokes the rest of the year and if maybe Jeff McDonald were to cobble together a poorly-written feature on Bonner as the resident team cut-up, what kind of numbers a seething Bones Barry could put up the rest of the way. Hell, he might dunk from the free throw line again.

1. Tony Parker - We really should have three All-Stars this year. Other teams get three with significantly less post season accomplishments. Isn’t it time we get three?


Record: 10-2

Up Next: Vs. Memphis Grizzlies
Expect a much shorter recap because the Grizzles are going nowhere.

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Comments

  1. Dingo November 26, 2007

    “I think our best highlight line-up would be TWRP-Opus-Bones-Timmeh-Fab-O …”

    True.

    “… but Pop never uses it because Pop hates me.”

    I’d like to think that Pop hates all of us here at SpursDynasty, but you especially, Michael.

  2. Anonymous November 27, 2007

    Bonner’s pre-game speech to the crowd was something to the effect of “Fake statistics from a fake journalist that is apart of the baseline bums proves that the louder you cheer tonight the bigger your appetite will be for Thanksgiving.” After the game Brent alluded the win to Matt Bonner.

  3. Anonymous November 27, 2007

    Stampler: I usually like your work but this time I think you are wrong. I watch that game and Bowen was definately defending R. Lewis in the first half. The Spurs were switching a lot and it was interchangable of who had who but Bowen’s main player to guard was R. Lewis.

    I watched the first half again and it was clearly Bowen on R. Lewis as the first option. Don’t be confused when Bowen comes to help on Turkolu.

    If you don’t want to believe me you can believe Pop who said the same thing (link below to video interview after game):

    http://www.woai.com/mediacenter/local.aspx?videoId=471621@video.woai.com&navCatId=15

    To quote Pop, “Bruce did I good job on Rashard”.

    Like I said I usually like your stuff but you are wrong this time.

    Peace.

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