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The Spurs (and me) are Mostly Back

By Michael Erler on January 8, 2008.

At long last, the nightmare is over. I think even my cold is gone now.
(Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

Holy fucking shit it’s about time. No, wiseass, not me posting again. I’m talking about the Big Three finally playing together again. Is it a coincidence that for the first time in what seems like forever the sun is shining outside? I don’t think so, my friends. I knew The Sickness wasn’t about to let me down and skip and rest on his fanny with the Spurs in town to play the Dubs.

The Clip game yesterday afternoon was merely an appetizer to tonight’s main course and I predict Gino will avenge his miserable showing in Oaktown last month, where his shooting slump began. The Spurs won’t take Nelson’s band of ne’erdowells so lightly this time around and I’ll be mighty surprised indeed if once again Matt Bonner is our offensive bell-cow.

What’s it been, something like 13 games since the Real Big Three have suited up? No, I’m not counting that first Clippers game. Manu played two minutes. Screw that. Anyway, over those 13 we went a paltry 7-6. There goes that “they’d still be good even with two of the three” theory, eh? A 7-6 pace wouldn’t even get you in the playoffs in the West. Well, maybe it might, as an 8th seed, but then we’d just get smoked by those lame, boring son-of-a-bitch Spurs. Oh wait, we are the Spurs. Well shit, somebody would beat us.

Anyway, here is the complete breakdown of how we did with each guy missing, just for shits and giggles. Right off the bat I’m telling you that this information is both pointless and useless. It means nothing. But read on!

Without Timmy: 2-2 Vs. Playoff Teams: 2-2 Vs. Scrub Teams: 0-0
Without Tony: 1-3 Vs. Playoff Teams: 1-2 Vs. Scrub Teams: 0-1
Without Manu: 4-2 Vs. Playoff Teams: 0-2 Vs. Scrub Teams: 4-0

It should be noted that there was a one game overlap, the Lakers game, where both Tim and Tony were out. On paper that was a no-chance game, but the Lakers played poorly and a couple of our role guys stepped up to make it a game. Not that I’m making excuses for Manu or anything, because he sucked that game. SUCKED. If he was halfway decent we’d have won that one. But anyway, I think what this meaningless, way too small of a sample size chart shows is that A) you need Manu in 4th quarters against good teams and B) the smalls might have rallied around Tim’s absence because NOBODY thought they could beat Dallas or Utah without him, but once the initial euphoria of that wore down, they looked quite wimpy indeed. As for the part about Tony’s absence, don’t tell anyone, but I kinda missed the 15 to 20 easy points we were guaranteed every night with him blowing by the much slower, less athletic opposing point guard. That little shit is kind of a big deal for our team, even if I give him a hard time now and again. Of course, if Beno was still on the team, we wouldn’t have missed Parker at all. The Spurs were a fucking juggernaut when Udrih started. I mean, you can’t even debate this.

Here’s a brief rundown of the past five games, as I remember them in a comatose haze. Holy fuck are the Spurs boring without Manu. Well there are other reasons why they’ve been boring, but we’ll get to that in time.

Raptors 83, Spurs 73

God what a mess this was. When the sked came out if you told me this one would end 83-73 bad guys, I’d have blown my forever-runny nose right on your new leather shoes. There’s simply too much offensive talent, on both sides, for an NBA game to be played this poorly. I don’t know what was worse, watching Tim and Tony combine for 12 turnovers, many of them unforced, or having to listen to homeriffic Sean Elliott sugarcoat each and every single one of them. Sean, it’s okay, they’re allowed to lose every once in a while. You’re not going to get fired for criticizing the team now and again or just pointing out their mistakes. Please, just have a little credibility, that’s all I ask. At least with the road announcers, it’s fun to make fun of them. I hate having to pick on our own guys, but Elliott calling a Spurs loss is torturous.

At their low point the Spurs were down 16, 40-24 and they finished the first half with more turnovers than made field goals. No simple task, that. That they managed to make a game of it in the 3rd quarter has less to do with any heroic individual effort on their part and more to do with T-Dot, who were pretty inept offensively themselves. I don’t know how much defensive credit we deserve when the Raptors, who lead the league in 3-point shooting, hit only 4 of 16 and when Chris Bosh only makes 5 of 16 shots, despite having wide open looks from 18 feet and in all night long. We only forced seven turnovers and had a mere four blocks, so the hustle stats weren’t there for our defense, by any means. I think it was just a case of Sam Mitchell letting Pop sucker him into playing a slow pace when clearly the Raptors could’ve blown San Antonio out of the water by forcing the issue.

Not that Pop himself conducted a coaching clinic, by any stretch. Playing Bowen 38 minutes when the team desperately needed offense and the Raptors not having a legitimate perimeter threat was a dumb move. Bruce couldn’t work himself into a frothy lather, not having anyone particularly dangerous to guard and as a result he kind of mixed and matched a little bit against everybody and pretty much got burned by whoever he went up against. A team worst -20 when the next lowest was Tony with -6? For shame, Bruce.

Then again, where exactly was offense going to come from? Our “stars” on this evening were Michael Finley and Matt Bonner, who shot a combined 9 of 26. Wheee. To say ball movement was a problem would be an understatement. The guys couldn’t string two passes together without turning it over so after a while they figured the best option was to simply let the guy with the rock shoot it. A hot stretch from Fin and Timmeh got them to the 4th down on only three, but a four minute offensive dry spell, where (you won’t believe this) Robert Horry was prominently involved opened the door for Toronto to get the margin back to nine and that was pretty much that.

Spurs 111, Grizzlies 87

Here was the one game we played during my latest sojourn to Reno. I won’t bore anyone with the details because all of my gambling stories pretty much wind up sounding the same, but here are the highlights:

We arrived on Sunday morning, a half hour before the Week 17 NFL games and I promptly made $80 bucks in football bets. Manolis, meanwhile won $350 on his first horse racing wager. That’s right, horseracing. In fact, I think the fucking things were even carrying midgets on chariots. Manolis is the luckiest degenerate on the face of the planet. Flush with my football prognostication skills, I made $50 more in bets on the evening’s Colts/Titans game. I fucked that up royally so I tried to win that money back in blackjack. Long story short, I was quickly down $400 dollars by the end of the night. Oh, and I fell asleep at a strip club.

On the second day it went back and forth with the blackjack, I got as high as being down only $200 and as low as being down $650. In fact, I would’ve been down to
my last $100 if I lost this one hand where I had to stay on 16 against the dealer’s 10. Luckily, she busted and I wound up winning another hand and I was back to being only $450 down before Manolis and I decided to try our luck at poker, $2-4 hold ‘em. That went really well for me, I even had a hand where I made four jacks, and they give you a $100 bonus for that, and I think I made like $234 on poker in a few hours. Then I made another $50 in roulette (playing my Spurs numbers and Alexei Kovalev’s 27) my number came up four times out of nine, I think. Kovalev’s twice, Matt Bonner’s 15 once and Frankie Von Hoojdunk’s 16 once. I made another $50 in blackjack, making 21 both hands, once when I got a 9 after being dealt Q-2, and the second time after I got a A-6, then another 6, then an 8. Like a dummy, I quit.

The third day we really didn’t gamble very much at all. We played poker again for a couple of hours, I lost $92 there, including a brutal hand where I misread the board badly. I had 2-3 suited and the flop came 4-5-10. I had an up-and-down straight draw, needing only an A or a 6. A queen came on the turn, helping nobody, I thought. On the river though came that miracle A. I thought I had the nut straight, an unbeatable hand since there were no flushes on the board and nobody could’ve made a full house either since the board didn’t have a pair on it.

There were only four people in the hand by the end, me, Manolis and two other twits. If it’s just me and Manolis we just check against each other since we don’t want to take each other’s money but since there were more guys involved, it was fair game. So Manolis bet and I raised. The third guy folded but the fourth guy called. Then Manolis surprised the hell out of me and re-raised. You’d think at this point I would’ve been smart enough to look at the board again, but no, not I. I was certain I had the best hand possible. So I re-raised him. The other guy still called that bet, and then Manolis re-raised me back, capping the betting. At this point, I thought he had a 2-3 as well and I was going to push. No way Manolis bets like that without the best hand. Still, a draw wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world with all those chips in the pot, especially with half of it going to my best friend, right?

By now you’ve probably figured out he had the J-K and he crushed my Wheel with a Broadway. Man I was royally pissed about that one. I got up soon after that and headed back to the blackjack table to regain my losses as well as my dignity. I won a $100 in like four hands and left Reno down maybe $30 or so. The best part of the trip was that I didn’t have to pay for any hotels or food because his parents get comped like crazy for everything with all their horse racing betting. They bet on literally every race when they’re down there, from beginning to end, and there’s a new one that starts every five minutes or so. It’s crazy. Anyway, you might think spending New Year’s at a poker table sounds lame or even pathetic, but trust me, I’ve had worse.

Meanwhile our Spurs had themselves a little matinee against the Grizzles that Sunday, and while I didn’t’ get to watch very much of it in Reno, I did Tivo the thing and saw it when I got home. It was, by far, their best offensive showing of the five games Manu missed. Tony sliced and diced his way through the lane against the lumbering Damon Stoudamire and even made all 12 of his free throws. Tim looked plenty springy and motivated, two adjectives we definitely don’t get to attribute to him too much during the regular season these days, on his way to a tour de force 24-17-7 night, and Fin set a new season high with 24 points, on 8 of 12 shooting. Even Bonner chipped in, with 18.

I don’t know what got into the fellas that day, especially Tim, but I’m certain it had something to do with the reappearance of Darko Milicic. Joe Dumars’ infamous draft pick didn’t play in the last go around between the two teams (neither did Gasol) and in a bizarre coincidence, they beat us. Darko constantly overplayed Tim, going for steals when the more prudent thing would’ve been to put a body on the 1st Team All-NBAer, and Duncan had easy baskets time and again. I don’t know if Milicic-Gasol-Mike Miller is the softest frontcourt in NBA history, but it very well might be the palest, and Tony had no problem penetrating into the gooey middle of that twinkie for lay-ups, freebie attempts or easy kickouts for three.

Most likely the guys just wanted to redeem themselves after their sorry showing at Memphis the week before, Tim in particular for giving Rudy Gay too much room on the game winning jumper. Bruce meanwhile, perhaps peeved at being spit-roasted by both Miller and Gay in that game was at his pesky best, holding Miller and his ridiculous hair without a shot attempt in the first half. Memphis was so awful defensively that even Jacque Vaughn and Van Hoojdunk had nice performances against them, combining for 14 points on 7 of 8 shooting.

The Grizzlies have some nice shooters going for them, but this club plays defense exactly the way you’d expect it to loaded with a bunch of Europeans and coached by an ex-assistant of Mike D’Antoni. The development of Mike Conley in a couple of years might help, but Milicic and Miller need to be shipped out and upgraded for some guys who are bigger and meaner and the bench needs more bigs as well. Stromile Swift sucks and unfortunately it seems that I was way wrong about Hakim Warrick. He’s not going to ever be a star in this league.

Nuggets 80, Spurs 77

The Nuggets game was as frustrating as it was unwatchable. The Spurs had it. I mean, they had it. Up four, 1:30 to play, that should be a lock. But Tony was a little too lax against a screen and gave Anthony Carter all the room in the world to hit a three and then after Tim got stripped by Kenyon Martin, another defensive miscommunication between Tony and the Red Rocket led to the game winning lay-up by the “Bad Ass Yellow Boy.” Kenyon Martin making clutch plays to beat the Spurs? I’m not ready to live in that world.

We still had our chance to win it, but the wee Frenchman got stuffed for what seemed like the 10th time that game and then Bruce clanked a wide open 15 footer. Crap. Sorry, but watching that whole miserable sequence, I couldn’t help but think, “There’s no fucking way we lose this game if Manu played.” He’d have scored a dozen fourth quarter points just on all the hacks Martin and Nene would’ve no doubt given him. They can’t resist. It’s like the three guarantees in life are death, taxes, and the Nuggs beating the hell out of Ginobili in Denver.

Here the Spurs played smartly and bravely, committing just eight turnovers and clamping down on all the Nuggets outside of Carmelo and A.I., but it’s just too hard to win scoring only 77 points. Duncan didn’t have much juice at all and was harassed all night by the wave after wave of bigs Denver threw at him and Tony repeatedly tried to force it against their shot blockers, which was a mistake on his part. You can’t have the same strategy against every defense and Parker erred big time in treating the Nuggets like they’re the Grizzlies. May he just wasn’t prepared to the sight of Nene, Martin, Eduardo Najera and Marcus Camby all being healthy at the same time. Such an occurrence is rarer than Halley’s Comet, but yet, there they were.

Beating the Nuggets is no secret. We’ll have to outsmart them, outshoot them, and out-discipline them, same as always. Points inside will be hard to come by and they obliterated us in the paint in this one. Counting on injuries would be awfully unsporting, yet given their track record, it’s hard to picture their frontline being totally unblemished by the time May rolls around. Outside of Houston, they’re the most fragile contender, both physically and mentally, right? Eith
er way, I’m not too worried about meeting up with Denver again. Same old Nuggets.

P.S. This was the second game Horry started and did squat. But Oberto, as a reserve, was even worse than squat. I couldn’t even get upset that their stupid announcers kept pronouncing his last name “Auberto” because he didn’t play well enough to have it pronounced properly.

Spurs 97, Knicks 93

So much for the good defense the club had been playing. This was awful. This was pathetic. This was embarrassing. The Spurs let themselves get bullied and knocked around against a listless, disorganized, heartless Knicks team that has openly quit on their coach, the beleaguered Isiah Thomas. How can you let a team captained by Stephon Marbury shoot 49%? How can Timmy shoot 5 of 16 against a side that had 0 blocks? Talk about not showing up to play. The guys just threw their uniforms out there against New York, took them as lightly as possible, and it was barely – barely – enough. The only things that saved them were a rash of unforced Knick turnovers, some better than expected shooting from Rocket and Findog, and a halfway decent offensive night from Mr. Potatohead.

Still, Tim was MIA, getting outplayed by fatboy Eddy Curry of all people, and Tony was in a fog all night. You’d think facing Starbury would motivate him since the turd routinely beat Parker to a pulp when Tony first came into the league. Nope, he just wasn’t into it. The Knicks have fallen so far that we, the most business-like team in the NBA, can’t be bothered to take them seriously. I only shudder to think what might have happened had Zach Randolph played. Really, I can’t even discuss this game rationally, I get so upset just thinking about it. Just rest assured that if the two teams switched coaches before the game, the Knicks would’ve won by a dozen points. A Lakeritis special, all the way.

P.S. Props to DerMarr Johnson, who looked like he had a decent stroke, in limited action. Oh jeez, I’m starting to sound like TimVP. Grrrrrr.

Spurs 88, Clippers 82

Oh thank Christ. Now if y’all can just stay healthy the rest of the year, I might be able to enjoy basketball again. Think of every negative stereotype you’ve heard about the Spurs the past decade; they’re slow, they’re boring, they’re one-dimensional, they’re whiny, and that’s them without Manu. The offense was mostly excruciating to watch, getting points was like squeezing blood from a stone, and the whole lot of them, especially Timmy , have started to again fall into the nasty habit of bitching to the refs after every call or non-call.

Yo, dude, the refs aren’t the problem. The problem is that you can jump about three inches off the ground these days, you’ve got three pesky motherfuckers swarming you, and your passing options are Bruce Bowen, Ime Udoka, and Robert Horry. Let Timmy play 25 minutes a night with both Tony and Manu again and voila, I predict much less bitching in the future. And just wait until Bones joins them. We might actually start having nights where we shoot over 35% from threes again.

And I saw in the San Antonio paper that Pop is still concerned about the offense. Oh, really? Well let me take a wild stab in the dark and guess that it has something to do with you starting a 58 year old fossil at center who is shooting like 23%. You put him out there with other offensive luminaries like Bowen and Finley, and points are going to be hard to come by on nights that Tony Parker doesn’t play like a young Allen Iverson.

Let me sound it out for you, real nice and slow for you Pop: Robert. Horry. Can’t. Play.

He’s had a nice run, but it’s over. Time to put him out to pasture. Your offense was playing swell when the big three was healthy, Oberto was starting and Horry was chained to the bench. Then the big three got themselves unhealthy and you started experimenting with RoHo because he has pictures of you drinking Merlot out of a cardboard box or something. Stop playing him, I beg you. And once Barry comes back, stop playing Udoka too. It’s very hard to screw up the San Antonio Spurs, but giving Horry any meaningful minutes would go a long way toward that end. I’d even rather see Tinyball than Horryball. Because Horryball is horri-ble. Clever, eh? That’s why I get paid the big bucks.

The Clips game played out like we should expect. Kaman gave Duncan fits, Parker mostly had his way with Cassell and Brevin Knight and Manu did a bunch of Manu things, drawing fouls on both ends, blocking a Cuttino Mobley lay-up, hitting a big three to pretty much put the game to bed, finishing a team high +16. He still can’t shoot very well with that bandage thingy on his hand, but it was nice to see him out there again for sure, especially with a couple of boring as piss NFL playoff games as the only other television alternative. I dare say we wouldn’t have won that one without Manu. But then again, we probably wouldn’t have won it without Timmy or Tony either. Robert Horry? I’ll go out on a limb and say we could’ve squeezed by without him.

I’m just relieved that the big three are back and hopeful that the knock Tim took on his knee near the end won’t be enough to keep him out of the Warriors game tonight. We missed him plenty the first time and I don’t want the Spurs to go 0 for 2 here. I have to leave pretty soon, so I think I’ll wrap it up here for now.

P.S. Yes, Clippers TV guys, we get it. Eva Longoria is married to Tony Parker. She attends quite a few of his games. Really, we’re used to this and this is not a revelation to us. Yes, she’s very pretty, we totally agree with you. But you really don’t have to show her every single time Tony makes a basket. You don’t have to show her every time he gets knocked ass over tea kettle. You don’t have to show her texting her friends when Tony is on the bench. No, I don’t think she’s texting Tony right now during the game. Pop would probably be somewhat peeved at that. Good golly. Tony Romo-Jessica Simpson have nothing on us.

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  1. JT January 9, 2008

    Here in the Austin market, it is becoming dang difficult to find a Spurs game that isn’t on TNT. Our local channels haven’t started showing any games yet, and our Fox Sports channel has turned into a Mavs channel, despite Austin being only 90 miles away from S.A. So, in other words: I miss Sean Elliot’s voice, as crazy as that sounds.

    I would also listen to Sean Elliot call a fuse ball game before I heard Gumble and the other yokel call anymore NFL network games. Worst ever.

  2. Anonymous January 10, 2008

    JT channel 12, the CW, is showing most of the Spurs games now. Make sure to check it next time you can’t find the game.


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