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Also, We Couldn't Find a Cracker Barrel

By Michael Erler on February 4, 2009.

Wah.
(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

One would think I’d have been totally geeked for Monday night. My beloved Spurs were in town and my even more beloved Manu was on a bit of a roll. I had tickets, as always, and my girlfriend agreed to cover for me at work and I was finally going to see my SpursDynasty buds again after a long time apart (mostly my fault).

But the whole day I had a weird feeling about the game. I didn’t want to get my hopes too high. The Spurs always seem to struggle in the Bay Area and make too many uncharacteristic turnovers and bonehead plays. They play poorly on defense and one Warrior – usually crazy ass Stephen Jackson – always seems to get insanely hot against them. The Dubs are an awful, awful road team and we beat the hell out of them in San Antone every single time, but at home they’re a spirited, frisky bunch, having already beaten Boston and nearly doing the same to Cleveland, with the Cavs escaping on a LeBron buzzer-beater. The Spurs had gone 1-3 in their last four visits to Oaktown, including their last loss despite scoring over 100 points, a 130-121 overtime setback last year on January 7th. Yes, Duncan was out for two of those three losses, but still I was nervous and thought it’d be anything but a Spurs runaway.

Timmy was dominating early, hitting one long jumper after another, and he had 17 of our first 25 points, as well as seven rebounds. Still, his ownage of Andris Biedrins didn’t translate to a big lead because we were a bit sloppy (five turnovers in the first) and also because Nellie went all out trying to hold the fort, playing his five starters for the first 11:55 of the game.

The second quarter was where the game turned ugly for the Spurs, with Pop channeling his inner Avery Johnson and letting Nellie get into his head; doing the Warriors a favor by putting lineups on the floor that he’d never use against anyone else. He gave Malik Hairston, of all people, some floor time and eschewed Tinyball altogether in favor of Microball, playing five smalls. Judging by where they lined up for Warriors free throws, I’d have to conclude that Fin was playing center and Manu was power forward. Pop always seems to dick around against the Warriors, especially on the road, because he has a soft spot for Nelson, grateful that the man gave him a chance to have an NBA coaching career, so while he doesn’t take outright dives against the Warriors, he does coach a lot poorer than usual. Corey Maggette and Captain Jack killed our micro lineup, posting up whoever guarded them and the Warriors took a 52-48 lead at half. Manu didn’t play as much as usual after picking up his third foul shortly after checking back into the game with under four minutes to go in the half. His second foul came out of frustration shortly after he fed Bonner for what should’ve been an easy layup, but somehow Rocket botched it up (Tony and Mace missed easy ones as well). Still, I was hopeful Gino would have a big second half, as he made his first attempt, a runner, and all nine of his previous 20+ scoring games had that prerequisite.

Jackson was hot early in the third period and Gino late, and when the dust settled on their mano-a-Manu duel it was still a four point deficit going into the fourth. The Warriors are truly an awful rebounding team, letting both Ginobili and Bowen have putbacks off the glass. Bob Fitzgerald, the Golden State play-by-play guy, explained that while the Spurs defense is 18th in field goal percentage and the Warriors are 22nd, the reason one team allows so many more points (the Spurs give up 17 less a game than the Dubs) than another is defensive rebounding, where the Spurs rank first and the Warriors rank last. I think this is a bit too simplistic. There’s also pace and turnovers to consider, but he’s not completely off base.

The fourth quarter was sloppy and ugly for both sides, but the Spurs chipped into the Warriors’ 12 point lead ever so slowly. Like glacially, actually. It wasn’t a run they put together, it was a crawl. The key to the game I thought was Maggette, The Man Who Was Too Good To Play For The Mid-Level Exception, missing two free throws late to keep the Spurs comeback going. The Spurs’ hero on this night was Kurt Thomas, who finished the evening with 15 rebounds despite not pulling his first until midway through the 2nd quarter and having only three at half. Thomas not only rebounded like a beast at both ends, but he was also the only Spur who could check Maggette at all, with the former Clipper easily getting the better of Bonner and our horde of swingmen. Also, it should be noted, that Thomas was the only Spur outside of the Big Three who didn’t play like complete ass.

Obviously the controversy at the end, at least from the Warriors’ perspective was Rony Turiaf’s foul on Manu with eight seconds to go, enabling Ginobili to send the game to overtime. Both Fitzgerald and his color guy Jim Barnett were livid with the call, blamed the whole loss on it, and kept showing replays of it over and over, even deep into the overtime. I guess when you call games for a loser organization like the Warriors, you have to make excuses whenever they’re available. Me, I think they lost the game because they couldn’t score for six minutes in the fourth quarter and often couldn’t even get a decent shot up, turning the ball over time and again. It’s not like the Spurs blitzed them with a 12-0 run in two minutes. They simply got one basket here and one basket there and ever-so-slowly exerted their will. Then, finally, when the game was tied with eight seconds to go, the play Nellie chose to go with was Jackson one-on-one against the Spurs’ best defender. Savvy!

Besides, it was a foul. Not much of a foul, but a foul. While the announcers kept pointing out the lack of contact from Turiaf’s body over and over again, they never noticed that his left arm chopped down Manu’s off arm really quickly before pulling it back. He tried to be sneaky but got caught. I agree that had the ball gone in the ref probably wouldn’t have blown the whistle, but it was one of those subtle nuances of the game that casual fans don’t understand. Like sometimes when a guy kind of fouls another guy and forces him to lose the ball out of bounds, a ref will say the ball went out on the team that committed the foul without actually calling it a foul, despite it obviously being hit out of bounds by the guy who got fouled. You follow? We had a call like that yesterday where Parker got tripped and lost the ball out of bounds, but instead of calling a foul or saying it was the Warriors’ ball, the ref smartly just said it was last touched by the Golden State player when it clearly wasn’t.

Whatever. The Warriors had the last shot and three minutes of Duncan-less overtime to win the game, but let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good bitchfest. Let’s ignore the six minutes of offensive ineptitude and focus on one referee call. I guess announcers have to act like this when employed by their teams. It’s sad, really. If I ran the sports world I make it a rule that only British men could be sports announcers, whether it’s the NBA, NFL or whatever. I love British announcers. They can call their own players rubbish, question their hearts, their brains and their manhood and nobody says shit about it. Our American sports stars are fucking prima donna babies who can’t take one piece of criticism even after being showered with
a barrage of compliments.

Like for example, George Hill. George Hill sucked last night. He was 0-2 from the field and -14 in twelve minutes and he played terribly on defense. He wasn’t just bad for an NBA player or a rookie. He was bad for a mammal. A duck-billed platypus, a wombat or even The JV would’ve played better. But if Sean Elliott said that on TV, he’d hear about it from Hill the next day. And that’s weak.

Anyway, the game ended with Duncan finishing with 32-15-5 and Manu getting a new season high, also scoring 32. Some charming Warriors fan yelled at me outside, “Fuck Ginobili, you’re a faggot, the Spurs suck.”

A perfect ending to a weird night.

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