So This is What a Vacation in May Feels Like
And thus the season ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper. Giving little resistance to inevitability, fatigue, and the Mavs, we quietly walked away from the playoff stage.
There’s little need to give analysis of last night’s game. The writing was on the wall; we all knew we were outmanned and outplayed this series. Credit the Mavs. They are playing brilliantly right now, and are coalescing in a way that no other Mavs team of the past ever has. They whooped us, and they earned every win.
Pop searched in vain to find combinations of players that would give us a spark. He went very defense heavy last night, playing Udoka, Hill, and Thomas beau coup minutes, while giving Mason, Jr., Bonner, and Gooden (DNP-CD) precious few. But the team (save Parker and Duncan, who played brilliantly and refused to go without a fight) was resigned to its fate, and played without the proper aggression or passion needed in a close out game.
It’s very clear what was lacking for the Spurs this postseason (besides the obvious “a healthy Manu Ginobili”)–role players stepping up, those unsung heroes of playoff lore.
To achieve success in the postseason, you need superstars playing as superstars do. Only the Detroit Pistons of 2004 can say they’ve won a title without a superstar (and, in retrospect, they seemed more the beneficiary of a Lakers team falling apart at every seam). You have to have an otherworldly player on your roster.
But you need role players stepping into the spotlight, if only for a series or a game or just a solitary moment. You need those games that make people wonder “who is this guy?” The Mavs had plenty of those this series. JJ Barea is the most obvious. But Erick Dampier played well; Ryan Hollins may have been the difference in pivotal Game 4. And even Josh Howard was able to sustain continued excellence, something he’s been unable to do in the past.
The Spurs, contrarily, had nothing. We had no other player step up in the slightest for us, save Bowen. All of our shooters lost their touch simultaneously. Even the reliable Thomas was shaky. Udoka played solid D, but could add nothing for us on offense, ultimately making him a liability. Hill seemed to be the only player ready to step up, but was given precious time to do so.
It’s particularly hard to witness this lack of production from the role players, as Spurs’ past is littered with just such players. Steve Kerr, Robert Horry, Michael Finley have all given us big, career-defining moments in the cauldron of the playoffs.
Where do we turn now? As the Spurs embark on their longest vacation in almost 10 years, they have a lot of questions looming into next season and beyond. Many are writing the team off, pronouncing the King to be dead. But I say there’s still some fight in this team; long live the King.
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