You Wouldn’t Like Him When He’s Angry
It isn’t always pretty and it isn’t always easy.
Mired in a slogfest late in the 3rd quarter, trailing a team they would handle easily on most nights, and looking like a collection of players just going through a set of motions they’ve been trained in for decades with no real enthusiasm, Manu drove down the lane past his defender, Shannon Brown. It was a play we’ve seen a hundred times over, and we braced for the inevitable foul, spin off the glass, and potential 3-point play.
Instead we got a mugging.
I’m not here to speak on the intent of Brown, because no one can know that. The foul was clearly a Flagrant-2, given the hard hit to the head and the lack of any attempt at the ball. It certainly seemed overly aggressive. I don’t try to over-analyze things I see in slow motion, though, because human actions aren’t meant to be observed at such a reduced rate. Yes, his eyes looked freaky, and he certainly looked like a man with intent to do harm in his heart. But nobody really knows.
What I do know is that it awakened Manu, and the rest of the Spurs. (In an interesting quote, Parker actually confirmed this to Jeff McDonald. One thing I enjoy about Parker and Ginobili is that they tend to be fairly candid with reporters, something that I think comes from being an international player, and not raised in the American culture.) Manu sunk both free throws, got fouled again next possession, and then stole the inbounds with 2 seconds left, and nearly made a 3-pointer that might have made the AT&T Center explode. (His reaction after missing that shot is priceless, as is Coach Hunter’s.)
The 4th quarter, inspired by the Ginobili fracas, was the game we probably all kind of expected all along. The Spurs (finally) tightened down on D, the Suns (finally) came back to earth a bit in their torrid shooting, and the Spurs (finally) started playing with some energy and execution on the offensive end. It all led to a 27-17 final period, that really wasn’t even that close.
And if Ginobili’s hard foul was the carrot, Parker was the whip hand. It’s getting a bit redundant effusively praising Parker after every game like he deserves. But man, his 4th quarter was just a clinic on how to run a team. And how to be a lightning quick acrobatic freak point guard. Some of his drives to the rim are insane, and he makes them look easy. And I will argue that there is still nobody quicker from the halfcourt to the rim on a fast break with the basketball in his hands.
Parker has always been the littlest younger brother to Manu and Tim, but over the last year and a half, he has earned his place alongside both of them. It isn’t always pretty, and it isn’t always easy, but with Parker running the show, we’ll always have a chance in the 4th quarter.
A few more notes from tonight’s game:
–It was a bad game for lots of role players tonight. Danny Green, Gary Neal, DeJuan Blair. Kawhi was having a pretty rough night as well until the last 8 minutes or so. He was getting torched on D by Jared Dudley (a player I’ve always liked and would love to see on a quality team), so much so that we had to switch Jackson on to him. But as he often does, he made several key plays down the stretch of the game on both ends to help in the effort.
–Finally some Patty Mills! He hadn’t played in several games, and I don’t know what he has done to lose his playing time. Even in limited minutes he showed what he can bring to the team: energy, shooting, and defensive tenacity. He is my preferred choice for back-up PG off the bench. It’s usually Ginobili, which is fine, but Gary Neal should never be on the court without a true PG or Ginobili. So in those few minutes each game when the team goes without Parker or Ginobili, I’d like to see Mills running the point.
–Parker and Ginobili each fed the other a great back door cut in the final 3 minutes to keep the game out of reach. Back door cuts are so much fun to watch, and those two have a great chemistry from playing together so long. Both plays were absolute joy.
–Until the flagrant, the offense was horrible. Almost no effective pick and roll, no real attempt to crash the paint or move the defense, just passing around the perimeter, and decent looks. The motto for the Spurs is “good to great”, tonight they were stuck about one notch below “good”.
–I was impressed with the Suns overall, though. Lindsey Hunter has them playing hard, and it will be fun to see what he can do with them the rest of the season. The roster is full of lots of good players who play the right way and would thrive on top caliber teams (like the Spurs), but there are no superstars to put everything into place.
With tonight’s win we reach perhaps the easiest portion of our schedule. 10 days, 2 home games against pretty poor teams. It will be nice to get some much needed rest before heading out on the Rodeo Road Trip.
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