Monday, May 26, 2008

Bald Spot Don't Lie

You gave’m hell Spurs. You made me proud. Let’s get down to business:

Ginobili: I’m not even sure where to begin. Manu’s style was infectious, his will indestructible. Nailing three-pointers in transition. Elusively dropping acrobatic “and-one’s” in the paint. A wild-eyed and awkwardly contorted blur of indefensible terror. For me, no man symbolizes the creative potential that lies within the game more than Manu Ginobili.

Parker: Anything positive I say about Tony is going to sound mild because I just went ape-shit over Manu last paragraph, but I’ll give it a whirl. Parker actually played a very good game, despite his mild stats. He was having difficulty in the paint but he stayed aggressive nonetheless. He had a good sense of when to push it and a good sense of when to pull back, and he distributed the ball in a responsible manner. He’s a great point guard, the best left in the playoffs in my opinion.

Duncan: Well the GPFOAT got it done. He struggled offensively early in the game but got it together as time went on. A friend I was watching the game with noted Duncan’s early struggles around the hoop, and inquired what I thought was going on, as Duncan’s game is touted as automatic. Well, first off I said nobody’s game is robotic. But I pointed out that, even though we were still in the early 2nd quarter, Duncan already had 9 rebounds and numerous defensive stops around the bucket. Its not like I don’t know it every time I sit down to watch the man but I allow myself to continually be surprised by what a complete game Duncan plays.

Barry/Finley: Both Barry and Finley played well, which just means they made their shots. But I think you could just see that Barry is, at least currently, a more dynamic offensive player. He made several well placed passes and his off-the-ball movement consistently left him very open, while Finley, although he also moves very well off the ball, just consistently felt more peripheral to what was going on offensively when on the floor. Barry was part of the machinery of the offense but whenever Finley touched the ball there was kind of this “he’s in the game? I hadn’t noticed” feel. Either way, we only rely on them to make their 3-point shots, and anything else they do well is just a bonus. I actually kind of like how Popovich balanced their time out there. I think it gave both of them a simultaneous sense of purpose and of their own limitations. Matt Moore at Hardwood Paroxysm very correctly pointed out that whichever Western Conference team has shot better from beyond the arc inevitably has won. However odd it seems, the shooting percentage of this duo will be a very large factor in the success of the Spurs.

Horry/Thomas: Why does Popovich bring in Horry as his back-up power forward, not Thomas? Horry has actually been doing a decent job guarding Odom in the paint (I have no idea how), but not only is Thomas a better low post-defender, he’s also an existent offensive weapon. By “existent” I don’t mean he’s a good offensive weapon, I just mean he knows how to make a 8-10 foot shot, while Horry doesn’t actually know what to do with the ball inside the 3-point line and outside of it is increasingly racked with doubt because he isn’t actually a good shooter anymore. I’ve never minded Popovich’s deep rotations, even in the post-season, but I believe he’s messed up the pecking order on this one.

Lakers Offense: The Lakers didn’t run their offense. Do you remember an instance in which they passed it into Gasol and cut and moved around him to get an easy look? Because I don’t. Do you remember instances in which either Odom or Bryant set up on the wings and tried to make something happen by themselves? I do. The truth of the matter is the triangle offense when run frequently and effectively is just shy of indefensible. But some combination of ego or lack of focus gives birth to brief moments where this Lakers team reminds me of the same squad before Kobe got all into the “trusting-his-teammates” thing. They had 3 assists in the first half. That being said, the Spurs did an excellent job filling passing lanes, cluttering the paint and closing out on shooters, but in general I thought the Lakers made it easier on them than previous games.

Lakers Defense: I think last night exposed 2 things about the Lakers defense. 1) They haven’t actually been “shutting down” Ginobili, Manu was just in a funk/injured. 2) They haven’t actually been stopping our offense, we just couldn’t buy a bucket from the 3rd quarter of game 1 to the 1st quarter of last night. Manu gets open looks, as do Barry and Finley. Duncan has to work for his buckets, but he gets them. And Parker gets into the lane consistently. The real difference between this game and the other two was our 3-point shots continued to go in the basket for 48 minutes.

Kobe Bryant: Kobe doesn’t like to lose. When he came in during the fourth he did his damnedest to prevent a Lakers loss. His barrage of 3’s, however ineffectual they may have been, struck me more as a warning than a legitimate attempt to win though. The man can takeover. If we can defeat this team, with Kobe playing like he is, it will rank as one of the Spurs more notable achievements.

The Lakers Organization: Aaron Stampler at Pounding the Rock noted how he actually doesn’t hate this Lakers team anymore, and I have to admit, I’m in the same boat. I tried to muster some amount of self-righteous fury for this series, but I just don’t hate these guys, at least not collectively. I hate Derek Fisher. His quiet arrogance pisses me off. I hate Jordan Farmar. I think he is a mediocre player at best but acts like he’s the shit. But I don’t hate Kobe. Stampler pointed out how, in the Kobe-Shaq feuds, he was always on Kobe’s side, and damn it, so was I. I genuinely enjoy watching Kobe Bryant, because he is the best player on the face of the earth. I don’t hate Phil Jackson, he’s a brilliant basketball mind, and although a bit megalomaniacal, Popovich is our coach so what are you going to say. I kind of like Lamar Odom, he’s just too big and goofy for me to hate him. I don’t like Luke Walton but I think that’s mostly residual frustration based off of his father’s atrociously hyperbolic color commentary.

The Lakers organization, along with the Suns, Heat, and Celtics, still ranks up there with my least favorite NBA franchises. But I just don’t hate this squad as much as I have past manifestations of the Lake Show. I’ll point out that Shaq has played for 3 of my least favorite franchises, and that is not a coincidence.

However fulfilling last night’s victory may have been, we are hardly out of the woods yet. We have to send this series back to LA tied up. So let’s get it done.

(A big shout out to Andrew McCaughan for coming up with the title of this post)


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