So last night was the first loss of this post-season after which I was genuinely pissed off (if you happen to check out the sizeable invective I wrote last night, its not hard to tell). That not only derives from the refereeing (which, don't worry, I'm done discussing for the moment), but also from the fact that being down 3-1 is easily the worst position we've been in the playoffs so far. It's definitely more difficult than either of the instances in which we were down 2-0. So from here on out every game is an elimination game, which is what it is.
I want to reconsider some of the thoughts I had last night. First off, no matter what one's opinion of the refereeing may be, the Lakers actually put together a reasonably complete game. Odom struggled in the first half but managed to get to the line in the second in order to protect his team's lead. Gasol was pretty efficient on the block (4-7). They just played well for 4 quarters and, while the Spurs didn't play poorly, they definitely were scrambling to get back in it from the early goings. Even when we tied it up we quickly slipped back behind. Obviously I believe we should have had a chance to win, but maybe its appropriate one call doesn't make up for 48 minutes of superior play.
Mostly, I want to take this time to talk about Tim Duncan. This year Ginobili and Parker have seen an increasing amount of good press come their way and within the last twelve months have both received prestigious awards which they were highly deserving of (NBA Finals MVP and Sixth-Man, respectively). But despite all the talk of Tim passing on the reins to one of the two, he is still the foundation of everything the Spurs have done this season. Last night: 29 points, 17 boards, 3 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocks. He is the best power forward of all time. A legend continuing to produce masterpieces before our eyes. The Spurs haven't given him the pieces this year to get it done (Robert Horry and Michael Finley are just not championship caliber players at this point in their careers), but for me it makes his achievements all the more notable. Even when his brothers-in-arms fail him, Duncan marches forward nonetheless. He may be derided as a boring player but I found his bounding dunk in the 1st half or his commanding block of Bryant in the 2nd to be about as electrifying as any basketball I watch.
Somewhere in the haze of arthritic ankles, bad knees, and unreliable offensive output we lose focus on what we're actually looking at. Horry won't make it to the hall of fame, who knows about Parker and Ginobili. But every night when I tune into the Spurs game I get a chance to watch the most dominant player of the last decade continue to practice his craft at a level which, despite his decline, is still staggering to behold. Obviously a lot about last night's game is frustrating to reflect upon, but when looking for a silver lining, look no further than number 21.