Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Saga Continues


I don't know how to react to this game. Traditionally, if the Spurs were to blow a team out by 20 in a do-or-die game 6, I'd be ecstatic. I'd be praising our tenacity on the offensive glass. I'd brag about the hailstorm of 3-pointers that just poured on the Hornets. I'd make some dubious claims about "momentum." But this series has just been too schizophrenic to display that level of confidence. Yes, obviously I'm excited. Obviously I think, despite the lopsided victories every home team has recorded this series, that the Spurs can go into New Orleans and take game 7. But I sat there this evening watching this game with a look of passivity and bemusement, rather than exuberance, because, to be honest, I don't know what to expect. How could anyone? This series does not make sense.

Let's get down to business:

David West: I wanna address two different topics here. First and foremost, I hope West is healthy for game seven. I want to beat this Hornets team, I really do, but I want to do it with our opponent at full strength. I am tired of people undermining the Spurs achievements by claiming some twist of fate put them over the hump. We can beat these guys with West on that floor, and I hope he is ready and able to play so we can prove that. That being said, I think its pretty obvious that Duncan can guard West effectively without getting into foul trouble. As I consider our match-ups, I'm increasingly confused why I didn't think to put Duncan on West from day one. Duncan is a perennial member of the All-NBA defensive team and West is their best post player. It should be as simple as that.

Composure: I've said repeatedly that West's inability to keep his cool would cause this team some trouble, and he continually reaffirms my point.

Stojakovic-Bowen: Initially Peja did a good job taking Bowen off the dribble. This is both the right move for NO and something I'm not that worried about. It'll probably happen a couple of times next game, but I don't believe the Hornets are gonna fall back on Peja's slashing or pull jumper to win this next one. For stretches, even when bowen was on the floor, we had Ginobili on Peja and Bowen on West, which actually worked out well. Ginobili is a fierce lock and follow defender as well and his height cannot be easily exploited by someone like Peja. Plus, Stojakovic isn't quick enough to create distance from Manu or take him off the dribble.

Perimeter shooting: Obviously I'm not gonna criticize our outside shooters, we shot magnificently. But that doesn't change the fact that I'd prefer guys taking it to the basket rather than settling for the jumper. Two concrete instances I can think of are Ginobili's 3-point attempts at the end of the half and the end of the 3rd. He had plenty of space to drive, but decided to try to twist the knife. He missed both, and I would have preferred him take it to the lane and a) get the easy layup or b) draw the foul. If we shoot like that again in game 7 I'll change my tune, but for now one good game doesn't restore my confidence in the long ball. One addendum to this: When I say "I'd prefer guys taking it to the basket rather than settling for the jumper," that does not include Bowen

Ginobili: That being said, Manu was killing it yesterday. He was COLD-BLOODED. He lit it up from beyond the arc and I liked it. He is the only Spur who, despite my earlier criticisms, I am truly confident in when he shoots a 3.

Horry: Horry actually played decently, but I wanna address the pick he set on West that sent West to the locker room. Obviously Horry has a history of hard fouls, the infamous "hip check" on Steve Nash being the most recent example. But I really think this was accidental. Much harder contact is made all the time, on both ends of the floor. I never want to see a player get hurt, and as I said earlier I hope West is ready to play in game 7. But I think the inevitable media backlash to what was a pretty straightforward pick is going to be completely unjustified, and is only because the player who set the pick was wearing 25.

Ed. Note: In the comments section someone correctly pointed out that the crowd was chanting "Horry" while West was on the floor. Whether I think the play was intentional or not, that is completely inappropriate and I found it embarrassing. I think that Spurs fans have a reputation for being classy fans, but last night I don't believe we lived up to it.

Chris Paul: Although I thought we gave up too many alley-oops, the general formula for stopping Paul worked: Let him score 20-30 points, but hold him to under 10 assists.

Duncan: I've already mentioned his defense, he deserves more than just one mention. His footwork and positioning were excellent. Against some younger, more athletic guys he pulled down a lot of crucial rebounds, particularly on the offensive end of the ball. For me, Duncan, even when he has a mediocre game, is the toughest to write about. What can I say? The man is a legend, and the fact that his 20-15 game seems like a solid but not great performance shows it all the more.

Ime Udoka: Udoka makes me proud time and time again. Yesterday, in an article I quoted by Jason Friedman, he referred to Udoka as Bowen's heir apparent. But his game is more diverse than that. Unlike Bowen, I don't have a small heart attack every time he puts the ball on the floor. Unlike Bowen, I'm confident he'll nail a catch-and-shoot mid-range jumper. Unlike Bowen, I'm comfortable assigning him to their best perimeter shooter or a potent post player. Unlike Bowen, I'm confident Udoka will hustle on the fast break and finish if Parker puts the ball in his hands. I have a lot of faith in Udoka's game.

Experience: Ginobili made a really good point in a press conference after game 5 I believe. When asked if the Spurs "experience" had helped them in this series, he said that experience only really plays a part when the game is close. It helps you remain calm. It helps you not make mental errors. But the nature of the wins in this series has negated its relevance.

There's a lot to be said before game 7, so I'll be back over the next couple of days with small reflections on each game from the series, as well as my opinions on what each team needs to do to get the W.

10 comments:

iDouche said...

2 things from a Hornets fan:

1) Despite thinking a few of those 3rd Q fouls were complete BS, we lost that game fair and square. We werent hitting, our defense was weak and the Spurs were on fire. The 2 fouls I think were BS wouldnt have changed the outcome, but might have changed the margin of victory.

2) Horry's foul. Was it the worst foul made against the Hornets these playoffs? No. I wouldnt even call it a flagrant-2. But if you watch the replay, it -was- intentional. And considering the game was already decided at that point, had only one purpose: to keep West hurt for Game 7. Could it have been worse? Oh yes. But to say it wasn't flat out dirty is dishonest.

Monday night at the Hive. No quarter given or accepted. May the better team win.

iDouche said...

The crowd cheering him for it while West was still on his face in pain wasnt exactly a show of good sportsmanship even.

Bring it.

iDouche said...

Graydon,

Thanks for ed note.

When I was watching, I thought it was Bowen and had to rewind to see it was Horry. Frankly, I dont think it mattered much WHO did, but rather THAT they did it and they did it intentionally

Quindell said...

lots of "intentional" things happen in a game...horry was called for foul on the play...the surrounding circumstances (pointed out above or below) make me think it was at least meant to rattle d-west, at most injure him...well he's been quoted saying it wasn't a big enough shot to keep him out of g7...maybe new orleans will throw the last punch?...

andyadontstop said...

idouche,

a back screen is ALWAYS intentional. a back screen is legal...do you seriously believe horry had time to think about intentionally hurting d.west in the amount of time that play occurred? if so, you don't know basketball. it's obvious horry set that screen thinking manu was going to go baseline. if you watch it, d.west caused himself the pain by jumping up into the air. last years hip check on nash...intentional. but this was just a good screen that happened to be on a player whose back was already killing him, making it look worse. i hope they sell kleenex in new orleans.

iDouche said...

"a back screen is ALWAYS intentional. a back screen is legal...do you seriously believe horry had time to think about intentionally hurting d.west in the amount of time that play occurred?"

He had time to lean into the screen, so YES he had time to think about it.

If this back screen was legal, why did Horry get the offensive foul? If it was a bad call on Horry, why have I heard NO ONE complain about a bad call?

We will have kleenex for our tears of joy when we send the Spurs home.

andyadontstop said...

so jamal magloire was on espnradio this morning and was asked about the horry/west play. he said it was clearly not a dirty play. he said it was a back screen that west jumped into and had he not had a bad back or been in the air it would not have been anything but a back screen. he said everything in the media being talked about is all based on the hip-check horry put on nash last year and that if a player has a weakness, other players are going to do their best to take advantage of it. that's basketball, and in the middle of a play there is no way horry had time to think "oh, i should intentionally hurt david west" he said.

so when former nba players who played the game, not internet idouchebags, have the same view as i do, i tend to feel justified in my comments.

gospursfox said...

horry didn't intentionally hurt west. it was a SCREEN which is allowed in real basketball. it could be compared with chandler kneeing parker in the ass during a screen. they both got fouls. get over it. as for spurs fans cheering horry, we could compare it to hornets fans booing during every spurs possession during game 5 at the hive. grow up and get a life hornet fans.

andyadontstop said...

so, idouchebag, you need some coupons for that kleenex or what?

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