Sunday, May 4, 2008

When this is all over, we can still be friends. Right?

A disappointing loss, but there's a lot to be learned from this first Spurs-Hornets game. So let's get down to business.

Home and Away: Obviously the goal is to win every game, but in actuality the goal is to go 1 and 1 away and steal home court advantage. This Hornets team is good, so merely taking one in New Orleans would be a victory. Obviously getting that "1" in game 1 makes things go a bit more smoothly, but we still have an opportunity on Monday to get the job done.

Duncan: Well, he played abysmally. It didn't seem to me that they were doing a uniquely good job guarding him, just that he was missing his shots. So I'm gonna assume that'll turn around. I will say I was a little disappointed he just kind of sulked instead of trying to fight through his slump and contribute in other ways.

Offensive Strategy: We pretty much did the opposite of what I thought we should do. I thought we should roll out a big lineup and bang away on the inside, possibly getting Chandler and more importantly West in foul trouble. Instead we slashed and kicked and let it rain from beyond the arc (with moderate success). Obviously having a big night from a guy like Bowen is nice, but I think we let our early outside shooting success become a crutch instead of an addendum to the rest of our offense.

Horry: Horry was a huge defensive liability out there. David West drank his milkshake. Thomas and Oberto, although not spectacular on the defensive end, did a better job and should have seen more minutes. Even Udoka could have done a better job, as West wasn't posting up, but running the pick and roll as well as creating distance and nailing little 8 footers.

Defensive Rotation: There were some seriously blown rotations on the defensive end of the ball. I remember an instance in which Horry (this was not all Horry's fault, but there is a reason I dedicated an entire bullet to him) rotated away from West just as he drove to the lane. Luckily West missed an open dunk, but the point still stands. We were making mistkae adjusting to their ball movement, and they capitalized. I don't think I have a deep enough knowledge of our defensive sets to dig into this one anymore, all I know is that you don't commonly see miscommunication from the Spurs on the defensive end of the ball, and I sure did last night.

Down the stretch: I'll get straight to the point here: In general no one plays better down the stretch than the Spurs. But we played some sloppy ball in the fourth quarter last night. I could have picked off some of those passes. I am not concerned about our poise, I know we've got it. But we decided to bench it between the 3rd and the 4th.

Paul/Stojakovic: I actually felt like we did a pretty good job guarding Paul, but I think we were too concerned with the idea of Paul getting to the hoop and subsequently he found an open stojakovic on the perimeter. We cannot trade stopping paul in the lane for open perimeter shots. Let Paul take circus shot with a hand in has face, even if he makes them. The man's passes are just too quick and Stojakovic is too good at finding open space on the floor.

Physical Play: Well, I knew this was gonna be a physical series and last night certainly lived up to my expectations. But I will tell you right now, they were more physical and that's not ok. We need to go toe to toe with these guys. Which really means we need to put more physical personnel on the floor, i.e. Udoka should see more minutes (or if anybody has got Kermit Washington's number, give him a call, we could have used him last night). I don't think their physical play is what took us out of our game mentally, but I do think if, when they pushed, we pushed back a little more it would go a long ways toward getting them out of their game.

Udoka: I'll just get to the point. Play Ime Udoka, Pop.

Bowen/Paul: I will say that Paul's half-flop when he and Bowen bumped was a little absurd, and a good no call. No Spurs fan should overcriticize a little flopping here and there, but if anything I wanted to see Paul stand up for himself a little more instead of looking for the foul.

Free Throws: You know, going 57% from the line isn't exactly what put us over the top, now was it. I'm looking at you, Tony Parker.

Defensive Rebounds: Ok, this was driving me insane. In the first half they really weren't shooting the ball that well, but oh so graciously we decided to give them second, third, even fourth shot attempts, just for, I don't know, shits and giggles. They had 50 rebounds compared to our 34, and twice as many offensive boards as we did. We actually did a decent job forcing them into difficult and contested shots but that doesn't matter if you can't stop the follow up garbage bucket.

Alright, so its never reassuring to lose game 1, but I think the most important thing is to just focus and go back to San Antonio with the series tied. For now, I'm gonna go watch this Hawks/Celtics game and hope for the impossible.

N.B. Ryan Schwan over at Hornets247 (a great blog if you haven't been, by the way) happens to agree with me about Udoka's minutes:

"5) We'll probably see Ime Udoka next game
I was fairly surprised we didn't see the Spur's Ime until garbage time last night. To me, he's the perfect foil for someone like Bonzi Wells - a short, tough guard who can spread the floor for the Spurs. Ime is a slightly shorter version of Bowen, able to hit the corner three, get aggressive on D, and he has the muscle and low center of gravity to at least try and work West or Bonzi. I'm assuming Popovich will realize that Maciej Lampe could probably outperform Horry at this point, and try Udoka on us."

He also agreed that the Spurs took too many 3 pointers and that Duncan will not likely have another performance like the one he had on Saturday. Smart guy, this Mr. Schwan.

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