I began writing this edition of the Notebook last night but honestly I was too frustrated to compose anything articulate. With a little distance between me and the Spurs' impotent fourth quarter performance, I can now offer some reasonable reflections on what went down.
The game began slow, and remained relatively close for the entire contest. The Spurs largest lead was 9, which they held during the opening minutes of the 4th after George Hill made two free throws after having been fouled by Antonio Daniels. At this point, the Spurs seemed composed, maintaining their lead by getting into the lane and to the line. But somewhere along the way, the Spurs decided maintaining a comfortable lead was not enough and they began gambling away their fortunes in a shower of 3-pointers. In the 4th quarter the Spurs launched nine shots from beyond the arc; zero of those shots swished through the net.
This is an inexcusable statistic. When you are nursing a decent single-digit lead (or really any kind of lead for that matter), your entire agenda must be the creation of high percentage shots. Slow down the game, get stops, get guys to the charity stripe, etc... There is no need to employ a boom/bust tactic like excessive outside shot attempts. Both Tim Duncan and Tony Parker shoot over 50% from the field. When you have two guys who can produce with such consistency, there is no reason a team should sustain such an extended offensive drought.
After shooting an abysmal 3-15 from the floor (including 1-8 from beyond the arc), it seems pretty easy to heap a significant amount of the blame on Matt Bonner for our inability to put this game away. And some of that blame is deserved. For instance, there is no reason whatsoever that Bonner should be the Spur with the most field goal attempts. Yes, he has been shooting extremely well, but his alarmingly high FG% has been born of good shot selection, not over-inflated volume. That being said, I don't want to throw Bonner under the bus. In some ways a game like this was inevitable. His increasing confidence and hot hand were eventually going to steamroll into a night filled with an overzealous amount of offensive involvement on the part of the Red Rocket. But this better not happen again.
If you get a chance, swing by TrueHoop and check out Henry Abbott's breakdown of how Chris Paul beat Manu on a jump ball in the final minute of the fourth quarter. Warning: It involves some trickery and maybe even a touch of illegality on the part of CP3, so if you are on of those people who love to fume about the refs, maybe you should just skip it.
The Spurs head to Orlando this evening where they take on the 19-6 Magic. The game starts at 8 Eastern/7 Central.