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Quick Thoughts on the East Coast Road Trip

[Bdiddy -- "We have added a new blogger to the site, and while we have him granted with full bloggerific powers, I will be posting his contributions.  Our new blogger's name is Vinay, so be on the look-out for him 'round these parts in the near future.  He wrapped this piece before last night's game, and should be back with some thoughts on the Minny-Minny games soon."]

First off, let me just tip my hat to the Spurs for showing some real heart on back to back nights. They could have gone into a shell multiple times in that Boston game, such as the end of that third quarter (when we have a 3 and a half minute scoreless stretch and miss 8 in a row!), and then again with about a minute left. Once I see Ray Allen streak down the court I’m thinking ballgame… But this team didn’t quit in either situation, they worked their way back in with good defensive possessions at the start of the 4th quarter (along with George Hill’s sweet shot). That last 50 second sequence of off balance three from Manu, the pair of steals + breakaway scores, and then the disbelief as Ray Allen missed not one but two crucial free throws, all seemed to be setting us up for this awesome finish… And then…

That might have been the worst crunch time play I’ve ever seen the Spurs execute. Granted, I haven’t seen every close game that they’ve played over the years, but it still boggles my mind that they couldn’t come up with anything better. Remember, we were only down by 2, so we could have gone for the tie… Honestly, I’d have liked to see the ball in Parker’s hands in that particular situation, if only because he was guarded by one man and one man only (the Celtics expected the ball to be in Manu’s hands), and he’s probably better at getting a high percentage two than Manu. And if we were going for the win, then I’d still have liked to see a better play drawn up… And another thing; why wasn’t Jefferson on the floor. He was shooting the three-ball pretty well, and I’d like his chances of getting a put back or tip in on the three more than Matt Bonner’s. And why would you not get Manu going left? Overall, just not a very good last 7.6 seconds for the Spurs.

With all that being said, it was still a heck of an effort from our Boys in Black. They let Boston shoot 61.3%. 61.3 % !!!! And still only lost by two…. On Boston’s home floor… That 61.3% clip, is the highest the Spurs have given up in a game since 1988 , before I was even born

Digging a little bit deeper into that number, I actually though the Spurs played pretty solid defense. I mean, they did have a few breakdowns here and there (Marquis Daniels should never be getting that many un-contested layups at the rim), but overall they didn’t play too poorly. The Celtics just had one of those nights; when everything seems to fall for you. Glen “Big Baby” Davis was hitting turnarounds over Bonner/McDyess/Blair all night, and Paul Pierce was getting fallaway jumpers to go with Jefferson right in his grill. Heck, even Rondo got into the act- hitting three long-ish jumpers…. I’m pretty sure that the last time that happened was during the presidency of the erstwhile George W. Bush.

Speaking of Rondo, man what a game… It’s so impossible to believe, yet I don’t think that there’s any other player in the league without a jumper that approaches his level of play. The opponent knows that all he wants to do is penetrate; they sag off, and he still gets into the lane before dishing to one of his teammates. He had one of the most insane stat lines that I’ve ever seen (12 pts, 10 reb, 22 ast, 6 stl): a near quadruple-double. In my opinion, he’s the best point guard in the league: hands down.

Indiana the following night was the kind of win that makes championship teams… Down by 15 at the end of the third, then Timmy getting a technical foul that late in a game- a lesser team would have folded. But not this Spurs team. We went out, and in stark contrast to the previous night’s debacle, took the ball to the rim, drew the contact, and hit our foul shots. We did get the best shot on those two possessions.

Welcome to the NBA Tyler Hansborough… Boy from UNC had a monster game (23 pts 12 boards), and reminded everybody that he was once a National Player of the Year in College. His game, combined with Big Baby’s performance in Boston and Amar’e’s domination up in NYC, points out one of the Spurs’ biggest weaknesses; defending the post. Timmy’s fine, and probably is still the 2nd best pure post defender besides Dwight Howard in the NBA.  Amar’e was far less effective with Duncan on him, the O’neal twins were offensive non-factors, and Roy Hibbert, one of the better young centers in the game, was completely taken out of it by Duncan as well. But the Blair/Bonner combination in the second post slot is quite ineffective at guarding a big with any agility (which is why LA, even with Bynum and Gasol, was easier to guard down low- those guys are far slower- than New York). For that reason, I want a Timmy/McDyess frontline, for the entire 4th quarter; I don’t think that either Bonner or Blair is strong enough to handle a big guy on defense down the stretch. On a related note, why don’t we ever go with a Blair/Duncan/McDyess frontline in crunchtime? Especially in that New York game… Blair is quick enough to stay in front of Fields/Chandler, and neither of them can handle him in the post.

I’m tired of watching Parker run underneath every screen set on him, and then see his man getting open jumpers out of it. Parker’s obviously not afraid of contact on the offensive end, so why doesn’t he just run through a couple of them?

Another thing that struck me was… When our offense starts to stagnate, or when it starts to get too fast or crazy (as it did in NYC), why the he** don’t we throw it down to Timmy. It slows everything down, and has the added bonus of Timmy being one of the best fricking passing big men of all time. Even on his off nights shooting, you know that he’s going to find the open man more often than not from the top of the key… And once he gets in post position, even though he isn’t really being doubled anymore, he still draws a help defender leaving somebody open. It kills me that we let the Knicks run us out of the gym, instead of throwing it down to our rock, and slowing things down…

Also, it made me pretty mad that every time Timmy took it down low he got hacked and didn’t get any calls really. He is hitting his free throws though (15-18 or 83.3% from the line in his last 5!)

That being said kudos to Felton, Stoudamire, and especially Wilson Chandler for playing one hell of a game. They were firing on all cylinders, and that’s what it takes to beat these Spurs.

Spur of the Road Trip:Tim Duncan- I considered all of the Big 3 here, but Manu was non-existent in NYC, and Parker was pretty bad in Indiana (clutch free throws though!), and Timmy was the only one who showed up for all three. Despite some misses down the stretch in NYC, a curious lack of rebounding in Boston (only 4 boards), and that late technical in Boston, he managed to hold the defense together in those last two after the collapse at the Garden. His Indiana game was pretty sweet, 15-15 and 5 blks. Nice to know that the Big Fundamental’s still got it…

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