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26 May 2005

I'm Gone

I will be out of town until late Monday. So there will be no updates until Tuesday when I will hopefully discuss a sweep.

25 May 2005

Putting Manu's Numbers in Perspective

I have written a lot about Manu Ginobili, aka The Sickness. I suggested that he should be the Spurs first offensive option. I pointed out certain remarkable regular season statistics. I wrote that he was better than Ray Allen.

I have read George Karl complaining about his style of play. I have listened to fans boo him in Denver. I endured one particularly obnoxious SEA fan scream "Faker!" or "Hurt him!" every time he got the ball. I watched Carmelo Anthony/Greg Buckner/Kenyon Martin, Danny Fortson, Nick Collison and Damien Wilkins flagrantly foul him. I've read more than one sports writer comment on how he "just puts his head down and goes to the basket."

There are a lot of things I've wanted to write but my opinions, my amazement and my admiration are easily discounted. After all, when he went behind-the-back against Marion and Stoudemire for a spinning (both the ball and his body) layup I reacted like someone who isn't quite impartial. I jumped up off the couch, took off one of my shoes and threw it across the room. That doesn't make any sense does it? Well, neither does going behind your back with a 1 point lead and 2 minutes on the fourth quarter clock (against an all NBA defender no less). (And the celebration I used during the SEA series was no longer applicable...)

So instead of rambling on I'll simply provide you with some numbers. Some perspective.

Manu Ginobili's current stats in the playoffs through 13 games:

21.8 PPG
283 PTS
152 FGA
52.6 FG%
98-127 FT
25-51 from 3
1.862 PPFGA / 1.697 PPFGA w/o 3PT line
1.361 PPSA (includes FTs) / 1.241 PPSA w/o 3PT line

Using basketballreference.com I looked at past playoff performances (single year) of players that satisfied the following requirements: minimum of 10 playoff games and 15 PPG. I extracted the highest PPFGA performance for each year and have them listed below (PPFGA / PPSA). The 3P line was not added until 1979-1980. Therefore players before that year should be compared to the 1.697 / 1.241 values above.

1949-1950 - Dolph Schayes - 1.27 / 0.97
50-51 - Arnie Risen - 1.12 / 0.91
51-52 - Connie Simmons - 1.34 / 1.08
52-53 - George Mikan - 1.11 / 0.90
53-54 - Dolph Schayes - 1.48 / 1.11
54-55 - Dolph Schayes - 1.25 / 0.98
55-56 - Larry Foust - 1.29
56-57 - Bob Pettit - 1.26
57-58 - Cliff Hagan - 1.38 / 1.15
58-59 - Frank Ramsey - 1.33
59-60 - Bob Pettit - 1.25
60-61 - Jerry West - 1.36
61-62 - Jerry West - 1.32
62-63 - Oscar Robertson - 1.45 / 1.15
63-64 - Oscar Robertson - 1.45 / 1.14
64-65 - Wilt Chamberlain - 1.39 / 1.10
65-66 - Jerry West - 1.34
66-67 - Wilt Chamberlain - 1.43 / 1.09
67-68 - Jerry West - 1.47 / 1.19
68-69 - Jerry West - 1.31
69-70 - Kareem - 1.44 / 1.22
70-71 - Walt Frazier - 1.33
71-72 - Walt Frazier - 1.40 / 1.17
72-73 - Earl Monroe - 1.22
73-74 - Chet Walker - 1.44 / 1.18
74-75 - Don Nelson - 1.45 / 1.26 (15.4 PPG)
75-76 - Phil Smith - 1.28
76-77 - Kareem - 1.57 / 1.29 (34.6 PPG)
77-78 - World B. Free - 1.30
78-79 - George Gervin - 1.36 / 1.17
79-80 - Kareem - 1.38
80-81 - Cedric Maxwell - 1.58 / 1.29
81-82 - Magic - 1.55 / 1.23
82-83 - Moses Malone - 1.44 / 1.17
83-84 - Darryl Dawkins - 1.72 / 1.31
84-85 - Adrian Dantley - 1.68 / 1.24
85-86 - Barkley - 1.67 / 1.26
86-87 - Hakeem - 1.63 / 1.32
87-88 - Danny Schayes - 2.05 / 1.45 (16.4 PPG)
88-89 - MJ - 1.52 / 1.21
89-90 - Terry Porter - 1.58 / 1.25
90-91 - Robert Parish - 1.63 / 1.28
91-92 - Karl Malone - 1.63 / 1.23
92-93 - Shawn Kemp - 1.46 / 1.18
93-94 - B.J. Armstrong - 1.44 / 1.22
94-95 - Kevin Johnson - 1.65 / 1.33
95-96 - Shawn Kemp - 1.62 / 1.28
96-97 - Dikembe - 1.79 / 1.35
97-98 - Shaq - 1.54 / 1.21
98-99 - Tim Duncan - 1.40 / 1.14
99-00 - Steve Smith - 1.51 / 1.27
00-01 - Baron Davis - 1.45 / 1.21
01-02 - Shaq - 1.41 / 1.14
02-03 - Tim Duncan - 1.44 / 1.15
03-04 - Shaq - 1.54 / 1.13

I bolded the players with better numbers than The Sickness. Don Nelson and Kareem didn't shoot many threes, so it would make more sense to compare them to Manu's current numbers (which would leave them behind Ginobili). That leaves Danny Schayes as the only player to put up better numbers than Manu currently has in the categories highlighted.

I am not implying that The Sickness is a better offensive player than Shaq or Jerry West or MJ. However, it is readily apparent that he is having one of the most amazing playoff performances in the history of the NBA.

24 May 2005

Mike D'Antoni is an Excellent Driver

Allow me to set up the situation. Shawn Marion makes a shot to bring the Suns within 3 with 32.3 seconds left. The Spurs have scored on 57 consecutive fourth quarter possessions going back to game 1. You're Mike D'Antoni. You're Kobe Bryant's idol. You're Coach of the Year. You're the "mastermind" behind the vaunted PHX offense. What do you do?

Don't look at me! I'm just a simple unfrozen caveman NBA blogger. You're fancy Xs and Os frighten me. But here's what I wouldn't do; this much is obvious:

You CERTAINLY don't foul the Spurs in that situation. You don't even think about fouling the Spurs. Because, as everyone knows, the Spurs are the best free throw shooting team in the league. Duncan, Bowen and especially Parker are well above average free throw shooters for their positions. Through out the playoffs the Spurs have shown that when a game is on the line they will knock down their FTs. They've never, EVER lost a playoff game solely due to FT shooting.

You also have to consider that the Suns can get that crucial stop whenever they need it. That's how the Suns win. Locking people down. They have all sorts of answers for The Sickness, Parker and Duncan. Steve Nash stayed in front of Parker all night. Q was giving Manu absolute fits out there. And Duncan just looked confused the whole second half. The Spurs were struggling just to get open looks.

Also, let's look back to game 1. The Suns were in a similar situation late in the fourth. They didn't foul, got consecutive stops down the stretch and ended up winning a close game. I'm no NBA coach, but even I know to go with what works.

Think about it, people. The Suns were only down 3 points. The Spurs are a horrible at defending the 3. They allow wide open 3s all the time. That's their achilles heel. The Suns have numerous guys that have proven they can hit the big three against the Spurs. Marion has been unstoppable. Q definitely wants the ball in his hand with the game on the line. These guys are money.

Also, PHX is a great defensive rebounding team. They rarely give up offensive rebounds; not to mention that the Spurs are a horrible offensive rebounding team. So when PHX makes that inevitable stop they will definitely grab the rebound. Write it down people.

Mike D'Antoni: your NBA Coach of the Year.

22 May 2005

Extended Comments

Booth made an extended comment under my previous post, and I decided to make it and my response an entire post.

Booth: Question: I'm watching the 1st quarter right now of game 1: Duncan is indeed defending Marion, leaving Nazr on The Stud. Do YOU agree with this matchup? You've constantly noted Mohammed's defensive liabilities, noted Rasho's not a good fit against Amare... and standing in the shadows(?) is THAT guy: former defensive MVP Timmeh. What gives? Granted Stoudemire's not the ideal matchup, but stopping him and Nash are gonna be a key point to the series, more so than containing the x-factor blah blah marion (and wouldn't bowen be a much better defensive matchup on marion too?) Or does Duncan contribute better as a weakside helping defensive presence off the main players/plays of the opposing team? Is it to reserve his energy for offense? Limit foul troubles?

Me: You, for the most part, answered your own question. I agree with putting Duncan on the weakest offensive big man the majority of the time. It theoretically accomplishes the following:

A) Keeps him out of foul trouble.
B) Allows him to leave his man and help on penetration (block shots).
C) Allows him to be a more effective defensive rebounder.

If necessary, Duncan occasionally switches over to the main big man in the fourth quarter depending on his foul situation. However, I wish Pop would be quicker on the trigger. Not necessarily specifically against the Suns, just in general.

It was clear to me that the Spurs decided to initially play the pick and roll soft; similar to how DAL approached the Nash / whoever combo. It encourages Nash to shoot. This is bad in that he's pretty money (baby) but it's good in that the three point shooters don't get off. The problem is that Nazr plays it too soft. There's a big difference between wide open 18 and 15 footers, and Mohammed's giving up the latter when he should be encouraging the former. Is that a minor quibble? Sure. But Pop doesn't think so; it led directly to a time out in the first half.

I liked how the Spurs totally changed their pick and roll defense in the fourth quarter; they began aggressively trapping Nash. This led to 3 AST, 2 TOs for Nash and 0 3P for the team.

Booth: What'd you see out of the season series regarding this?

Me: Like Shaq, Duncan never, EVER guards quality big men during the regular season. I've read some comments saying that Amare torched Duncan during the regular season; I never saw Timmeh guarding him. Not that he could, but he would do a better job than any other Spur. Non-Duncan will continute to guard The Stud as long as the Spurs keep beating PHX. Let's not forget that the only time PHX beat the Spurs Manu and Tim were in street clothes. And that was a close game. SA crushed them at home and beat them in overtime in PHX (the 48 PT game for Manu; Parker actually had the flu that night and only played 20ish minutes).

Booth: Changing a pick and roll scenario from AD/Luke & James (for which the Spurs played ridiculously bad in games 4 & 5 IMO) to Nash & Stoudemire... I'd be in the fetal position right about now.

Me: Yep, that's why I asked for someone to "hold me."

Booth: Saw a comment that Manu is physically exhausted right now.

Me: Not surprising. He's not quite the same. With playoffs and the Olympics he hasn't had much time off in the past two and a half years. He seemed a little slow tonight, which led to 20 points on 10 FGA. I have to admit, I was a little, erm, hurt when SG wrote that he loves hating Manu. I have a lot more to say about the media and The Sickness, but that will have to wait.

Booth: San Antonio-Seattle series as jarring evidence that the Spurs are not playing at their best right now (seriously, please explain to me how the best defensive team got worked on the standard pick & roll so much? I was in shock just watching it.)

Me: A mixture of horrible pick and roll defense (mostly from Nazr though Tim contributed as well), some really good passing from SEA guards and great shooting from Ridnour and Daniels. Also, SA plays to their competition. Always have. But you're right, the Spurs aren't "firing on all cylinders." Lots of injuries (Manu, Tim, Rasho and Devin are not 100%) are the main reasons. Parker's exposed weakness is another.

Western Conference Finals Preview

More like a "midview" considering this will be finished right before game time. Alright, real quick like:

The Suns have three main ways of scoring: 3 pointers, the fast break and pick and roll with Nash and He Who Scares Me More Than Nash.

First 3 pointers. During the regular season, PHX scored 26.4% of their points via 3Ps. This percentage went down to 25.3% during the playoffs. As I pointed out before the Sonics series, the Spurs allow by far the fewest amount of 3P attempts in the NBA. During the regular season, SEA attempted 22.2 3P per game. That came down to 13.0 against the Spurs in the playoffs. (Yes, I know two of SEA's 3 big 3P shooters missed most of the series. That's not enough to explain the huge drop off). PHX averaged 24.7 3PA during the regular season but only 15.3 against the Spurs. It's by design people. 3 > 2: Gregg Popovich is a genius, Q.E.D.

News flash: the Suns like to run. So did DEN. The Spurs do not take a lot of bad shots, generally do not turn the ball over a lot (6th in the league; though they will undoubtedly throw in a nice 22 TO game sometime in this series) and make it a point to get a minimum of two guys back at all times. Any of you folks watch game 6 of the DAL-PHX series? Towards the end, with less than 3 minutes to go in a tight game, Marion leaked out for a layup and the foul. That sort of crap doesn't happen against the Spurs.

Now for the Stoudemire/Nash pick and roll. Somebody hold me. Amare makes me weak in the knees. He's like Lebron in the following manner: he's about *this* far from figuring "it" out and becoming entirely unguardable. Here's Amare's average line against SA this year: 38.7 PTS on 20 FGA and 12.3 FTA. That's what I like to call "stupid good." Part of the reason behind this is how the Spurs defended the pick and roll. The big man would hedge out, without "jumping" the pick and roll, and Nash's man would go over the top and sort of sag trying to cut off the passing lane to Amare. It seriously limited Nash (13 PPG) but allowed Amare to get about 8 dunks a game on perfect bounce passes from He Who Certainly Didn't Deserve the MVP Award.

Will the Spurs play the pick and roll differently during the playoffs? Absolutely, if for no other reason that Mohammed didn't play a single minute in any of the regular season games. (A quick note: Tim Duncan rarely, if ever, guards the other team's "good" big man. Amare saw a lot of Rasho and Horry.) This, of course, scares the living shit out of me. For 90% of the playoffs Nazr has been a horrible pick and roll defender. However, the 10% of time he didn't suck happened to be the last 6 quarters of basketball he played. He was so bad during the first half of game 5 that I was forced to write something about him during the break. I presume Pop ripped him a new one in the locker room because he played the pick and roll entirely differently during the last half of the game. Jumping the dribbler aggressively; hands moving, active, finally figuring out that standing in the lane is not pick and roll defense. Hopefully he'll retain this knowledge during the PHX series. (It should be noted that as a purely one on one defender against Stoudemire, Nazr is a huge step up over Rasho.)

If those three offensive options break down, PHX simply gives the ball to Nash and let's him do his thing, which (along with atrocious pick and roll defense) led to him averaging about 30 PPG against the Mavericks. This won't happen against the Spurs. Parker is a much better defender than Terry and SA actually plays team oriented defense (while DAL stands around and screams at each other).

Which leads to how PHX's defense stacks up against SA's offense. I only have 11 minutes, so I'll make this quick.

PHX isn't as bad defensively as people think; they are actually 16th in defensive efficiency.

Nash cannot stay in front of Parker. However, assuming D'Antoni has any tape of the games 3,4,5 or 6 of the SEA series, he'll go under every pick and roll, play Nash 4 feet off him and beg Monsieur Parker to shoot the outside J.

Shawn Marion will be guarding Tim Duncan. Uh. OK. Good luck with that.

Q Richardson, due to Joe Johnson's injury (out for at least game 1), will have apparently guard Manu (this is what I've heard; Jackson on Bowen). This is comical.

Those are some bad matchups for PHX. And when The Sickness gets to the basket at will, who's going to foul him? You only play 7/8 players and you make it a point not to foul.

I see this series as a continuation of The Sickness' journey to NBA Finals MVP.

Spurs in 6.

19 May 2005

"I Assassin Down the Avenue"

That Wilco quote goes out to The Sickness, who blew by whoever and rifled the game winning pass to Tim. (Note: I just saw the replay, and Manu didn't blow by anyone; AD was still in front of him when he passed the ball.)

A big fuck you to the sizeable portion of Sonics fans for cheering when Tim Duncan rolled his ankle. And then booing when he got up to walk it off! Nice touch. I now am beginning to understand why you have taken such a liking to a no talent ass clown punk like Danny Fortson.

Kudos to Ridnour, Collison, Wilkins, and especially Daniels, who played out of his mind the whole series. He was relentless; evidence: he actually shot 14 more free throws this series than Ray Allen. I honestly felt a little bad for former Spur Antonio at the end there; I take solace in the fact that he's a free agent and will probably be feeding Yao Ming and T-Mac next year. Ridnour and Collison should be a decent combo if Collison learns to control his fouls. Wilkins, unlike Rashard, seems willing to take big shots and/or take the ball to the rack. Lewis passed up so many shots in game 3 that I was actually hoping he would play tonight. (By the way, I was 100% wrong when I said Rashard Lewis was a better offensive player than Ray Allen.)

McMillan did a great job coming up with a defensive scheme and sticking to it. He did the best he could with the resources he had. Now, if he's smart, he'll do the best with the opportunity he has and give Lebron a call.

I will write some more this weekend about the Spurs performance. I'll close this up with a rough transcript of what I told da Blade during the t.v. timeout with 0.5 seconds left in the fourth:

"If there's a God it won't happen again. Look, Matty, I know I'm not perfect. I'm not a great person. But I don't deserve two of these. I cannot handle another miracle shot. Can somebody just tell me what happens right now? I don't even want to watch it live. Maybe I'll just turn the t.v. off."

...And I'll be damned if that thing didn't look good the whole way.

17 May 2005

Incessant Prattling Part 3

I did another internet radio show after the game tonight. Lance Williams, who hosts "Swish" over at mysportsradio.com, was nice enough to have me on. It was all Spurs talk for about 5 minutes. I was impressed with his knowledge of the team and subsequently spent half the time agreeing with him. The show isn't up yet, but I assume it will be sometime tomorrow.

The Sickness: He's Above Average

Given my previous post, I have no choice but to talk about Nazr. He had a great offensive game tonight. 19 points on 8-10 shooting, the majority of those being dunks off of either a great pass (mostly Manu) or an offensive rebound.

He's a better offensive player than Rasho. I've never said otherwise. He also is willing to dunk the ball (usually after a myriad of upfakes), which is, in most Spurs fans' eyes, the key thing that Rasho lacks. But, as I've said before, he is a horrible team defender. He accounted for no less than six botched pick and rolls in the first half. He obviously got ripped a new one at half time because he jumped pick and roll much better in the third quarter. If he learns how to be even an adequate team defender than I would absolutely support him getting minutes over Rasho (or Massenburg, etc.).

For all the Nazr defenders and fans, I have some questions. If he's so much better than Rasho, explain the following:

With Nazr on the court during the playoffs the Spurs are +0 (in 213 minutes) (this is by far the worst of any Spur who has gotten regular minutes).
With Nazr off the courth during the playoffs the Spurs are +78 (in 222 minutes).

With Rasho on the court during the playoffs the Spurs are +25 (in only 78 minutes).
With Rasho off the court during the playoffs the Spurs are +53 (in 356 minutes).

With Nazr on the court during the regular season the Spurs were -56 points (416 minutes).
With Nazr off the court during the regular season the Spurs were +698 points (3538 minutes).

With Rasho on the court during the regular season the Spurs were +409 (1780 minutes).
With Rasho off the court during the regular season the Spurs were +233 (2173 minutes).

Explain those numbers (all from 82games.com). And if your explanation is anything similar to "+/- stats are meaningless" then you are either stupid or trying to piss me off. Either way, please stop reading my blog.

So let's talk about the game now. And by "talking about the game," I mean lavishing The Sickness with praise. After the game Charles Barkley said something very similar to the following:

"If some no name coach had Ginobili and allowed him to take 20 shots a game he would average 25 points. EASY."

His line: 39 points on 10-15 FGA, 4-6 from 3, 15-17 from FT, 4 REB, 6 AST, 2 STL, 1 TO in 36 minutes. Those numbers are somewhere past "off the charts." Those numbers are "NBA Live on the rookie level" type numbers. 2.60 points per FGA. 1.73 points per shot attempt. I'll PayPal somebody $5 if they can find a playoff performance since 1990 (Wilt probably did it a bunch of times) where a player had 39 points or more with a higher PPFGA or PPSA. By the way, PPSA = PTS / (FGA + .44*FTA).

He had some dunks. He hit his threes. He had a couple of finger rolls. He had a couple of fall aways. He got Ray in early foul trouble. Despite having the ball most of the game, he had only 1 turnover (late in the 4th when the outcome was already decided). He put his mark on the game early. 19 points in the first half. 20 in the second. His style is always aggressive, always unorthodox and often awkward looking. He's The Sickness.

I said this months ago, but he should be the Spurs first option on offense. Right now both Parker and Duncan have more shot attempts per game in the playoffs. He at least needs to be ahead of Parker.

Speaking of, Parker had another off night. 11 points on 4-13 shooting (3 of those baskets coming late in the 4th with the game already decided). 5 REB, 2 AST, no TOs. Look people, I've been saying it all along, he's a bad jump shooter. SEA knows this and are playing off him, going under the pick and roll and packing the lane. There's no adjustment he can make right now to increase his scoring. He needs pick his spots on the break and kick the ball out earlier on the few half court drives he does get. He also needs to yield the floor to Manu. During the offseason he needs to first change his shot and then work on it. This wrist-flicking crap ain't gonna work.

He just turned 23. Cut him some slack.

The Spurs finally played decent pick and roll defense in the second half. They trapped Allen often and did a good job of limiting his good looks. He finished with 19 points on 21 shots. The better pick and roll defense limited Ridnour as well, who scored less points tonight (12) than in the 3rd quarter in game 4 (15). As is their MO, the Spurs limited 3PA to 13.

Another key to the game was the Spurs taking care of the basketball; only 9 TOs compared to 23 in the previous game.

This series is by no means over. They need to hammer home pick and roll defense to Nazr and continue trapping Allen. Limiting offensive boards would be nice, too (SEA had 13 tonight). On offense the Spurs need to continue to take care of the ball and keep The Sickness the vocal point of the offense.

Also, it might be a good time to bench Brent Barry. He played 22 minutes tonight. 0-3. 1 personal foul. That's it. No rebounds, assists, turnovers, steals or blocks. Da Blade has given him the nickname "The Cooler." He has, let's say, some strong feelings about Brent Barry. Hopefully he'll take the time to elaborate.

Nazr Mohammed is Killing the Spurs

It's half time, locked up at 50-50.

How many times? How many times will Nazr Mohammed butcher the pick and roll before he gets yanked? What's wrong with Rasho? If he's hurt, why did he play 20 minutes last game? What about Massenburg?

Nazr is DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE for 6 easy Sonics baskets. He sits back on the pick and roll and doesn't guard anybody. He just sits in the middle of the paint. This is why I have no respect for 99% of basketball announcers: it's so damned obvious and no one is bringing it up.

He would have to grab 10-15 offensive rebounds a game to make up for his atrocious defense. When he's on the court the Spurs are +0 for the playoffs. When's he's off the court they are +78. How much more obvious could it be? What exactly would he have to do to be benched? Sit down on defense? Kick Duncan in the nuts? What else would he have to do?

16 May 2005

poczytaj sobie dobra lekturke

I don't know what that says. Maybe something like "Check out this American dumbass..." It's from here, which I think is an Eastern European basketball message board. What language is that anyway? I need a translation. And, from now on, I will occasionally refer to Nazr Mohammed as "Dobra Lekturke."

Matt over at Bulls Blog has put together another "Carnival of the NBA." A recently published FDA study has shown that reading NBA blogs decreases one's risk of hypoglycemia. So do yourself a favor and check it out.

Lastly, but certainly not leastly, The Guamian, aka Booth.52, has (finally) started his own blog. You can find it here.

15 May 2005

Twenty-Five

Twenty-fucking-five. More on that later.

*****

Before I, uh, let loose, I have to give credit to the Sonics. Ray Allen, after being positively horrendous is game 3 (6-23), hit a host of difficult shots on his way to 32 points on 20 FGA. Luke Ridnour also had a huge game, hitting wide open runner after wide open jump shot. He finished with 20 points on 15 FGA. Both of them were key in SEA's huge 3rd quarter, where they scored 36 points on 127% shooting. As good as Ridnour was, Antonio Daniels was probably even better, with 19 points on 13 FGA.

Also, give credit to Nate McMillan for being the first NBA coach this year to figure out Tony Parker is a bad jump shooter. At one point Tony had the ball one foot inside the three point line at the top of the key. Antonio Daniels, who was "guarding" him, was at the free throw line, going under consecutive attempts at a pick and roll. I've said it time and time again, why would any team play up on a guy who A)is one of the quickest players in the league and B) shoots under 30% from 3?

And by the way, SA never had a lead in this game.

*****

I can imagine Timmeh sitting on the plane ride home, looking at the stat sheet. 35 points on 19 FGA. 10 REB. 2 BLK. Nobody else had more than 15 points. Nobody else had more than 7 boards. Maybe, just maybe he thought "Wow, this must be how KG feels."

Tim had a good game. He was aggressive, hit his free throws and crashed the offensive glass. Everyone one else either sucked or sucked hard. Both Parker and Ginobili are forcing penetration, trying to create something against a Seattle defense packing it in. The Wee Frenchman attempted exactly zero of his signature floaters tonight. It's as if both of them are trying to prove they aren't intimidated by the rampant physicality of Seattle's big men.

SA also over-compensated with their pick-and-roll defense. In game 3 the big men were stepping out and the rotations weren't quick enough which led to numerous uncontested dunks. In game 4 the big men didn't step out. At all. Which led to no dunks but instead to numerous uncontested 12-18 footers. At the end of the third quarter Ridnour came off a pick and roll and Duncan basically stayed right under the basket. Luke shot the laziest 8 foot runner I've ever seen. I think he yawned half-way through.

The Spurs also turned the ball over 15 times in the first half and 20 for the game. Lousy team offense + lousy team defense = blowout.

The Sickness was the least sucky of all the non-Duncan Spurs, but we needed more from him. Of course when you're on the bench FOR HALF OF THE MOTHERFUCKING GAME IT'S HARD TO DO A GODDAMNED THING. Twenty-five fucking minutes.

Look people, I'm sure Gregg Popovich has forgotten more about basketball than I'll ever know blah blah blah. He's know more about Xs and Os and 4-downs and that run-his-hand-across-his chest play. He's learned things about these players that I will never know. He knows about individual personalities. He knows that Devin Brown is afraid of snakes and Nesterovic's favorite flavor of ice cream is mint-chocolate-chip. He's heard that Duncan recently switched from briefs to boxer briefs because he a bad, bad case of epididymitis. Maybe I am a fucking idiot and have absolutely no damn clue what I'm talking about.

But you know, if I had a guy on my team that had the THIRD HIGHEST +/- IN THE WHOLE FREAKING LEAGUE DURING THE REGULAR SEASON I just might think it would be better for him to be on the court than on the bench. I'm just talking out loud here. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe that WHOLE SEASONS WORTH OF DATA is a bunch of shit.

And maybe, if I looked at my team and saw that TWO PLAYERS HAD +/- OF OVER 15 I just might think "Hmm, maybe one of them should be on the court at all times."

Please Pop, STOP DICKING AROUND. This is the playoffs. There's no more time for "teaching players lessons" or "trying to find a lineup that works." Here's a fucking clue: TP-MG-BB-TD-RS outscored their opponents by 18.25 POINTS PER 48 MINUTES DURING THE REGULAR SEASON. There's your damned "lineup that works". Dance with the motherfucking horse that brought you.

For fuck's sake, it's one thing to start Brent "I am required to make one obscenely bad pass per game" Barry against the Nuggets when he could guard either Buckner of DerMarr Johnson. Which Sonic is he supposed to guard? You obviously do not think he can guard Lewis because you're doubling him whenever he gets the ball. And he certainly cannot guard Allen, Ridnour or Daniels. So why the fuck is he out there? To shoot threes? Manu's just a good 3P shooter as he is. If Brent cannot shoot 3s coming off the bench then I have a splendid idea: LEAVE HIM ON THE GODDAMNED BENCH.

There's a novel idea. You actually do not have to play all your players during the playoffs! True story! During the regular season you can get away with playing your big guns an average of only 30-35 minutes a game because you sometimes encounter really fucking bad teams. Last time I checked, "really fucking bad teams" don't make the playoffs.

But, again, I'm no coach. What the fuck do I know?

Maybe Parker really does need to sit out the last 2 minutes of every first quarter. And maybe he really does need to sit out during the first 6 minutes of every second quarter, too. Maybe he needs that fifteen minute break. Maybe between quarters he retires to the locker room and masturbates furiously to photos of Eva Longoria. Maybe this tires him out. Maybe he's really 42 instead of 22 and thus can only play 36 minutes a game while Steve Nash plays 38.

Yeah, yeah, I know Ginobili had 2 fouls in the first quarter. So what? Put him on Ridnour and tell him not to foul. If he gets his third then sit him. Give him the chance.

What fucking kills me is it's not like the backups are playing worth a shit. Udrih would rather dribble wildly to the basket that shoot open 3s. Barry also enjoys fruitless trips into the paint and couldn't guard Sue Bird. And on the defensive end Nazr looks like he's being controlled by a 2 year old holding his PS2 joystick upside down. Big Dog is shoving people into refs and complaining about non-calls while his man runs down the court for a layup.

Here's your rotation. Feel free to print a copy for yourself!

Parker
The Sickness
Bowen
Duncan
Nestie

Horry for Duncan at the 8 minute mark
Barry for Ginobili at 4
Duncan for Nestie at 4
Beno for Parker at 2
Brown for Bowen at 2

Mohammed for Horry to start the 2nd
Parker for Barry at 10
Ginobili for Udrih at 10
Nestie for Duncan at 8
Bowen for Brown at 6
Horry for Mohammed at 6
Duncan for Nestie at 6

Something similar for the second half gives you:

Parker 40 minutes
Ginobili 36 minutes
Bowen 32 minutes
Duncan 36 minutes
Nestie 20 minutes

Nazr 12 minutes
Horry 28 minutes
Barry 12 minutes
Beno 8 minutes
Brown 16 minutes

This affords either Manu or Tim on the court at all times. Also, either Nestie or Duncan are on the court at all times, too. The 36 minutes between Barry, Beno and Brown can be redistributed based on matchups and who's actually willing to shoot open 3s that night.

Look, I'm not blaming Pop for the loss. He's not responsible for the turnovers or the botched pick and rolls. But he's fucking up the one thing he's responsible for: getting your best players on the court in an intelligent manner and as much as possible. No amount of strategerie or tinkering can make up for talent. Play your best players. This is not the time to "prove a point" or to "teach a lesson" or to "mix and match." This is not the time to "get some guys some rest." (What exactly would they be resting for anyways? There's at most 16 games left spread out over about 40 days.)

The playoffs are about riding your horses to the finish line. Which, if Ginobili keeps getting 25 minutes, will be here sooner than expected.

13 May 2005

WWJD

You've seen the box score. You know the numbers. 19-34 from the line. 8-16 in the 4th quarter. Out rebounded by 11 (including 14 SEA offensive).

But I don't think that's the real story. We'll get to that later.

Here's a side story. The Spurs played the most atrocious pick and roll defense that I can recall seeing. Ever. Jerome James had no less than 5 dunks off the pick and roll, 3 of them being over Tim Duncan as he rotated from the weak side. Part of the reason behind this inexcusable behavior is Nazr Mohammed, who has absolutely no fucking clue on defense. There's a reason he has a net +/- of -72 in the playoffs (and -26 against SEA). I'd rather see Massenburg get his minutes.

The real story is, well, the same as it ever was. Offensive aggression, specifically of the Spurs best player. It was the Spur's biggest problem when their main man was David Robinson and it's their biggest problem now. I know he shot the ball about 23 times last night. It's not enough. Not against single coverage by the likes of Jerome James, Reggie Evans, Danny Fortson, Nick Collison and Potato. Get the ball. Go to the basket. It's not complicated. You don't need to stand there for ten seconds making the same foot fakes. Shoot the banker or go.

Sunday will be very indicative of the Spurs title chances. This is more than a must win. This isn't about SEA. This isn't about last night's game or flagrant fouls. This isn't about making up for the missed shot over Potato that would have won the game. This is about establishment. This is about Tim Duncan. This is about where he stands amongst the greats. Is he Larry Bird or Karl Malone? Is he Michael Jordan or Reggie Miller? Is he Shaquille O'Neal or David Robinson? Is he Hakeem Olajuwon or Patrick Ewing?

Allow me to simplify: if Tim Duncan does not drop 30 on SEA come Sunday the Spurs aren't winning a championship.

Last night I watched Reggie Evans get in Duncan's face and talk shit to him for about 60 consecutive seconds. Last night I watched Duncan miss 6 important free throws. Last night I watched Tim Duncan miss a 4 footer to win the game. And last night I watched Jerome James, who dunked on Duncan 3 times (staring him down afterwards each time), say "I don't give them no respect."

What Would Jordan Do in this situation? He'd go up to James before Sunday's tip-off and say "I'm about to drop fifty are your scrubby fat ass." And then he'd do it. What would Shaq do? He'd get the ball on the first possession, go right through James and dunk in his face. He would then take out his 24" cock and slap James right in the face with it. Yeah, I just said that. Because that's what this is about.

The Spurs need that sort of game out of Tim Duncan. Tony Parker could come out and drop 25 on SEA, weaving in and out of the lane and getting easy looks. The Sickness could slither past all defenders and go for 25 on 15 FGA. But it wouldnt' be the same. This is about responding to being called out by a fat, lazy, no talent ass clown in Jerome James. This is about marking your territory. Claiming your stake. Settling the score.

Sunday is about aggression. Sunday is about domination. Sunday is about revenge.

12 May 2005

Game 2 - More of the Same

SA 108 vs. SEA 91

Not much changed in game 2. Ginobili took over where Parker left off, repeatedly blowing right by any number of Sonic defenders. Duncan, Parker and The Sickness seemingly got any shot they wanted all night; the team shot over 50% from the field for the second time in a row. SEA had a marginally better inside presence; basically in the form of hard fouls on Parker and Ginobili. That, combined with Reggie Evans inexplicably jumping around exuberantly for no apparent reason, seemed to displease TIMMEH, who actually sort of got in the face of JJ and Rashard. Sort of. Well, not really. But he was seriously peeved off.

Bruce Bowen was the recipient of some, let's say, curious foul calls, playing only 17 minutes due to foul trouble. I'm sure the liberal whistles had NOTHING to do with Ray's constant griping to the press. EVERYBODY knows that NBA referees are the BEST at what they do and are never influenced by anyone or anything. They are actually impervious to all human interaction. I've seen the studies.

Ray played 42 minutes on him "bum" ankle, scoring 25 points on 14 FGA and contributing absolutely nothing on the defensive end. I think my favorite Ray Allen defensive highlight of the night occurred on a fast break where Robert Horry got an easy layup. Ray was at the basket and could have taken a charge or at least fouled Big Shot Rob. Instead he quite elegantly stepped aside, not even taking a token swipe at the ball. However, his Jordan XXs were nice and shiny.

I don't think it's a good sign when Bruce Bowen plays only 17 minutes (at one point Brent Barry was guarding Ray), Ray gets 10 FT and hits 3 threes, Duncan goes to the line only 3 times and you still lose by 17. SEA, however, did have their first lead of the series in the first quarter. For about 60 seconds. They never led again and didn't get closer than 9 in the second half.

This doesn't mean SEA can't win tonight. But it would probably take a bad and lackluster performance from the Spurs, who seem motivated and focused to a point I've never seen. I'll be there, along with The Wife and The Guamish.

Lastly, if I see The Sickness pass up one more wide open three I am going to have a seizure. SHOOTAR EL BALLO POR FAVOR.

Predictions are dumb, I know, but how can I resist when I only missed game 2 by a total of 3 points? The Spurs will drop the hammer:

SA 102 @ SEA 91

10 May 2005

Just Imagine If He Shot Every Time He Was Open...

For the playoffs, Manu Ginobili has scored 152 points on 82 FGA, for 1.85 PPS. That my friends, if so freaking off the charts it's not even funny. It's early, of course, but this has to be noted. (Ray Allen has 195 on 128 for 1.52, also crazy good.)

By the way, the best Shaq has ever managed in a championship run is 1.42 PPS.

Game Numero Dos en Vivo!

The Guamish (booth.52 over at supersonicsoul.com) and I are going to have a little running commentary in the comments below this here post. Da Blade will hopefully be joining us. Feel free to chime in; unless, of course, you are stupid and/or unfunny. I've got that covered.

Let Me Spell It Out For You

Note: I added a direct link to the NBA portion of the Sports Bloggers Live internet radio show. See previous post.

Barring an injury to one of the Spurs Big Three, the Sonics aren't winning this series. They can, however, win a game (possible) or two (highly unlikely). Here's how:

A) Pray the Spurs have one of those games. Spurs fans know what I am talking about. Totally lackluster play with numerous unforced turnovers and/or a well-placed 0-17 shooting drought that includes a dozen easily makeable shots.

B) Go to a 2-3 zone for the whole game. Look people, the Sonics are a HORRIBLE defensive team. They have nobody that can stay in front of Tony Parker or The Sickness. They have only one guy that can challenge shots in the paint (JJ). They have one guy (JJ) that has a prayer when it comes to slowing Duncan. They have no chance of slowing the Spurs straight up. That's why they have to go to a 2-3 zone.

And when I say 2-3, I mean five guys in the paint at all times. Put JJ right under the basket with Evans and Lewis on the boxes. Allen and Ridnour man the elbows. Nobody is allowed within 5 feet of Tony Parker until he gets into the paint. The guy is an awful jump shooter. Luke Ridnour has a better jump shot than The Wee Frenchman (yes, Sonics fans, he's that bad). The Sonics should be begging him to shoot outside the paint. Go under every screen, play way, way, way off him (I'm talking cornerback-defending-Randy-Moss off him). The Spurs do have some good outside shooters (Barry, Manu, Udrih, Horry, Brown, G. Robinson), but, hey, maybe they go cold or maybe the Spurs start trying to force the ball into TD despite the immediate triple team. Either of those scenarios are more likely than Parker/'Nobili missing easy layups or Fortson/Collison/Potato figuring out a way to guard Duncan without fouling him.

***

Sometime later this week I'll post my thoughts on the MVP.

Here's something ESPN's Eric Neel wrote about Tony Parker (taken from the Monday's Daily Dime):

"Twenty-nine on 11-of-18? Twenty-nine pretty much all on layups and blow-by runners? Twenty-nine as an opening salvo?

If they weren't keyed on you before, Tony Parker, you can bet they're coming for you now. Just like the Lakers did a year ago after you ran by Payton like he was a pigeon perch in the park. You can count on it. You can expect the muscle in Game Two. A little more jamming and grabbing from young Luke and AD, a well-timed high-post pick, maybe another Potapenko or two.

It's all coming. But here's the thing, Tony: They can't stop you. You're only 22, and you've only ever played for the most buttoned-down, professional crew in the league, so maybe you're not quite feeling the truth of that in all its puffed-chest glory. But true it is. They can't stop you.

They'll challenge you, sure, but if you rise up to that moment, if you channel the spirit of Isiahs-and-Iversons-gone-by, you'll own them. You're too quick, too good to both hands, too versatile on the fly and with the floater, for it to be otherwise. Do you realize this, TP? Can you build now on where you were after the first couple of games against the Lakers last time 'round? Can you sense that this is your fly-up moment? Are you ready for the rising? If you are, this thing's over, long before Duncan gets warm and Manu comes calling. If you are, it's over right now."

09 May 2005

More Fun on the (Internet) Radio

Update: Here's the direct link to the NBA portion (I'm after Dave the Heat blogger).

The fine folks over at Sports Bloggers Live invited me back onto their internet radio show. We talked about the MVP debate, why I call Manu "The Sickness" and other various Spurs topics. David from Crazy From the Heat was on right before me and definitely worth a listen (he also has a wicked awesome accent). I do not yet have a direct link to my portion but will post it ASAP.

I fear I may have (especially) sounded like fool during my "Sickness" explanation, so I'll repost my original reasons here:

"I have a nickname for Manu Ginobili. What you've all been waiting for, no doubt. I have to give some credit to the very nearly senile Dick Stockton. Half the time he says "mah-no" instead "ma-new," which led to this:

The Sickness.

How bad is that? And by "bad," I mean good. Or do I? The Wife thinks it's downright awful; even calling it geigh at one point. I explained to her that "sick" means good, but she wouldn't have any of that. Didn't matter.

But I like the way it sounds. And the way Manu plays is sort of a twisted, warped version of normal NBA basketball. Wrong-footed jumpers, long-striding through the lane attempting layups no one else even sees, behind-the-back-across-the-court passes. And, AND, it doubles as a sweet wrestling OR And-1 nickname. He's The Sickness."

*****

Coincidentally, today I stumbled across a gif of his "behind-the-back-across-the-court pass."

08 May 2005

It's Just One Game

SA 103 vs. SEA 81

The sportswriters will definitely highlight the Sonics injuries during Sunday's game 1. And they should. With about 8:40 to go in the second quarter Vladimir Radmanovic stepped on Brent Barry's foot and rolled his ankle badly. He had to be carried off the court but his X-rays were negative. I don't see him coming back this year considering how bad it looked and the fact this is the same leg he injured towards the end of the season.

On the very next possession Ray Allen drove down the lane and stepped on Bowen's foot as Bruce cut in front of him. He, too, rolled his right ankle, though not nearly as badly. His X-rays were also negative but he didn't play the rest of the game.

At the time of the two injuries the Spurs had a 13 point lead. In fact, like the last time these two teams faced each other, the Sonics never had a lead. I realize this was just one game, but I don't see any positive signs for SEA.

Yesterday I wrote: "You're telling me Luke Ridnour is going to guard Tony Parker? Are you serious? The Wee Frenchmen will eat him alive, and when he does, who's going to challenge Parker's shot in the paint?" As expected, Tony dominated the PG position, scoring 29 points on only 18 FGA. In fact, the first Spurs possession had Tony isolated on the wing. He went right by Luke for the layup and the foul.

To be fair to Luke, he had absolutely no help inside. SEA's team defense is atrocious. At one point sometime in the first half Tony took the ball from out of bounds about 60 feet from the basket, immediately went by his man and dribbled all the way to the paint for an 8 foot floater. Look, I understand not having perimeter defenders capable of staying in front of Parker and Ginobili. I also understand not having shot blockers; they are a rare commodity. But what about just trying to stop the ball?

SEA also had all sorts of trouble with Duncan. They threw lots of guys at him, and consequently James, Fortson and Collison all had 2 fouls by the end of the first quarter. Like I said before, James is there only hope against TD. Speaking of, Jerome finished with 4 points on 2-8 shooting and 2 rebounds in 19 minutes.

Manu didn't have to do much with the domination of Timmeh and Tony. He surprisingly (to me, anyway) came off the bench and Ray Allen was forced to guard him. The only one-on-one matchup I can recall resulted in a layup for The Sickness.

I would like to close with the live comments from Supersonicsoul.com. I had no idea The Guamanian (booth.52) was so hilarious. And by the way, I don't collect teddy bears; I collect Dero, there's a difference.

07 May 2005

Exclusive Interview with Spurs Coach P.J. Carlesimo

You read that right, folks. Four months ago this was just another crappy sports blog in a sea of other crappy sports blog. No longer my friends! I have made the leap to "serious sports journalist." I will now use the following terms without discretion: "momentum," "scorer," "energy player," "little things," "clutch player," "fundamentals," "Derek Jeter is a Yankee" and my personal favorite, "rhythm team."

I must give credit where credit is due. Matty da Blade, San Antonio Spurs Blog's Official Intrepid Field Reporter (SASBOIFR), went deep into the heart of the infamous San Antonio Chinatown area for this exclusive report:

MdB, SASBOIFR: "Good luck tomorrow."
P.J. Carlesimo: "Thank you."

Oh, that's not all folks. MdB closely watched P.J. as he ate his won ton soup appetizer, and it was readily apparent to all that P.J. is ready for this series. He'll have a hard time locking down Dwane Casey, but he's prepared for the challenge.

Tune in tomorrow where I'll reveal which Spurs jersey P.J.'s son, grandson or nephew was wearing! Only hear at http://www.nbaspurs.blogspot.com!

Now on to my preview of the fast-approaching Spurs/Sonics series. You may recall that while I grew up in San Antonio, I now live in The Emerald City (that's Seattle, people). So I am understandably conflicted. (Actually, I'm not. I just added that for drama. It's a literary technique that all serious sports journalists use. San Antonio Spurs Blog knows drama. (Buh buh!))

I have sort of been putting this off. I am confident in my "prediction," if you will, but there's a certain something I want to say that, well, will certainly drum up some comments that I'll feel forced to respond to. So I've been considering my options. Also, no matter how many Spur's advantages I point out Seattle fans can simply point to this and this.

As you may already know, Seattle beat SA in the only two games where both teams were at full strength. So what do I have to say to that? Any clever retorts?

Well, no, not really. Personally, I don't put much stock into those two games. That, of course, is easy for me to say. But both those contests were in the first twenty games of the season, and both Parker and Manu started the seasons off slowly. At that point the Spurs had nothing to prove and they often take lesser teams lightly. Plus, the playoffs are just different. Last year the Spurs lost 3 of 4 games to MEM during the regular season and swept them in the playoffs. That's just the first of numerous examples.

Seattle was missing key player/s in the other two matchups, both Spurs blowouts. Again, not much to take from those games in my opinion.

Kenny Smith loves to say "The playoffs are about matchups." I initially wanted to agree with him, but, like with most cliches, I have trouble believing it. For example, Dallas had nobody who could guard either McGrady or Yao and TMac was very successful at curtailing DAL's best player in Nowitzki. Yet HOU still lost. DEN's defense matched up with SA's offense very well; better than any other defense in the WC. Yet DEN was clearly outclassed.

Cliches are just soundbites; they try to homogenize and oversimplify and are thusly rendered nearly useless in a game with as many variables as NBA basketball.

But hey, individual matchups are fun to talk about, so maybe I'll drop the bomb later.

The Sonics, despite their first round matchup against SAC, are a half court team. In fact, they average 91.5 offensive possessions per game, 27th in the NBA. The Spurs are immediately above them with 91.7. Don't let the slow pace fool you, SEA is a great offensive team, 3rd in the NBA in offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions). They have three guys capable of big games in Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis and Vladimir Radmanovic. They have four guys who shoot better than 37% from 3 (the above and Luke Ridnour(?)).

SA, of course, is by far the best defensive team in the league. Teams just don't get many easy baskets against Pop's team. It's important to note that SEA, more than any team other than PHX, lives and dies by the 3. They average 8.1 makes on 22.2 attempts (36.5%) and 3s account for 24.6% of their points. This doesn't bode well for SEA because SA makes it a point to limit 3PA. In fact, SA only allowed 10.7 3PA per game (SEA averaged 14.8 attempts against SA), 18.3% less than the team second in that category. This is doubly impressive when you consider the Spurs had the second highest margin of victory (which should lead to more 3 attempts). They rotate defensively better than any other team in the NBA and they also run at shooters aggressively. Their perimeter defenders play in opponents faces, begging them to penetrate towards the paint where the Spurs were second in the league in blocked shots.

This attention to 3PA has continued into the playoffs. DEN averaged 11.5 attempts during the regular season but only put up 8.4 in round 1.

The Spurs are no slouches on offense, either. They're currently ninth in the NBA and only 0.1 points per possession below 6th. They, like SEA, have 3 guys capable of high scoring games in Timmeh, Parker and The Sickness. SA doesn't rely on one certain method of scoring; they can hit some threes (6.2 per game), they can go inside to Duncan, they can run pick and roll with Parker and Duncan or they can let Manu or Tony create off the dribble. They are more multi-dimensional than they are given credit for.

SEA, to be quite frank, is an awful defensive team. 25th in the NBA. They're 23rd in the league in blocked shots and have only guy that can be considered a vertical inside presence. That's Jerome James, who averaged 1.39 blocks in only 16.6 minutes per game.

Ahhhh, Jerome James. 4.9 PTS and 3.0 REB during the regular season and 17.2 PTS and 9.4 REB against SAC in round 1. Is he a changed man? Has he turned the corner? Will he finally realize the potential of his God given talents? You probably heard the story: Adelman cuts James years ago during the preseason, hands him a garbage bag and tells him to find another line of work. Apparently James didn't remember any of that during the regular season, when he averaged only 5 and 1.3 against SAC.

But James dug deep, feng shuid his couches and centered his Chi for the playoffs. In a sick way, I've enjoyed watching this guy the past couple of years. So I know that he has a load of offensive talent and noticed that he definitely played harder against SAC. I even caught him rotating on defense once. It was amazing! Up there with that whole Ivory-billed Woodpecker thing.

But, call me crazy, I am going to go with the 268 games of evidence that says he sucks. He played well in five games against a team who's only inside defensive presence was a one-legged Brad Miller (Skinner played less than 10 minutes a game in the series), who averaged all of 1.2 blocks in 37 minutes of play during the regular season. What happens when, sometime in the first quarter, James gets by The Solid Slovenian but then gets his shot blocked by TIMMEH!? How does he react when he quicks up two quick fouls trying to guard a post player (something he didn't have to do agaisnt SAC) like Duncan? Can McMillan even leave him in after defensively misplaying four consecutive pick and rolls? Will Jerome disappear for the rest of the game, like he did for 250 of his 268 career regular season contests? Or will he, with a determined air, adjust his trash bag cape and get back to work?

SEA lacks inside presence and lacks good perimeter defenders. Their best guard defender is probably Antonio Daniels, who, though I love as a player, cannot guard two guys at once. Which is what he would have to do when Ginobili and Parker are on the court at the same time.

Does a team that ranks 25th in the league in defense have a realistic shot at taking down a team like the Spurs? How often has a team that bad at offense or defense made it to a conference finals? Like I said when previewing the DEN series, it has taken, up to this point, a tandem the quality of Shaq and Kobe to take out a Duncan led Spurs team.

SEA fans seem to be hanging their hats on the individual matchups and the belief that Ray Allen is "hot." (He did average about a bazillion points against SAC.) Pardon my french, but give me a fucking break. Bruce Bowen is one of the top 3 perimeter defenders in the NBA and will funnel Ray into Tim and Rasho all day. Oh, he's also so far in Allen's head that he probably knows when Ray's next manicure is scheduled.

Oh, but what about Rashard? He's a good player and definitely is more of a matchup problem than Ray. And yeah, he's four inches taller than Ginobili (who, by the way, will certainly start over Brent Barry). But when you have the interior defense the Spurs have, all the perimeter defenders have to do is not allow the three. Funnel, funnel, funnel. Make him hit a running 16 footer. Make him shoot over Rasho and Timmeh. If he gets good post position double off of Reggie Evans or Jerome James. Or just simply put Bowen on him. Teams love to try to post up Bowen, which never made much sense to me. Bowen is an expert at making the entry pass near impossible. Carmelo had trouble just getting the ball, let alone doing anything with it.

I think some people are missing that Manu can guard Allen if necessary. He's another terrific perimeter defender that gets overlooked because, well, he doesn't roll enough ankles (he he he). Devin Brown, if healthy, can chase after Allen, too.

What's so baffling about all the SEA matchup talk is the fact that SEA matches up so poorly with SA. You're telling me Luke Ridnour is going to guard Tony Parker? Are you serious? The Wee Frenchmen will eat him alive, and when he does, who's going to challenge Parker's shot in the paint? DEN had Camby and Punkie and Parker still managed 18 points a game.

SEA fans love to say that they have a "lot of guys" that they can "throw at" Duncan. Congratulations. Every team says that during the playoffs. Unfortunately only one of those guys has any chance at guarding him. That's Jerome James. Who will get pick and rolled to death. Fortson's big, yeah, but he won't last 12 minutes guarding Duncan. Hell, he couldn't stay on the floor guarding the likes of Kenny Thomas and Corliss Williamson (19 fouls in 47 minutes). Reggie Evans is 6'-8" on a good day. Nick Collison is a nice player that I like a lot. But he's only 6'-9" and simply isn't strong enough (and foul prone as well). Potato might do OK. But that means Potato would have to play on the offensive end, which I don't think McMillan would allow.

Then there's The Sickness. And is Ray Allen going to guard Manu? Good luck. I have no idea how to guard him and have yet to see anyone figure it out. Oh, yeah, there's also this:

Player A
47.1 FG%
37.6 3P%
80.4 FT%
1.22 PTS per shot attempt (FGA + .44 * FTA)
4.4 RPG
3.9 APG
1.6 SPG
0.4 BPG
2.3 TOPG

Player B
42.8 FG%
37.6 3P%
88.3 FT%
1.11 PTS per shot attempt
4.4 RPG
3.7 APG
1.1 SPG
0.1 BPG
2.2 TOPG

Which one of those two players is the better offensive player? Hmm. Looks like Player A to me. Player A is of course The Sickness. Player B is Ray Allen. The thing I've been contemplating not saying is the following: Manu Ginobili is a better player than Ray Allen.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, Ray has to shoot more because he's the focal point of the offense. Ray's job is to score. Ray has to take those tough three pointers. Defenses key on him. Blah blah blah. I bite my thumb at that shit. Every basketball player's job is to help the team win. And maybe if Ray was as concerned about winning as he was his next contract (or next manicure) he wouldn't take some of those horrible shots. Maybe he would notice that Radmanovic and Lewis are better 3P shooters than him. Or that Rashard Lewis is actually a better offensive player than he is. Or that he's only 3rd on the team in +/- (which is especially sad considering his backup is Flip Fucking Murray).

Ginobili, meanwhile, gets 16 points a game even though he's the third option on offense and the Spurs don't really even run plays for him (unless you consider giving him the ball 25 feet from the basket with 5 seconds on the shot clock and telling him to, uh, do something running a play for him). And he actually plays defense, too, which is a big reason why he's got a +/- of +15.5 (third in the NBA).

Yeah, Ray will get his points against the Spurs. He'll probably average 25 points on 22 shot attempts. He'll bitch about the refs and contribute little on the defensive end. But, hey, I'm sure somebody will give him his near-max contract. It might even be the Sonics, assuming they have enough money left after they overpay for Jerome James.

Spurs in 5.

Other picks:

PHX over DAL in 7
MIA over WAS in 6
DET over IND in 4

Previous picks (from "Quick Playoff Predictions" post on 23 April):

PHX in 4
SA in 5
SEA in 7
DAL in 7
MIA in 5
DET in 5
IND in 6
WAS in 6

Hmm. Got all the winners and only missed by 4 total games. What does that mean? Nothing, of course.

05 May 2005

Stats From Round 1

Note: "Total +/-" is simply point margin while on court minus point margin while off court. I don't like using the per 48 minutes numbers with such a small sample. These numbers basically show how much better (or worse) your team was with you on the court. All +/- data from 82games.com.

Tony Parker
7.2-16.4 / 43.9 FG% / 3-11 from 3 / 18.2 PPG / 5.8 APG / 0.8 SPG / 3.0 TOPG / Total +/- of +34

Andre Miller
5.6-13.2 / 42.4 FG% / 2-4 from 3 / 16.2 PPG / 5.2 APG / 2.0 SPG / 2.4 TOPG / Total +/- of +10

Manu Ginobili
6.2-13.0 / 47.7 FG% / 10-22 from 3 / 22.8 PPG / 4.0 APG / 0.4 SPG / 2.4 TOPG / Total +/- of +46

Earl Boykins
5.4-13.6 / 39.7 FG% / 0-7 from 3 / 14.2 PPG / 3.8 APG / 0.8 SPG / 1.8 TOPG / Total +/- of -46

Bruce Bowen
0.8-3.2 / 25.0 FG% / 3-7 from 3 / 3.0 PPG / 1.4 APG / 0.8 SPG / 0.0 TOPG / Total +/- of -4

Carmelo Anthony
7.0-16.6 / 42.2 FG% / 0-1 from 3 / 19.2 PPG / 2.0 APG / 0.60 SPG / 2.6 TOPG / Total +/- of -12

Tim Duncan
8.8-18.8 / 46.8% / 22.0 PPG / 11.2 RPG / 3.4 APG / 2.6 BPG / 2.4 TOPG / Total +/- of +4

Punkie
5.4-11.6 / 46.6% / 12.4 PPG / 5.6 RGP / 1.2 APG / 1.0 BPG / 1.4 TOPG / Total +/- of +2

Nazr Mohammed
2.5-4.8 / 52.6% / 7.0 PPG / 8.0 RPG / 1.3 BPG / 1.75 TOPG / Total +/- of -46

Marcus Camby
3.4-8.2 / 41.5% / 10.2 PPG / 10.4 RPG / 3.2 BPG / 2.2 TOPG / Total +/- of +12

Robert Horry
3.4-6.6 / 51.5% / 10.0 PPG / 8-18 from 3 / 4.6 RPG / 1.0 APG / 1.2 BPG / 0.6 TOPG / 0.8 SPG / Total +/- of +62

Nene
1.8-4.2 / 42.9% / 6.6 PPG / 5.0 RPG / Total +/- of -14

Brent Barry
1.8-4.2 / 42.9% / 6.4 PPG / 5-14 from 3 / 2.8 APG / 1.8 TOPG / Total +/- of -2

04 May 2005

I Just Sent You a Picture of the Syrup

SA 99 vs. DEN 89

This game was closer than the final score indicates. SA played extremely sloppily in the first half, committing 12 turnovers (many of them offensive fouls) and allowing far too many offensive rebounds. After consistently maintaining a 1-6 point lead for most of the second half they finally got over the hump on a Glenn Robinson 3 off a Timmeh offensive rebound. There were other unexpected contributions down the stretch, including solid D from Brent Barry and Nazr Mohammed hitting what Matty da Blade called "the first non-dunk of his Spurs career." I'm telling you, he's deadly from three feet and in (when he doesn't travel). Nazr grabbed 3 more offensive boards and blocked a couple of shots but continued his dreadful defense. He bit on three separate upfakes, leading to two fouls on him and one on Duncan.

Earl Boykins started instead of Greg Buckner (who was starting instead of Dermarr Johnson). I was very happy to see this because he's pretty much been awful the whole series except for game 4. His averages for the series look like this:

39.7% FG%
14.2 PPG on 13.6 FGA
3.8 APG
1.8 TOPG
0.8 SPG

Those number don't look dreadful, but they of course ignore the fact the only Spur Boykins had a prayer of guarding was Beno Udrih. Proof? The Spurs outscored DEN by a total of 51 points for the entire series. When Boykins was on the bench the Spurs only outscored DEN by 3 points. That -3 is by far and away the best number for any DEN player that saw significant minutes. (In other words, DEN's best lineup was basically any lineup without Boykins.) But, hey, he's only 5'-5" and can bench over 300 pounds!!! Pfft. And my balls float in the bathtub: so what?

Parker had another good game: 21 on 17 FGA, 7 A, 2 STL and 3 TO. The Sickness had one of those "it will seem like I am doing absolutely nothing on the offensive end but I'll still end up with 18 points" games. He also had 5 TOs. But, as Barkley said, he's "a bad man." Have I ever mentioned that I love Barkley? 'Cause I do. Also, I've had two entirely different people tell me I look like him. One of them was African American, too.

Robert Horry continued his stellar play. In fact, he was probably the most important player in the whole series. The Spurs were actually outscored by 5 points when he was on the bench. In fact, he was the only Spur that had a negative value for either on or off the bench. His amazing +/- numbers have a lot to do with the fact he was often coming in for Nazr (Spurs were only +3 with Nazr on the court).

Please pardon my lack of modesty, but I called this series pretty well:

"I'm supposed to worry about fucking Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin? When Bowen owns Carmelo and Martin got embarassed by Duncan in the 2003 NBA Finals? When the schedule favors the Spurs? When the Spurs have home court? Are you serious?

Spurs in 5."

I have to admit that Carmelo played better than I expected. He shot 42.2% and averaged 19.2 PTS but only 1.16 PPS (which is merely decent). His play down the stretch in game 4 was definitely impressive. But he does very little on the defensive end, which is why his season +/- was a meager +3.1. (But hey, the kid's only 20.)

DEN only managed 13.2 fast break points per game after leading the league during the regular season with about 20 per game.

Personally, I think this series had two themes. First, DEN was simply significantly overrated. There season closing run was largely due to a very weak schedule that contained no teams near the quality of a full strength Spurs squad. Second, the Spurs are a much better offensive team than people realize.

Finding a way to score consistently against the Spurs isn't enough. Solving the NBA's best defense isn't the only riddle. There's another question people are missing. How do you slow their offense? How do you slow Tim? Push him around (if you have someone that can), double him and pray the Spurs' bevy of three point shooters don't hit wide open shots. How do you curtail Parker? Go under the screen and roll, put a physical guy on him (if you have that guy) and pack the lane (assuming you have a shot blocker). But how do you stop The Sickness? How do you slow the slither, curtail the cunning, dampen the drive? How do you solve a problem like Manu? How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?

Ay, there's the rub.

02 May 2005

I Think I Figured It Out

The refs, that is. In case you didn't see the game, Charles Barkley said "that was one of the worst officiated games I've seen in my entire life."

Some really, really bizarre calls. Bowen's first two fouls in the second (in the first minute or so; his 3rd and 4th) were absolutely horrible calls. One was an obvious charge on Carmelo. I am not even sure what the other call was. Bowen had his forearm in Melo's back, standing there and then the whistle. I thought there was a clock problem or something.

I figured it all out. The refs bet heavily on the over. That's the only logical explanation.

Anyways. I am going to sleep. Quick recap:

Tony Parker nutted up huge in the 4th and OT.
Duncan hit 13-14 FT and was generally awesome.
Boykins (I think?) hit a three (that's what it looked like in the one replay the idiots at TNT showed) that was called a two with about 2 minutes to go in the game.

I'll edit/add to this later Tuesday.

01 May 2005

"Hold That, That's What I Want"

Note: Game 3 recap is below this post

"At any street corner the feeling of absurdity can strike any man in the face." --Albert Camus

Update II: Oops. Uh. There's a whole other article that I missed while viewing online. And there is a picture of me. This development makes the previous update seem very, very sad and delusional. All the more reason to leave it!

Update: HA! The story posted online right after I finished my game 3 recap. There's one whole line about my blog. And no photo, either (thankfully). 3 hours spent e-mailing, 30 minutes on the phone and 30 excruciating minutes of posing culminated in: "A Web log that Seattle structural engineer Matthew Powell started about the San Antonio Spurs basketball team got an audience of hundreds after being included in Yahoo's search results." This development makes the following post seem very, very sad and delusional. All the more reason to leave it!

The front page of the Sunday edition of the Seattle Times has the first part of a multiday feature concerning search engines and the way people in the Northwest use them. Kim Peterson, the author of the story, found this blog, asked me some questions and subsequently included me in the article; along with CEOs and other people who, in the Grand Scheme of Things, are almost certainly more important than me (and definitely more relevant to the subject matter). No, I cannot come up with a rational answer as to why I am in the story; other than my inclusion is no less absurd than the fact that more people are concerned with this than this.

Being Saturday and all, I haven't read the story. There may be only two lines about me all I know, but I am certain my picture will be in the paper. Well, unless the photographer I spent thirty minutes with yesterday works for another of the multitudes of media outlets clamoring to get my story. The highlight of that experience had to be when he said, after snapping about 30 photos of me posing, "Hold that, that's what I want." My brain immediately translated that to "Right now you look like an idiot, but I looking for more of a tool look. Focus on the fact that not only are you a number-crunching dweeb, but you're supreme accomplishment in life is a sports blog." I am pretty sure I nailed it.

Presumably (and, let's face it, the whole idea behind a blog is presumptuous), as a result of all this, some new people will be visiting my blog. I cannot think of a reason why; after all, this is a San Antonio Spurs blog, and I doubt many Seattle Times readers wake up Sunday mornings thinking "I need to spend some reading a guy prattle on incessantly about a sports team based 2000 miles away." But, as you probably know, the Second Rule of Life is "Things do not have to make sense (so stop trying to figure people out)."

I trudged through all of my past posts and picked out the least crappy entries. Due to my scant HTML knowledge you are going to have to scroll through the linked archives to find the selected posts. Here they are, starting from the beginning.

"You Just Don't" - The culmination of years and years of hating Karl Malone.
"1351 Words on Rasho Nesterovic" - He's tall. He's Slovenian. He's misunderstood.
"Rick Adelman Is An Excellent Driver" - I knew Chris Webber sucked way before Philly fans figured it out.
"This NEEDS to Be Said" - The post that, according to a random Spurs fan, "discredited me as a Spurs fan and a journalist."
"More Thoughts on the Malik Rose Trade" - a methodology for the typical unification of access points and redundancy
"Look, You Stupid Bastard, You've Got No Arms Left" - How to guard Tony Parker (begins in the 15th paragraph).
"Chad Ford Molests Baby Kangaroos" - Self explanatory.
""Uhhhh, I Mean..." - Me on the (internet) radio.
"The Sky is Still Blue, Right?" - My opinion on SA's first playoff series.
"Back to Work" - More absurdity: playoff induced stress (two posts below this one).

***

The following is an excerpt/summary of my response to Kim's initial questions regarding Google Ads:

"A partial reason I added Google Ads was curiosity. How did Google calculate the amountof money "earned?" How many people would actually click on these ads? I harbored no delusions that the ads would ever make me more than a few dollars a year. The ads are just another piece of the process; like visitors, something to track. An accoutrement to my "harmless eccentricity," if you will.

When they were first added I wrote a sarcastic blog entry stating I was selling out; that I would do my best to use my readers for financial gain; that this was my only reason for starting the blog in the first place. I also promised that I would keep my readers up to date with how much I've taken them for. That's funny to me.

See, I enjoy the absurdity of the whole notion. In some very minor way, the "revenue" from the ads is justification for me spending unjustifiable amounts of time blathering on. Having the amount clearly shown (right below the ads themselves) is a way of poking fun at myself and the idea that my blog is worthwhile. I've "earned" three whole dollars and forty-seven cents, which is about what I make in about 10 minutes at my real job."

***

Lastly, if you happen to be a Sonics fan I suggest reading supersonicsoul.com.

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All content copyright Matthew Powell 2005.