I Just Sent You a Picture of the Syrup
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:
14.2 PPG on 13.6 FGA
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.