Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Spurs-Hornets Game 7: The Vise Experience

Tonight in New Orleans, the defending champion Spurs put the kids to bed with a workmanlike, 91-82, Game 7 road win over the New Orleans Hornets. The champs built a big third quarter lead with their typical bone-crunching defense and cagey veteran bench presence, then held on down the stretch despite a terrible shooting quarter and some highly un-Spurs-like behavior.

Your Final Four is set, and it's the 1 vs the 3 in the West, and the 1 versus the 2 in the East. In the Association, you rarely go broke picking chalk.

Here's the points from my notes...

> You don't get the sense that the Hornets crowd or players really expected to win this game tonight.

There was never a sense of electricity, and the Bugs didn't help matters by playing nearly the entire game from behind.

Memo to any young team... it's not a given that you will be back here. Look at the Jazz. Look at the Cavs. Game Seven at home demands more of you than Jannero Pargo late. (And yes, one has to wonder if Robert Horry has thugged the Spurs to yet another ill-gotten win, since David West turned in a fairly ordinary 20 and 9 tonight, and didn't do much in the fourth.)

> Whose stock fell more in this playoff -- Wally Szczerbiak or Peja Stojakovic? The veteran sharpchoker gave 7 and 4 in 44 minutes tonight, and when he wasn't invisible, he was forcing it. The Bugs would have been better off with Morris Peterson on the floor tonight, or maybe even giving some of his bench players some run. Honestly, when you run three guys over 44 minutes, you're having none of it. No NBA team has so bad of a bench as what Byron Scott managed tonight.

> Here's the difference in the game tonight: 6 made 3-pointers from the Spurs bench (Finley, Horry, Udoka). The Hornets bench was Jannero Pargo, who alternated between hero and goat on alternative possessions in the fourth. The Pargo Virus is a nice little player, but he's not winning Game 7 against the defending champions for you. The Spur bench built the lead with Duncan on the bench. It's one of the few times in the past month that role players showed up on the road.

> Just as in the Cavs-Celts game last night, the trailing team had an open 3 to tie; the Cavs with Delonte West, the Hornets with Pargo. Both men missed, and both teams never threatened again.

> The Spurs held a 17 point lead in the third, and looked for all the world to be cruising the seventh and final drama-free finish in this series... and then the fourth started, and they forgot to defend and suddenly looked old. That's why I'm picking the Lakers in the next round. I think the Spurs are just running on fumes at this point.

> The reason why this series was a pleasure to watch -- even the Spurs part of it, and despite the fact that the closest final score was tonight's 9 -- is that basketball is meant to be driven by point guards. It's also why Celts-Cavs was such an eyesore for 6.25 games. The game I grew up with had points; Mo Cheeks is, and will always be, my model for a point. Paul and Parker are two of the best, and their teams feed off them. (And if you are looking for a villain as to why points were in hibernation for so long, and why everyone has to work the refs for every call... point the finger at Phil Jackson with his Frankenstein point guards, and Michael Jordan with his incessant refwork.)

> Spurs Fan doesn't get why the world hates their team. Let me boil it down for you: it's Manu. Sure, everyone hates Horry and Bowen, too, but Manu's got the magic combination of flops, elbows, and startling competence. And tonight in clutch time, he was awful, and kept the Bugs in it with early forces on offense, turnovers and misses.

He's a fourth quarter assassin normally, and they don't get here without him. But he might be getting run down. The Manu the world knows is not the one on the floor in clutch time tonight.

> For the most part, the refs weren't a factor tonight... but one call with less than four minutes left really stood out. Manu slips, falls, and is in the midst of a turnover, when the refs whistle Paul for a loose ball foul. It was just unconscionable, though it didn't really change the outcome of the game.

> The Bugs had to believe on one possession where they got 4 shots late, ending with a Pargo 3. But after a Duncan miss and the fateful Pargo open 3 whiff, it was Parker yet again, making it a five point lead with 50 seconds left. When you're running so far uphill all game, you have to break through when you get close, and it just didn't happen. Goodnight, Big Easy.


with-malice.com said...

All over the interwebby, I've said ignore the Spurs at your peril.

Excellent summation DMtS', but then, what else would I expect?

I really, really hope for a Celtics/Lakers finals, or at least one of 'em. A Pistons/Spurs one again would be just too much of a yawner.

DMtShooter said...

Much obliged, malicious Master. In terms of pure ball to watch, Celts-Lakers is probably your best bet, but I think the Pistons are going to split the first two in Boston and close it in 6.

The Celts would be better off benching Ray Allen now -- exactly what I predicted back in the regular season, when Doc "Paste Eater" Rivers needed to run up a big won-loss record on 35+ minutes a game on his shot 2 guard.

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