With Wayne on vacation, I’m pulling a little double duty for the next few days, so you’ll likely get combined posts, like this, especially with a back-to-back tonight and tomorrow. Such is the life of an NBA blogger. Here’s hoping the Spurs play the best games of their lives while Wayne is tucked into a cabin without the ability to watch a game. It would serve him right.
Not So Much a Rockets Recap, as a Discourse on Manu
I think I want to simply put this game into its own microcosm. The Spurs defense was atrocious for most of this game and Pop went with a short bench, for some reason I don’t understand. It struck me that with the high pace of this game (this was a matchup of two of the highest scoring teams and the top two highest paced teams in the league) that lots of rotations would be in order. Alas, Pop went with basically 9 guys and it wasn’t until one of those bench guys – Patty Mills – hit a few threes late in the 4th that you began to feel good about the outcome.
Tim looked fantastic, as usual, as did Tony. Manu looked his usual self as well, meaning not great. He made some 3s, made a few great passes, had some terrible turnovers, and played poor, reaching defense for a huge chunk of the game. His box score numbers don’t look bad at all: 23 points, 2 boards, 2 assists, 3 steals with only the 5 turnovers standing out. But Manu is not passing the eyeball test right now. At least for those of us who are used to him being Manu – that Manu that takes over games and makes plays literally no one else can make. You know, The Sickness, as our PtR friends like to call him. I don’t know if that guy is still here anymore. Sometimes, he shows up for a few minutes, but I’m starting to wonder if age has made that Manu a bit performer, who can only show up for short stretches and not always on demand, as he used to be. If that’s the case, and Manu has begun to enter a late stage Jason Kidd stretch of his career – a passer and 3-shooter, but no longer an offensive focal point or creator – then he needs to acknowledge that. The 5 turnovers were not Manu being Manu, they were Manu trying to be Manu and not quite getting there.
The good news is, he has all season to figure this out. The Spurs don’t need SuperManu to have a top 3 seed in the West. They can get there with running good offense and using Danny Green, Splitter, and Gary Neal to fill in as a 3rd guy. And Manu is definitely contributing as another wing shooter and occasional initiator. I keep hearing the talking heads say the Spurs can’t win a championship without Ginobili in peak form and I don’t think I completely believe that, especially with Tim playing as well as he is. But by the time the playoffs roll around, we need to at least know who Manu is now. SuperManu? Or simply a really good wing player?
I will confess I’m a little excited for this game. The blowout from a week ago was fun to watch, but I usually like my Mavs-Spurs tilts to be a little more competitive than that.
And while the Mavs are 6 games under .500, I do expect this to be a challenge. This is a team with some talent on offense, so expect another high-pace, high scoring affair. Just in time to wear out the team for Brooklyn tomorrow night.
I think Duncan and Splitter need to play well over the Mavs bigs in this game. They really don’t have anyone who can guard a rejuvenated Duncan, nor can anyone really stay with Splitter on the pick-and-roll either. I expect big games from the New Twin Towers.
For Dallas, O.J. Mayo has been a godsend. He can score, get his own shot, is a decent passer, and came at a bargain contract price. Without him this year, the Mavs might be contending for the cellar. Defense on him, which will probably be Danny Green, is crucial for the Spurs to win.
So, the Crystal Ball for this one: Spurs, 94; Mavs, 90. Closer than you’d like, but a win nonetheless.
Odds and Ends
My favorite stat from the Rockets game? Cole Aldrich’s -12 in 17 minutes. Every time he came in, Tim went after him and dominated that matchup. It was like having a dog waiting for food to fall off of the table.
Wherefore has Brendan Wright gone? The Mavs F/C had some nice games last year and I thought looked good defending bigs in several Mavs games I watched. Now it seems like he can’t get off the bench except for garbage time. I know Rick Carlisle is smarter than me, but it seems like, on a defensively starved big man team, Wright could use some minutes. In fact, I’d trade DeJuan for him right now and use him as the Spurs 4th big. If you have seen something about Wright I don’t know, hit me up on Twitter (@BartTBF).