At 2:42 of the first period, and after playing 4 minutes and 14 seconds, the Spurs lost Manu Ginobili to an injury. In my book, that puts us down 3 of our top 5 players. The three guys may never all start a game, but I will guarantee you that those 3 — Kawhi, Jack, and Manu — finish a lot of games together in the playoffs.
So, what do we do down three guys against the Boston Celtics while riding a 2-game losing streak? We show off our depth.
Deepest Purple, The Very Best of Deep Purple
Black Knight is a long way from home and that would be Tiago Splitter.
For whatever reason, Tiago is a Celtics destroyer this year. He was tremendous in his third start of the season. Pop, apparently, isn’t thrilled with what DeJuan is giving him and decided to start Tiago in this one even though he was matched up with Brandon Bass. A guy that is almost a natural match up for DeJuan. Well, Tiago owned the Celtics front line. His 16 points out scored Garnett and Bass combined and had one less rebound than the two.
Tiago was lively and aggressive attacking the rim. He was rewarded with 6 FTs (tied for game high). As always, he really creates problems for the other team when he rolls to the basket. He always manages to get to open space and get there at the right time. It sounds kind of mystical, and well, it kind of is.
He finished with 16 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and a block in 28 minutes.
For the two games against the Celtics this year, Tiago’s numbers have been better than Garnett’s in every category. Tiago has had 23, 3, and 1 (+19) and 16, 8, and 4 (+6). Garnett has had 14, 3 and 1 (-7) and 13, 6, and 3 (+0).
In the match up of the game, Tony Parker just cleaned the clock of Rajon Rondo. Rondo had more turnovers (9) than points (6) and, for the most part, wasn’t a factor. Tony, on the other hand, took over the game in the fourth quarter and put the Celtics away on his way to a 22 point, 8 assist effort while only committing one turnover and racking up four steals.
In the decisive run of the fourth quarter, Tony scored 7 straight points, and 9 of 12, for the Spurs — a 3, a fading 9-footer, a floater, and an acrobatic reverse flip layup (he was fouled but no call). Rondo responded by trying to showboat on a fast break, lost control of his dribble, and had it stolen by Tony.
Gary. Neal. 20 points.
Gary seemed a lot hotter than his 7-13 would indicate. He hit 3-6 from 3-pt and was really working over the Celtics attacking the paint. As Andrew noted at 48MoH, he created a lot more havoc than his 3 assists gives him credit for. I’m guessing he had a lot of hockey assists.
Gary really struggled on defense in the first half. He lost track of Jason Terry several times and at one point seemed to be either completely gassed or just disgusted or unaware that defense involved running. Early in the third quarter, about 3 minutes in, Rondo pulled up for a jumper at the free throw line and Neal’s man, Courtney Lee, cut behind him and Rondo hit him for a layup. Pop got up off the bench and yelled for Nando to come into the game for Gary. Tony found Gary for a 3-ptr the second time down court, and before a stoppage, and Pop called Nando back to the bench. Pop has rules — like you can’t get beat backdoor by your guy or you will get pulled — but those rules have some corollaries. Like if you can knock down shots then you can stay in the game.
Anyway, Gary really had it going in this one. He has a great feel for getting the ball in the bucket and it’s really apparent when he is shooting on the move. He can shoot at any angle and from any distance and it is going in.
Strange Kind Of Woman
“I want you. I need you. I gotta, be near you.” Boris Diaw is my ‘Strange Kind Of Woman’.
He absolutely drives me crazy half the time and the other half of the time he is marvelous. He never has his feet set to shoot when he catches the ball. He passes up easy shots. He leads the break. He reaches and commits lazy fouls instead of moving his feet. ARGH!
But, man, he sure does do a lot of positive things and he’s always part of the action when the Spurs’ offense goes all beautiful. This game was no different. He picked up a lazy foul for an and-1 that allowed Lee to cut the lead to 5 early in the fourth. He then picked up another and-1 foul under 3 minutes later (in fairness, this second one was crap). The first, against Lee, was just terrible.
On the other end, he caught a Tony pass and wasn’t ready to shoot. Took a dribble right and pulled up for a 16-footer on the move. Nothing but net. In the third, he caught the ball on the block and spun baseline flipping up a high reverse layup without using the back board. All net and it put the Spurs up 11.
He later spun baseline in the fourth and dribbled it on the baseline for one of his two turnovers. He added 3 assists. The four Spurs’ bigs combined for 12 assists. Tim with 2, Boris and Matt with 3, Tiago with 4. That’s good stuff right there.
Child In Time
Nando, much like the late Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore, is a virtuoso. His box score line of 8 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist(?), 2 steals, and 1 block doesn’t come close to doing justice to his impact on this game. With Manu down, Nando stepped up and played big minutes and made plays.
Everything Nando does on the court is fluid. For a point guard, he’s pretty tall at 6′ 5″ and his crazy basketball intuition puts him in position to scarf rebounds off the defensive glass. Once he snags one, he’s off on the break gliding down court. Head up, making things happen.
Here’s the thing. I can actually recall all three baskets Nando made (and his free throw), 3 of the 4 rebounds, the assist, both steals, and the block. Each was special enough that it registered with me.
His first bucket was a drive from the 3-pt line in the right corner. He faked the 3 and went by his guy. Sullinger tried to draw the charge just outside the restricted area, but Nando slid just enough to the right to not get the charge call and lofted the ball high of the glass. 2 points. His second bucket was a cut down the line where he got a feed from Tiago who was posting up. Nando twisted in the layup and drew the foul on Rondo. He then made his free throw. His third bucket was a kick out 3-ptr that hit nothing but net and put a dagger in the Celtics. None of his points were as impressive as his defense.
Courtney Lee drove at Nando down the lane on the break. Nando went up and blocked Lee’s shot and the ball came down in Lee’s hands. While he was out of bounds. His steal in the first half lead to a gorgeous pass to Danny Green on the break but Danny missed the dunk. His second steal was really something. Nando’s man Jason Terry dribbled around the screen and Nando followed and somewhat switched onto the screener. Nando knew where Terry was going with the pass and picked it off the bounce beautifully.
What might be the most amazing play Nando make, well second most amazing after the block, was one of his offensive rebounds. Paul Pierce had him boxed out on the baseline and Nando somehow tapped the ball toward the rim and still got around Pierce to get the ball. Pierce really had no idea how Nando got it away from him.
Nando’s other offensive rebound was right at the end of the third quarter and should have resulted in two points for us. But, Rodney Mott sucks. More on that in a bit.
Woman From Tokyo
Matt Bonner is like ‘dancing in an Eastern dream’ or something when he’s on the court. It’s like he got hired as one of those nobody pro wrestlers back in the day who had to face the villain star wrestler and is stunned that things aren’t going his way and the ref is letting the villain get away with things. Twice Bonner picked up fouls for forearming his man in the back. He picked up an illegal defense foul. At one point, he spun around and put his arms around his head like he’d just been punched in the face. He got his steal when Lee or Terry, who had just grabbed the defensive rebound in the paint, dribbled into Matt’s back and the ball bounced in front of Matt. Lastly, taking a 3-ball at the end of Q3, Jeff Green hit Matt in the head just after the release. Matt spun around and fell face first onto the sideline. No call. More on that in a bit.
Do you know that Tim Duncan just opened up a car speed shot? Yes, apparently, Tim is a speed fiend. Who would have guessed?
Well, that’s probably what he was thinking about during this game. He went 2-13 from the field. His first bucket was a layup putback after he got his rebound of a missed layup. His second bucket was a wide open dunk after Tony drove into the paint and found him. Even that shouldn’t have counted as Tim was in the paint for 5 seconds on the play. But, the refs sucked and more on that later.
Tim did manage to corral a game-high 12 rebounds and also led the game in blocked shots with 2.
In a real oddity, the horrible rebounding Celtics managed to keep pace with us on the glass. In fact, the rebounding game was tied. Exactly tied. 38 total and 11 offensive for both teams.
Danny Green is like one of those stoner guys you know who is a really good guy when he’s not stoned and then a bit of a head scratcher when he is. Danny does so many really good things and so many really bad things that is leaves me confused. He missed a dunk in this one. Granted, it was contested, but still. He made a couple really odd decisions with the ball. He seems to step out of bounds once per game.
I looked it up on NBA.com, Danny only shoots 51% inside the restricted area. When you consider that a large number of these 49 attempts are unchallenged that I can’t figure it out. He also only shoots 33%, 4-12, on attempts from in the paint that aren’t restricted area.
Then, he turns around and buries big 3s because he isn’t afraid to shoot and makes some really good defensive plays. I just hope he continues getting a little smarter and more consistent and a little less Space Truckin’
My favorite song goes to my favorite play. Nando’s feed of Tiago cutting down the lane. It was a pass with great subtlety. Tiago set a pick for Nando and rolled down the paint. Garnett was covering Tiago and showed on the pick, just outside the free throw line. Nando kind of froze Garnett there and when Tiago was about 4′ from the rim, Nando floated a soft pass just over Garnett that Tiago caught and laid in. Manu is the only other player on the Spurs who *might* have been able to make that pass.
Burn, by the way, just completely kicks ass. The main riff by Blackmore, the vocals by Coverdale, and the solos by Blackmore and Lord. Just magic.
Paul Pierce and Jason Terry were bringing it in the first half and the Spurs just had to ride out the storm. Terry, in particular, couldn’t miss. He even banked in a long 2 to end the first quarter. In the first half, the two combined for 31 points on 12-17 FG and 6-10 shooting from 3-pt range.
The Celtics shot 52.5% in that first half and 46.9% for the game. In the decisive 4th quarter defense, though, they only shot 8-23 and they were 0-4 from 3-pt. Terry was particularly bad as he went 0-4 FG, 0-2 3pt, and 1-2 FT. Terry, Pierce, and Rondo combined for 7 second half points.
The refs were AWFUL. Just AWFUL. I gave them a pre-game rating of D+ and they out performed by grade. Woeful is the best word to describe it. This is coming from a fan of the team that won and shot 12 more free throws. Rodney Mott, Tony Brown, and Kevin Fehr. Mott was the star turd, but they all contributed.
There was a stretch in the fourth quarter where I think they missed five straight calls all for the Celtics. First, Rodney Mott called a foul on Danny Green for, well, I’m not sure. He and somebody had Kevin Garnett double-teamed and Danny had his arms straight up and had his chest pushed up against Garnett. Mott called a foul. Then, after the inbound, Garnett took a fadeaway jumper and Mott called a foul on Diaw for, well, I’m not sure. Diaw had his forearm against Garnett’s back before he spun to shoot. But, that happens all the time.
On the next possession, Tony knocked the ball away from Pierce and Pierce knocked it out of bounds right in front of Mott. As in, within about 2 feet of Mott. Mott called Celtics ball. After the inbounds, Tim blocked Pierce on the drive and Pierce again knocked the ball out of bounds. Tony Brown called Celtics ball. After this inbound, Nando got switched onto Garnett. As Terry drove, Garnett pushed Nando in the back into Terry. You guessed it, Fehr, called a foul on Nando.
At the end of the third quarter, Bonner got hit in the head while taking his 3-pt shot and got no call from Brown. Nando snagged the rebound and took a little 10′ jumper from the baseline, right in front of Mott. Jason Terry shoved Nando on the hip hard enough to make Nando land in the photographers. Mott made no call.
To start the third quarter, Tony Brown called Gary Neal for an illegal screen being set out of bounds. Probably a good call. But Brown was the ref out at the top and the screen was on the baseline. Mott was 8-10 feet from it looking directly at it. No call.
Tim was in the paint at least five seconds for his dunk. No call. Garnett was in the paint for at least five seconds on one of his buckets. No call.
None of this even begins to address the several dozen illegal screens that didn’t get called on the Celtics. Wilcox set two or three on the possession Manu got hurt. He just got called for the last one.
Man, what a brutal crew of refs.
Smoke On The Water
The jam song goes out to the Frenchmen on the team who decided they didn’t need anybody else for an extended stretch of the game. With 5:02 left in the third quarter, Tony hit a free throw to make the score 68-61. With 3:35 left in the game, Tony hit a layup that made it 96-82. The Frenchmen scored 22 of those 29 points and assisted on 2 of the other 3 field goals. Tony had 12, Boris 4, and Nando 6 in that run.
NOTE: While reading the wiki page on Deep Purple I came across this tidbit. Some guy names Terry Reid was approached by Deep Purple when they were forming to be their lead singer. He said no, he’d prefer to pursue his solo career and he had already declined an invitation to join Led Zeppelin. Seriously, some guy declined fronting two of the most famous rock bands of all time. Talk about bad decisions.