It’s so droll to say this felt like a playoff game, especially being game 7 of an 82-game season. So I won’t say that. But a couple of things are clear: first, these two teams understand that the other is a significant contender in the West; second, that there is a lot of history with this rivalry; and finally, that there is enough new blood on both sides to keep everything interesting. What’s also clear is something we didn’t see much last year: that the Spurs can win with defense, from time to time, and can win a game when the vaunted offensive machine has been slowed down. And that was the best thing to see of them all.
Song of the Game: The Avett Brothers, “Live and Die”
I loved Pop’s quote about the last play of this game and it reminded of this awesome song from the Avetts. From the Kevin Arnovitz article on this game (found here), “At the end of the game, more often than not, we’ll run something that involves everybody,” Popovich said. “Then you make the shot or you don’t.” And in a nutshell, that’s Pop. Create a play that takes advantage of something, execute it well, like you did in practice thousands of times, and live (or die) with the result. Loved the call, the shot, and everything about the way this game ended.
Play of the Game: Jack’s Terrible, Wondeful Triple
The PotG could easily be the last play, but Arnovitz in the link above (and Jared Dubin here) do a much better job than I ever could of breaking it down.
Instead, I’ll highlight another, significant play from earlier. With 9:30 left in 4th, Spurs get the ball. Manu dribbles down and stumbles as he’s passing to Mills. Patty gives to Jack who tries to force a bounce pass to DeJuan, which is deflected back to Jack by a Laker defender. Mismatches and a screen ensue and Howard ends up on Jack out at the three-point-line. Jack picks up his dribble, looks for a pass, then finally steps into a 3 about 3 feet behind the 3-pt line. Swish. Then, of course, the 3 goggles, like that’s how the play was drawn up.
And that’s what great about Stephen Jackson. When everything breaks down, when the system doesn’t work, and when the shot clock is running down, Jack is a guy who is never afraid to try and make lemonade out of lemons. He did everything wrong – picked up his dribble, lost his rhythm looking for a cutter, and he was way too deep to shoot that shot. But that’s what Jack does and who he is. And I’m still really glad he’s a Spur again.
Trending Up: Tiago Splitter
It’s almost criminal to not list Tim and Tony here, because they were both really good in this game, but Wayne and I traded texts this morning and agreed that Tiago was tremendous. The stat line doesn’t show his contribution (4-8 for 9 points, 9 boards, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block and only 1 turnover in 19 minutes), but the eyeball test did. He was constantly in good defensive position, he kept alive a number of rebounds that he didn’t get credit for, and he drew a number of fouls on Dwight Howard. The most significant was a clear offensive foul under the glass with about 2 minutes to go that kept the Lakers from extending their lead. I love Diaw as the starter and I don’t see that changing. But against teams with bigs like the Lakers (and remember, there are not very many), Tiago is the man.
Trending Down: Manu & Bonner
I don’t know what to make of this. Maybe nothing. I suspect it’s a function of his conditioning and game-readiness. But Manu was not on the floor for the final offensive or defensive possession of the game. I can’t remember the last time a healthy Manu (and his conditioning may be such that he’s not “healthy” right now) was sitting at the end of a game.
Bonner was the only player other than Nando to get a DNP last night. I was surprised, because I thought his floor spacing and shooting might be useful against a Laker team where either Gasol or Howard would have to chase him. But it’s hard to play Bonner against truly big teams on the defensive end.
Stat of the Game: Paint Points
Points in the paint: Spurs 38 (19/45), Lakers 26 (13/32).
Folks, that’s a big deal. I knew the Spurs would get outrebounded. I didn’t anticipate they would dominate this category, not just in total points, but in shots in the paint. I think the fact that the Spurs took almost twice as many shots in the paint (45) as non-3 jumpers (25) is a huge key to the win.
This is the first game I have seen really looked at DeJuan closely and what I saw surprised me. He looks so lean, like a completely different player. I am probably leading the Trade DeJuan bandwagon right now, but I have to give him huge credit for working his butt off in the offseason. He played pretty well last night also in limited minutes.
I can’t wait for the Spurs to dismantle this undefeated Knicks team on Thursday. I’ll look like an idiot now if they lose, but I look at that roster and cannot imagine how they are undefeated.