Friday, June 10, 2005

Go Spurs Go

I've been pretty quiet about the NBA playoffs because of the debacle against the Lakers last year, but I have to say that last night's 84-69 game 1 victory over the Pistons was edgy and dramatic. No, it wasn't a dazzling offensive fireworks display, but man, what spectacular defense! Slam dunks are cool, I'll be the first to admit--Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson sparked the Spurs with one early on, but it was his three rebounds and three blocked shots (!) in a mere six minutes that makes the mind boggle. The Big Dog actually played defense! Rejections, blocks, steals and all those "boring" defensive moves make for a hell of a lot of drama and excitement. I'm not the world's biggest basketball fan, but even I can see that. It makes me wonder what other people are watching. Maybe they're celebrity watching. D.J. Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince were in the house, along with Eva Longoria, Tommy Lee Jones and George Strait. Heck, there was even a Phi Slamma Jamma mini-reunion with Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. That was cool.

As for the play of the Spurs themselves, Manu Ginobili (who folks around here have taken to referring to as "Obi-Wan Ginobili") was miserable in the first half, but went wild in the second with his trademark bizarre attacks on the basket. The man's a whirling, hoops-playing, dervish. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, as usual, played their traditional games.

I'm not ashamed to admit I underestimated the Pistons, at least on the micro level. I knew they had a great defense--possibly better than the Spurs' D, although the verdict is still out on that one--and didn't expect an easy series. But I was completely unprepared for the clamp-down, vice-grip they put on the Spurs in the first quarter. They blocked every other shot the Spurs put up. They clogged the lanes. Their abnormally long mutant arms slapped away every third pass. They stole the ball. Swiped the ball. They swarmed the Spurs and locked them up. The first quarter was ugly in many, many ways. But that kind of play takes a tremendous amount of energy to maintain, and the Pistons don't rotate players out much, because they have a relatively thin bench. They slowed in the second and third quarters, as the Spurs were settling down. In the fourth, the Pistons ran out of gas and grew frustrated as the relatively fresh Spurs ran away with the game.

Before the game, I figured on paper that the defenses were even, and the coaching was even. The Spurs, based on the results of the Western Conference Finals against the run-n-gun Phoenix Suns, probably had the better offense. At least they had the potential to score comfortably with wildly different game plans, which is something I don't believe the Pistons capable of. This, I thought, would be the difference in the series. I was seriously questioning that wisdom in the first quarter, but the end of the game seemed to validate my musings.

The Pistons will rebound from the game 1 loss, of course. They're too good not to. They'll lick their wounds and bruised pride and come back with an adjusted plan for game 2. They'll pace themselves. They'll shake up the defensive assignments to try and contain Ginobili. Coach Brown will work the Xs and Os to get the two Wallaces more touches and more points. But I don't think it'll be enough. Before the series began, I figured it would be Spurs in six, and after watching the team rally for victory in game 1, I'm all the more convinced of that prediction. Sweep? No. But six feels right.

Go Spurs Go!

Now Playing: Emerson, Lake and Palmer Return of the Manticore

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