WCF G4: Durantula

ARRGH!

Seriously, there was nothing the Spurs could have done to stop that. Scoring is what that guy does. College, Pros, Seattle, OKC? Doesn’t matter. He gets buckets. My personal nightmare scenario was the one the Spurs found themselves in late in the fourth quarter. Attempting to claw their way back into it, they needed to get stops against a hot Kevin Durant.

It went as well as you’d expect.

For the Thunder, it was a classic home win. Their role guys – Serge Ibaka especially – carried the load and handed the game to the closer in the fourth quarter. Kendrick Perkins was holding Timmy’s jersey and not getting called for it. He continued his little run of form. That means he was dunking and rebounding and looking less like the guy who was getting eaten up in San Antonio.

Serge Ibaka is going to get the headlines after getting that (very impressive) 11-for-11 nigt. He played a perfect big man, role player game. His jumpers weren’t forced and the rest of his points were dunks and well, dunks. That is all you can ask for from a big man.

I hate him now.

So we have ourselves a series. That means the Spurs, after not losing for 50 days, face a turning point kind of game the likes of which they haven’t faced this season. You may remember that in 2004 the Spurs whopped the Lakers in the first two games, were blown out in game three, lost a close game four (in which Shaq had 28 and Kobe 42), and got point four’d in game five. In game six they played with a look of shock and amazement that everyone in the city shared and lost in LA.

Do I feel like that can happen again? Yes. OKC can play, yo. Kevin Durant can do what he did there pretty much any time he feels like it. There is no Bruce Bowen to stop him. Remember how we were praising Stephen Jackson for his performance on KD in game 1 and 2? Well, he “held” KD to 27 and 31 respectively. He had a quiet 22 the other night, mostly because he wasn’t needed on account of the ass-kicking.

Don’t think that he hasn’t been balling all series. He has. He is still very, very dangerous. The story of the series has been the role/bench guys on OKC stepping up and dominating. Thabo didn’t just defend Parker well on Thursday, he was hitting jumpers. Serge wasn’t just going perfect from the field tonight, he was effecting all the shots in the paint.

On the other side, (our side) those open looks are not translating into made shots. The usual suspects are not showing up. We needed a surprise appearance by DeJuan Blair and timely three bombing from Stack Jack to reach 103 tonight. Bonner has been a no-show, Tiago’s head is somewhere else and Danny Green has reverted to the Cavs-era version.

All that up there means that they havn’t played as well as they did in San Antonio (in this series) or the past 50 days (every where).

This is what happens when you face a good team with awesome talent and a reason to play hard.

Welcome to playoff basketball. It makes your stomach get tied up in knots.

WCF G3: Thunder Strike Back

This was to be expected. Everyone knew (or should have) that OKC was going to come out enthused, refreshed, and Chesapeake Energized by the crowd. The Thunder are better than the Clippers but were doing pretty much the same thing – getting loose balls, blocking shots and making improbably fortunate ones.

The lead was only thirteen points yet remained so throughout that third quarter. The missed shots, Thabo corralling Tony, and eventually, The Beard cashing buzzer-beaters off the backboard at the buzzer happened. The lead ballooned.

This was one of those nights that we hadn’t had since April 11th against the Lakers. Then, I was feeling that we were a sham. Memphis and Z-Bo first introduced me to that. The Suns-like offense and lack of interior defense was disconcerting. LAL’s Bynum dominated the paint in a way that probably justified the media’s inclination to ignore the Spurs’ 2012 record. 

Tonight? Well I am trying to resist feeling like we’ll lose four straight. It kind of feels like those trips to Detroit in 2005… or those trips to LAL in 2001, 2002, 2004, and … My point? This happens in these playoffs. It is great for fans. You likely get to see your team put it on the opposition at least once, people buy shirts, and for one or two days everyone is happy. It is easy to dismiss as a one-off. If your just a fan, this is the best option for you. If you are in that Spurs locker room, obviously you will be focusing on reacting better to crazy athletes playing with desperation? Sometimes the other guy just wants it more than you do that night. 

Thabo Sefolosha locked up Tony Parker – or at least made him work a lot more. The Thunder looked like the youthful team of destiny GQ wanted described them as and … hell, there isn’t anyway we’ll outclass them now, right?

Right?

The thing is, Perk likely won’t be able to flummox Ginobili on the perimeter and those shots in the paint likely will fall in two days. More importantly, the energy level will be more balanced. 

Oh, wait. You’re concerned about Thabo, huh? To butcher a phrase from Game of Thrones:

“The [Thunder] played [their] little trick. [They] can’t do it again."

Well, they can play Thabo on Tony again. Parker will be prepared for that, however. He won’t be tossing terrible, lazy passes within the (surprisingly large) reach of Sefolosha, ya know?  Having been chewed out by Pop, the entire team will have motivation of their own. The wounds of losing will be fresh and nothing pushes a person like embarrassment. 


What is worse: The loss, or Bearded Harden staring down Splitter in a show of faux-toughness?

Answer: Having to deal with Oklahoma smugness. 

(Untitled)

[![Kid is getting in trouble for this. Lamesauce](http://static1.squarespace.com/static/569d444005f8e2b24dace8c6/56b6913106dcb7a9cf168a48/56b6913206dcb7a9cf168add/1454805421369/tumblr_m45h0t83n71rv1zrro1_1280.jpg)](http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nba-ball-dont-lie/shaving-picture-matt-bonner-head-could-net-young-013230150.html#more-21327) Kid is getting in trouble for this. Lamesauce

Jinx!

Ethan Sherwood Strauss, an NBA guy that I kind of respect (in that he seems like a smart guy with smart opinions but I don’t have the time to read everything he writes) said this on the twitter machine

Experts are browbeating the public: YOU DON’T GET HOW GOOD THE SPURS ARE. Well, if they lose, maybe the public got something right

He received some nice counter-arguments, but really, no one cares. That is the crux of the argument. No one has cared, no one will care. Any experts “browbeating” the public are just playing Contrarian Guy and not even a good one at that. I mean, the Spurs have the number one seed throughout so really, how contrarian is it to pick them? 

Any ambivalence about the team stems from both our frustratingly successful regular seasons the past two years and the terrible playoff performances the last four years (lost in five in the conference finals to LA, lost in five to the Mavs in the first round, swept by the Suns in the second round, lost to eighth-seeded Grizzlies in six). So Ethan has a decent enough point. 

What kind of recognition is deserved? Not much. The small market factor is a problem. There isn’t any reason to talk about San Antonio until absolutely necessary. Commentary on the outpost is only good for building obscure credibility. Even then, it isn’t even cool NBA blogger style to like the Spurs anymore. It’s like liking Portlandia as a hipster – it’s kind of a requirement to appreciate the Spurs’ professionalism and work ethic and execution and Tim Duncan’s consistency and Manu’s whatever and Tony Parker’s sort of MVP season. 

We get it. We don’t even mind anymore. We don’t need to be the hot chick anymore, guys. Haven’t we done this dance already? Haven’t we had these conversations lots of times since 1999, the last lockout season? 

Yep. 

Still, it would be pretty damned awesome to beat up on another upstart youngin’ sporting LA colors in the second round to bookend Timmy’s career. This one would also have journeymen players and a guy who was let go and came back. Then it was Sean Elliot, now it is Stack Jack. We won’t be shutting down the Great Western Forum in back-to-back games three and four this time, though we might be turning out the lights on Lob City in a similar situation.

But maybe it won’t be easy. Maybe it will be ugly. That has also been the underreported hallmark of this decade. Unlike the Bulls, Lakers, and Rockets, the Spurs haven’t looked dominant for any stretch. We’ve just been consistently competitive. It is weird. The window should have closed about five years ago. It hasn’t. We’ve never won a back-to-back and it doesn’t look like we will anytime soon. We’ve only had one dominant run through a playoff bracket. In 1999 there was the shortened season that made Phil talk about asterisks. In 2007, the Warriors denied a revenge series rematch with the Maverick team that beat us in Game 7 the year previous. 

Yet still there are four championship banners hanging and dammit that looks like a dynasty.

I’ve learned to accept the snubs, the doubts, and the lack of attention. It’s only odd that I didn’t do it sooner. 

You know what, though? This is sure feeling like another special run and I have tickets to  Game 1 on Tuesday. 

Go Spurs Go. 

Playoff Basketball, Spurs, and Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose is lost for the rest of the year. Obviously this is terrible. Obviously this destroys their chances. Obviously I don’t care as much as I would if it were Timmy Duncan. 

That is the awesome thing about being in my 20s rather than my teens. Injuries to star players don’t feel like the catastrophic events that they used to. When Tim hurt his knee in 2000, and the Spurs attempted to defend the title with just D-Rob and spares, I actually felt like I had to defend my honor against accusations of flukeness. Like I was out there tossing up bricks. I’d listen to terrible late-night call in shows where I am addressed as “SPURS FAN”. As in, “Spurs Fan, you gotta get in here and defend yourselves. I mean, what was that god-awful performance?! You should be ashamed of yourself." 

You know. 

Remember the next few years? Oh hell. The Spurs put up all-time great seasons … and all time great collapses against the Lakers. More ego crushes. Except that we continued to put a squad out there. We kept competing. Eventually we won a championship but even that was slightly tainted by never going back-to-back. Like that matters.

Last season, when we all had the Spurs pencilled in as also-rans, they kept putting up wins and effort that I don’t know how to react to. Then they got stomped and I really felt like it was all over. There was no way they could put out a team around and aging Duncan and a fragile Manu, right? Who is gonna save us? Tony Parker??!

In my old Air Alamo season preview (where you can find all my early season posts under DELETE. LOL) I said we were going to end up going out in the playoffs to the Thunder in the second round after a decent-but-not-great year. 

Shows that my predictions are spurious.