It’s as if James Harden was still traumatized from Manu Ginobili’s block heard round the world.
And this loss might well put the bearded one in the same predicament Rachmaninoff encountered after his Symphony #1 tanked.
But give Harden credit: he was graceful in losing.
A rare trait in America these days.
Harden didn’t run to the locker room and bury his head in the sand.
[and he had every reason to]
Sure, he intentionally committed his sixth foul to get the fuck out of this maelstrom, but he didn’t run and hide.
He was first, perhaps after Mike D’Antoni, to come greet Gregg Popovich at mid-court.
And Pop put his hands on Harden’s shoulders.
Popovich has gotten to coach Harden before.
In the All-Star Game.
And it was a meeting of respect.
Winning gracefully. And losing gracefully.
This game could very well have been all Houston.
But it wasn’t.
Everything was stacked in Houston’s favor.
No Tony Parker.
NO KAWHI LEONARD!
Jonathon Simmons making his first playoff start.
Patty Mills making his second playoff start.
But don’t count out the silver and black.
Don’t count out the less-than-glamorous, working-class cities.
This was simply preparation squeezing every last drop of life out of talent.
Houston was not unprepared.
And San Antonio was not without talent.
But the guys who really got this done (like Jonathon Simmons) have been preparing for this their whole lives.
And when they came into the orbit of Gregg Popovich, their dedication was forced to be bumped up several notches.
I gotta tell ya, I’m so damn proud of the San Antonio Spurs.
I don’t think anyone saw this coming.
And so statisticians and pollster types are likely to experience a micro version of Nate Silver’s fall from grace overnight (as evinced in the graph below which shows fivethirtyeight.com’s precipitous nosedive around January 20th…Trump’s inauguration) [I guess some liberals were holding out hope that Silver’s shite predictions would magically COME TRUE sometime between Nov. 8 and Jan. 20]:
Granted, Alexa seems like a thoroughly corrupt, inaccurate measure itself. That’s because, like the completely worthless Washington Post, it is owned by reprobate Jeff Bezos [Alexa being an Amazon.com subsidiary while WP is owned by Bezos through Nash Holdings LLC].
But the point is this.
Don’t bet on the experts.
Orson Welles proved this quite thoroughly in my second-favorite movie of all time: F for Fake.
In particular, it was the great art forger Elmyr d’Hory who showed the ineptitude of experts.
d’Hory made a living “being” Modigliani, Matisse, etc.
But we return to basketball.
The Spurs won this one by 39 points!
It was unreal.
The whole game required a sort of suspension of disbelief…as if a movie were playing out.
Yes, James Harden had a horrible game.
But the Spurs (AS A TEAM!) had a magnificent performance.
Kawhi got to rest.
And his team got the job done for him.
It was, as I’ve said, the only realistic hope the Spurs had of having success in the next round.
They needed to knock off Houston. Tonight!
Well, someone must have gotten that message through to the team.
And they were locked the fuck in!
LaMarcus Aldridge had a “shut the fuck up” game: 34 points and 12 rebounds.
He was great.
Houston’s defensive strategy against San Antonio’s bigs (as much as there was a strategy) did not work.
Harden and Ariza couldn’t guard Aldridge and Gasol.
Granted, Aldridge and Gasol had been bailing out these little guys the whole series.
But finally San Antonio’s bigs took advantage of their size and height.
Aldridge and Gasol are both great low-post scorers.
They are on different sides of their respective careers, but they are both still formidable opponents for most teams.
Gasol had 10 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists.
Nenê would have helped the Rockets.
But this was no time for excuses.
And here’s what I mean about preparation.
The Spurs’ reserves were PREPARED for just this sort of scenario.
Houston’s reserves (what few of them played) didn’t seem to be a finely-tuned 2nd unit.
And teams should be well aware by now…that San Antonio is going to hit you with five solid starters…and then a second unit looking to do damage.
That’s the trick.
That’s why Ginobili acquiesced to his bench demotion years ago.
And why we haven’t heard Pau Gasol grumbling in his time with the second unit.
But that first unit was tight. Sharp. In sync.
Patty Mills put up 14. And 7 assists!
Simmons had 18…and 4 assists.
Again, to my eyes, Simmons was the difference maker.
His stellar defense on James Harden.
His energy plays…like the dunks which got me off of the couch 🙂
And his confident, clutch made shots.
But don’t forget Danny Green.
He was again aggressive in driving to the hole.
And he hit timely shots.
Green had 10 points and 6 rebounds.
How ’bout David Lee? In his 8 short minutes, the Spurs were +17.
The little things. 2 points. 2 rebounds. 1 assist. 1 block. 0 turnovers. 0 fouls.
But after Jonathon Simmons, I’d have to say that Dejounte Murray was the second biggest reason for this win.
His minutes were late (many of them).
But they sealed this thing.
11 points. 10 rebounds (at the point guard position). 5 assists. 2 steals. 1 block. & only 1 turnover.
As a rookie. And he did all that in just 24 minutes on the floor.
Murray also had at least one jam that really landed like a body blow to the psyche of Houston.
Another guy who had a great contribution for the Spurs was Kyle Anderson.
7 points. 6 rebounds. 3 assists.
Ariza made shots.
Capela was his normal self.
But Beverley was quiet.
Eric Gordon was quiet.
And James Harden was like a church mouse.
10 points. 6 turnovers. 6 fouls.
There was no overcoming that.
Ryan Anderson didn’t hit a shot.
Lou Williams was quiet.
It was an unbelievable victory for my San Antonio Spurs.
I didn’t anticipate an outcome in any way resembling this!
So what a happy win.
That Kawhi can come back.
And we can give Golden State a run for their money.
Ain’t gonna be easy.
But at least we have a chance.
And that’s good enough.