|News » Spurs fight off fatigue, Hawks, in courageous display 2008-12-12|
|Spurs fight off fatigue, Hawks, in courageous display 2008-12-12|
Game Time: Spurs 95, Hawks 89For San Antonio, this was the most important game of the season.
Charley's NBA tour
During the first half of the season, FOXSports.com's Charley Rosen
will analyze each NBA team and offer a scouting report.
- Phoenix Suns
- Houston Rockets
- Philadelphia 76ers
- New Jersey Nets
- Charlotte Bobcats
- Sacramento Kings
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Orlando Magic
- Detroit Pistons
- Denver Nuggets
- Miami Heat
- Washington Wizards
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- Portland Trail Blazers
- Boston Celtics
- Chicago Bulls
- Golden State Warriors
- Milwaukee Bucks
- San Antonio Spurs
They'd just won a grueling double-OT game the night before in Dallas, and therefore had every excuse to be flat, weary, erratic, and to fade in the clutch. They were also playing an up-and-coming Hawks team that was bristling with energy in the aftermath of losing a tough game in Houston.
But the Spurs managed to come up with the kind of gut-it-out victory that characterizes championship-caliber ball clubs.
For sure, the Spurs did show signs of mental, emotional, and physical fatigue. Tony Parker was practically useless. He was 3-for-13 from the field, missed his only two free throws, was unable to generate any positive outcomes when he drove into the lane, and scored his game total of six points on a trio of midrange jumpers. His passwork was just as listless as the rest of his game (three assists, three turnovers) and after tossing up a 15-foot jumper that was 10-feet short he rightfully spent every minute of the endgame on the bench. Tim Duncan rebounded, clogged the middle on defense, turned some nifty passes into layups, but had limited lift and produced only four points on his six post-up moves. After playing 50 minutes in Dallas, TD's 19 points and 11 rebounds in 35 long minutes were absolutely heroic. Roger Mason was repeatedly torched by Joe Johnson. Bruce Bowen had one nice defensive stand against the posted-up Johnson, but had dead legs whenever JJ attacked him from the wings. Manu Ginobili was another Spur whose passes lacked their usual crispness hence his four turnovers. Overall, the Spurs struggled to create any kind of synchronicity on offense as evidenced by their registering only 18 assists on 35 buckets. Accordingly, most of the scores came on either individual efforts or two-man games. More than half of their uncharacteristically high total of 16 turnovers came during the fourth quarter. Their usual precision defensive rotations were often late and ineffective, which explains why the Hawks outscored them in the paint 46-30.
How, then, did the Spurs come out with the win? They destroyed the Hawks on the boards 52-28 and also came up with the majority of loose balls. Matt Bonner was instrumental in jump-starting the Spurs offense he had nine points and, most significantly, seven of his 13 rebounds were retrievals of his teammates missed shots. He also played solid position defense against Al Horford. Roger Mason came up with several critical scores that kept the Hawks at arm's length for most of the game. George Hill gave the team a boost in Parker's absence. He has a terrific change-of-pace dribble when attacking the rim, can knock down his jumpers, and plays long-armed (if inexperienced) defense. Michael Finley played on young legs in the clutch sinking key jumpers, and executing a clever drive-and-drop pass that created a dunk for TD.
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Marion is not exactly "done," but he's certainly not nearly the player he used to be for a variety of reasons. Playing with Steve Nash in a perpetual open-court game plan led to a bonanza of layups and uncontested 3-point shots for Marion. Marion's speed was maximized on the run, plus his elevated hops and good hands made him the perfect target for Nash's slick lob passes. And with Marion's low-slung shot release, he certainly needs plenty of time and space to uncork his long-range bombs. Conversely, Marion's flaws are maximized in half-court situations, i.e., his poor passing and inability to post-up. Also, in an uptempo game, Marion's speed and quickness enable him to ambush passing lanes and otherwise cover a lot of ground on defense. In a grind-it-out game, however, Marion can more easily be grinded out. When Alonzo Mourning returns to action, Marion's sphere of influence will be further restricted because Zo must necessarily clog up the paint. Over the years, having to defend against legitimate power forwards has taken its toll. Subsequently, Marion's diminishing energy is much more evident on defense than on offense. With his 31st birthday on the not-so-distant horizon, Marion is also entering a critical stage in his career. Once the proud possessor of the quickest first and second steps in the league, Marion still ranks among the leaders in this category but he has slowed down to a noticeable degree. And when guys like Marion start to lose their warp-speed edge, they either have to compensate by improving other parts of their game, or they simply become non-factors in an increasing number of plays in any given game.Marion remains a useful player, but despite his holdover superstar contract, he's no longer a dominant one. Indeed, in the foreseeable future he's destined to become a strictly part-time performer.
So Kevin McHale is back on the bench again, eh? In his previous stint as the Timberwolves' coach, McHale replaced his old college teammate, Flip Saunders, and sported a 19-12 record to complete the 2004-05 season.
Yet despite the admirable winning percentage he achieved back then, his latest appearance in the command seat will be a mixed blessing for several reasons.
- Hawks contain Wade, cool off Heat
- Cavs cruise to 11th straight win
- Bosh, Raptors tear down Nets
- Pistons hand Pacers 5th straight loss
- Celtics up win streak to 14 games
- Grizzlies top Bulls to win 3rd straight
- Parker, Spurs handle Timberwolves
- Hill's layup lifts Suns over Magic
- Clippers outlast Blazers in 2 OTs
- McGrady, Rockets top Warriors
- Lakers get past Kings
- Hill: Less PT for Kobe and LeBron
- Rosen: Spurs have plenty of guts
- Hill: Give me Lakers-Celts Finals
- Galinsky: NBA Power Rankings
- Marques: Richardson will spark Suns
- Who's impressed Marques Johnson?
Now that he's been removed from the relative safety of the front office, McHale should be reminded that coaches are hired to be fired.
Travels with Charley
I've always liked Mike Riordan. After graduating from Providence, he had to hone his game in the old Eastern League (predecessor of the CBA) before serving as a bit player for the Knicks (1968-1971). His primary task with New York was to commit semi-deliberate fouls in various defensive strategies that prevented other players in the Knicks' rotation from suffering a foul that might prove costly later in the game.
It was during his rookie year that I first met him. Since he played a total of only 397 minutes in 54 games that season, even on game days he would frequently participate in some high-quality pickup games at Hofstra University as a way of staying in shape.
At the time, I was pursuing a Masters Degree in medieval studies at Hofstra and also teaching a couple of undergraduate courses in the English department. I was granted both appointments more by default than any academic brilliance I had ever demonstrated. The military draft for the Vietnam War had decimated the population of available graduate students, and since I was classified 4-F because of my size 6-foot-9 my primary qualification was that I was, and would remain, a civilian.
In any case, I was happy to be invited to the scrimmages where I was impressed with Mike's grit, smarts and skills. Other noteworthy participants were Steve Nissenson (the school's lifetime leading scorer), Wandy Williams (who went on to play pro football), Dave Brownbill (a long-distance shooter and all-around great guy) and Barry White (who was the victim of the NBA's quota system, failing to make the Baltimore Bullets because the team already had its share of black players and who went on to fame and fortune playing in France).
I was more than happy when, after being traded to Baltimore as part of the Earl Monroe deal four years later, Riordan eventually became a solid, All-Star caliber player averaging a career high of 18.1 ppg in 1972-73.
The beginning of his transition from benchwarmer to double-digit scorer began at the end of a Bullets' practice session:
Mike had a broken wrist when he reported to his new team, showing up to practice in sneakers and sweats but with his left wrist still in a cast. After practice, Riordan went on to the court to run some sprints. That's when the Bullets' coach, Gene Shue, came over and asked Riordan if he was interested in playing some one-on-one.
Of course he was.
Since Mike is left-handed, he couldn't shoot anything except right-handed layups and baby hooks. Shue was in his later thirties and was still a terrific player he'd played in five All-Star games during his NBA career (1954-1964). No surprise that the competition was mostly one-sided (in several ways), nor that Riordan became increasingly frustrated. After a while, Riordan took to smacking Shue with his cast whenever his new coach made one of his patented spin moves.
Afterward, Riordan was certain that Shue would be angry about being cast-blasted. But Shue merely said, "I like the way you hit me. You're a competitor. You're going to be okay here."
And, indeed, he was.
So, if you're ever in Annapolis, Md., stop by one of Mike's restaurants (he owns two), and give him my best regards. Maybe he'll buy you a beer.
Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 12, 2008