by Jon Wiener

Wow. Talk about a rookie. I left home for this game at 6:10, for a 7:00 start. I’m finally in the arena, in my seat and it’s 7: thirty-BLEEPIN-six. Don’t ask. Just chalk it up to San Antonio highways and general cluelessness on the part of yours truly. Mostly the latter.

But here I am, in my folding media-chair, just in time to see Man-uuuuu drill a trey at the 1st quarter buzzer — I see some things haven’t changed in Spur nation.

36-24 Spurs.

I can’t waste much time on intros and disclaimers that this is my first ever “Game Notes” (note: This is my first ever “Game Notes”), because we’re playin hoops down here in San Antone.

2nd quarter:
Franky Elson pokes on one lonely Buck defender. Hard. The crowd is threatening to blow the Bucks right out of the building already; these folks LOVE their Spurs. It’s been loud from the moment I (finally) got here.

I’m interested to see the Bucks. Especially my man Maurice “Mo” Williams—Jackson, MS, Murrah High School stand up!

Unfortunately, the Bucks from Beertown are not giving me much to be interested about.

Ginobili buries another three. As evidenced by the seismic ovation from the crowd, Ginobili is the unquestioned fan-favorite (with the possible exception of Big Shot Rob) in San Antonio. Kind of like the pinch of spice in an otherwise oppressively meat-and-potatoes team.

The little man, Darius Washington, hard to the rack for two. 45-31 Spurs.

The Spurs have had their second unit (yes Ginobili’s on the second unit) on the floor since I got seated.

It’s the Bucks 2nd unit on display, as well. This is what happens when you arrive at the 1st quarter horn—you are greeted with heavy doses of reserves in an already lopsided game.

After some decent shooting, the teams trade a series of bricks and turnovers, confirming that it is indeed live NBA Basketball I’m watching.

There’s a palming call on Charlie Villanueva! Palming! Something tells me Chucky V shouldn’t be drawing palming calls, or anything close…

2nd quarter timeout entertainment: Spur Girls in the Britney “Hit Me One More Time” outfits—I’ll take Britney and that video, but 15 gyrating knock-off girls ain’t bad, either.

Tim Duncan on the court for my viewing pleasure for the first time. Duncan jogs and does leg stretches to loosen up, looking poised to absolutely annihilate the Bucks with bank shots and drop-ins.

Darius Washington continues his rapid ascension to his own “crowd-favorite” status, grilling Charlie Bell with a fadeaway three-ball. 48-31 Spurs.

The Spurs PA man drops in my media power rankings every time he announces Francisco Elson as “Cisco.”

Cisco good from long range. Longer range than Cisco should be pulling, much less hitting. But it’s nearly a 20 footer for Cisco, and nearly a 20 point lead for S.A. midway through the 2nd.

Milwaukee Bucks on the floor: Ivey, Simmons, Bogut, Bell and Yi. Not gonna win you a lot of games. Where’s Mo? Counting his money?

Ginobili isolated on Yi. He does what you would think: beeline to the basket. Yi helplessly fouls and Manu makes both.

21 point Spurs lead (52-31).

Tony Parker couldn’t be having more fun on the bench—during timeouts he skips with a permanent grin around the huddle, like he just got a surprise George Foreman grill. He doesn’t seem too concerned to be on the pine with his superior Spurs up a dub…

I’m looking for a couple things tonight, in particular: 1) Yi, hoping he and Duncan go one-on-one at some point. And 2) The play of Mo Williams, and not because we go “way back” to Jackson. It’s because Mo cashed in over the summer (about $60 mil), and now he’s putting up career-low numbers. Is there a correlation? Because it’s not as if there’s a precedent for that in the NBA or anything…

Both team’s starters are back on the court for the stretch run of the 2nd quarter. Ginobili’s got a game high 16, with a bevy of threes and drives, but comes out for Parker.

Note: Manu absolutely k-i-l-l-e-d the Bucks second group playing with his second group. This is significant, because I think most coaches not named Popovich would start Ginobili. Pop, (one of the most underrated coaches in League history), though, has everything working like he wants it.

Cisco and Yi trade pretty jumpers. Spurs lead by 23.

Bowen for three from his baseline campsite—Spurs by 26.

There’s my man! Mo goes to his bread-and-butter, the mid-range J, for two points,

Duncan finds Cisco out of the double team, but Cisco doesn’t convert the tap-in layup. One writer is glad the announcer can’t scream “Cisco” again.

Mo Williams showing no lack of fire and desire that I can see…just drove for a hard foul, Bucks ball out of bounds down 24 points. Of course, why not go to the whole when you’re down 24?

In the midst of another Spurs trip to the foul line, I stop rationalizing and realize that the game is a certified blowout. It’s just too easy for the Spurs, it really is. The Bucks keep shooting fadeaways and contested threes, and the Spurs keep getting layups and open jumpers—like someone put in a “Spurs vs. Eastern Conference 1999-2006” tape and hit rewind.

Out of a timeout, 2:42 left in the half. Yi posts Michael Finley and abuses him with a pump-turnaround in the lane…but misses the point blank shot. Even with the miss, it’s obvious that many guys in the League are going to have serious problems guarding the Second Chinese Star…

The blowout is bordering on a massacre: more fallaways from the Bucks, more bunnies for the Spurs.

62-36.

Another layup from Ginobili. Hey, wasn’t there a Colts game tonight?

With his team up 30 points, Ginobili dives into the 2nd row and saves a loose ball. Naturally, the entire crowd goes hysterical and stands for the next two possessions…

Mo Williams with a nice dish to Desmond Mason for the score over Duncan. Bucks still down like gas prices under Clinton…

I notice that the upper rafters of the building are the fullest sections in the arena; they all go berserk at the end of the half, Spurs lead 65-38.

It’s been rocking since I found my seat, with the Champs up 19 points. You’d think from the energy that every defensive possession was Dirk posting up in the 4th quarter of a close Game 6, and not Charlie Bell missing awkwardly from 12 feet. There just can’t be many better places to play in the NBA.

Halftime ceremony: honoring Red McCombs, the ABA legend and cultivator of the Spurs franchise (Dallas Chaparrals, anyone?). So honor him, indeed.

A collective of Spurs history is on-hand for the festivities. Former Spur James Silas gets a great reception. Then the only Spur NBA Hall-of-Famer, George “The Iceman” Gervin is introduced. As you’d expect, the roof nearly comes off…

And that’s with half of the people in the hot-dog line. I’m about to join them…

(As I leave, Red McCombs calls the Spurs the “greatest sports operation in America.” With all of these championships floating around, he may be close to a point…)

Whew. Back from the hot-dog line. I didn’t know the concessions didn’t take credit cards, which equaled more stumbling and bumbling around on my part and another late seat arrival I’ll get the hang of it soon, but at least it’s tough to “miss much” in a game with a 30 point margin…

3rd quarter

Tony Parker takes Mo’s cookies and draws a foul on his patented opposite-free-throw-line-to-basket-in-two-seconds move. Two more points for the Spurs. Is there anybody quicker than Parker coast-to-coast? Monta Ellis?

Spurs up 30, again.

Jake Voshkul in for the Bucks? Who woulda knew?

This time Milwaukee doesn’t even try to foul Parker on his mad end-to-end dash—the play looks like a B-grade sports movie where one guy (or dog) inexplicably has another seven gears that the defense just doesn’t possess (see: Be Like Mike, Air Bud). Two points for Tony.

Duncan fouls Mo on a drive. Timmy D has his back to me, but he throws up his arms at the whistle, and all my best senses tell me he’s got his incredulous, “a foul on ME?” face going in full force.

Score-check, since it stopped mattering a long time ago: Spurs 79, Bucks 46. Ouch. How’s that Colts game going?

I’ll try to find some fun things here in the arena…

Michael Redd has flagrantly red laces. Eponymous?

Charlie Villaneuva’s high black stocking socks become him nicely. They fit perfectly, not sure quite why, though…

The shot-clock obscures my view of the Bucks bench, but coach Larry Krystowiak can’t be too rosy. After all, it’s 81-49. At least, I hope he’s not too rosy…

Duncan posts on Voskhul…this should be fun. Timmy gives him a pivot, a drop, and two points plus the foul. The Voskhul-on-Duncan matchup pretty much sums up the Bucks’ chances for the night.

The Spurs new random role-player is #5 Ime Udoka from Portland State…while I’m thinking of something to say about him, Ginobili drills another three. Who needs role-players?

Bruce Bowen: The guy guards at 100%, no matter what. For those who think he shouldn’t win all those Defensive POY awards, just watch him live for a whole game…relentless doesn’t even begin to describe it. It’s simply permanent.

Michael Redd isn’t even attempting to shake Bowen off anymore. Talk about taking someone out of the game—I haven’t even mentioned his name yet.

89-51 Spurs, 2:59 left in the 3rd.

Mo Williams hits from the top of the key on a transition pullup. He’s got an efficient 14 and 5, on the way to a good day.

Williams’ jumper highlights the fact that the only instances where the Spurs look vulnerable are in transition, especially defensively. Otherwise, I see the same indomitable championship team.

Williams good again. Get ‘em, Peanut! (Yes, he was always “Peanut” or “’Nut” in high-school. Seriously. I think the “Mo” came sometime during his SEC Freshman of the Year campaign at Alabama.)

Darius Washington has a wide open lane, takes off to dunk, but doesn’t make it. So he pulls up mid-air and tries to lay it in, but he doesn’t make that, either. The crowd cheers anyway.

3rd quarter intermission: The Bucket Game. The contestant has to throw mini-balls into successive buckets—tough to figure out, huh? The guy shooting evokes a collective “Hey, I could do better than that” reaction from the crowd.

Before the start of the 4th, the PA system bumps Marvin Gaye. To my utter delight.

4th quarter

Mo finds Bogut underneath a couple minutes into the 4th, Spurs lead 91-63. I sense a Yi sighting coming soon, the crowd is getting restless.

Spurs 4th quarter lineup: Washington, Udoka, Elson, Ian Mahinmi and Matt Bonner. Yes, it’s been that bad…

Bogut tries to poke on Mahinimi from way out, finds out he’s Australian in the course of getting rejected, but corrals the loose ball and lays it in. Ayy, mate!

Williams exits for Yi. ‘Nut had himself a nice day: 17 pts, 6 assists, 8 of 14 from the field. Is it $60 million dollar numbers? I’ll leave that one to Stephen A. and the gang. I just can’t hate on a Jacktown brethren, no matter how loafingly rich he is.

Finally! A chance for a good Yi evaluation, as promised. It’s been a pretty hectic, scrambling first game, but trust that it can only go up, people…

So, Yi, on offense and defense:

– Yi doesn’t rotate in the lane, Washington finishes an easy layup which a mobile 7 footer could and should have altered
– Yi rebounds, ball came right to him.
– Cisco boxes Yi out for a defensive rebound—evident effort from Easy Yi, but an equally obvious lack of strength to gain position against Cisco.
– Yi rolls on a screen, wide open, but somehow Bobby Simmons doesn’t see him. How can you not see a 7-0 dude?
– (same possession) Yi floats to the perimeter, gets the rock and drives hard to the surprise of the Spurs defense, but doesn’t finish. Yi looks pretty capable on the penetration, however.
– Yi again doesn’t provide much help-defense down low, allowing Matt Bonner to finish an uncontested layup.
– Yi SWEEET STRINGS from downtown! Bang! The guy can pull…
– Another poor (at best) display of post defense from Yi. This time it’s Mahinmi with the easy jam.
– Yi is string music again…did I mention he could shoot? I can’t remember a one of his makes that came close to hitting rim. Not one.
– Then he gets beat again defensively, this time trying to front Cisco. Cisco would like Yi to guard him more often.

Fortunately, it was a pretty active stretch for an evaluation of Yi. He’s obviously got atlases of improvement ahead of him, especially defensively. But by all accounts, good luck guarding him…

It’s 105-80 Spurs. Washington finishes inside again. The little man from Memphis is clearly capitalizing on the free minutes (11 pts).

In the time it took me to write that last sentence, Yi got beat for 2, drilled a baseline jumper, and got beat for 2 again. (He’s been getting beat a lot this quarter, I gather…)

Ian Mahinmi with a breakaway jam. I realize it’s about time to go home when Ian Mahinmi is breakaway jamming.

Spurs 113 Bucks 86, one minute remaining.

The Spur girls are dancing in the stands, but there’s not too many people left. I wonder if Lang could get them to dance in the press section.

Robert Horry, in his typically dapper three-piece beige suit, appears on the big screen to a raucous ovation from a dwindling but action-starved crowd.

Washington dribbles the time out, Spurs cruise 113 to 88.

Postgame

It’s my first time in an NBA locker room. Yes, I was giddy, but no, I didn’t feint or try to steal the players’ laundry like the guy in the NFL commercial.

The shoe rack was pretty cool, though. Even the Jordans look NBA-issued…

Quote of the night: Cisco, in response to a question about viewers of his matchup against Bucks F and fellow Dutchman Dan Gadzuric (relating to the viewing frenzy over the Chinese Yao v. Yi matchup a few days earlier): “I don’t know. Where I’m from isn’t China, I know that.”

Darius Washington garners a press-room postgame interview, visibly delighted with his 11 pt., 4-6 shooting night.

Ginobili is very accomodating in the locker-room, even initiating the reporters to interview. Duncan apparently has somewhere to be and cuts the questions short.

Cisco’s just hanging out…

Every interview contains at least one question about impressions of Yi:

Popovich: “He’s going to be a fantastic player in this league.” Manu: “He can really shoot, but he has so many other weapons too. Very good.” Duncan: “He has a lot of promise. He played well, and physically, too.” Cisco: “He’s tough to guard, and he appears to understand the game so well.”

Sounds like the Bucks made a good investment.

I try to make my way to the visitor’s locker-room, but inevitably I get lost in the hallways and arrive just as Mo and the rest of the Bucks are heading to the bus.

I remember thinking, “Maan, I’ve got a long way to go in this field.”

Still, all things considered, it was an ecstatic first “media” night for me at the AT&T Center. Even with the 25 point Spurs victory. Fortunately, I’ve got one game under my belt before Tuesday’s showdown with the Lakers. I should at least know how to get to the arena by then.

Here comes the Kobe show! Ya’ll check us out…