Spurs/Mavs Game 5 Recap
San Anton sacked and a history lesson.
Does anyone else feel weird about the fact that it’s late April and the Spurs are done? Even having predicted the Mavericks to take this series, I didn’t expect it to be done in such convincing fashion. In many ways the Western Conference playoffs, now lacking a traditional power somewhat resembles how much of Western Europe looked in the latter part of the 5th Century when the Roman Empire fell. The continued rule of the Roman Emperor’s until the very end allowed the Empire to save face when the walls were crumbling from within, much as the continued play of Tony Parker and Tim Duncan made it seem as though the Spurs would find a way. Ultimately, we look to history once again to find the answers for today.
The Beginning of the End
Many historians point to the death of Theodosius I (also known as Theodosius the Great) in 395 A.D. as the event that set the ball in motion for the downfall of Rome. As ruler of the Empire for nearly twenty years, Theodosius was able to politically unify the eastern and western ends of Rome; the last individual who was able to do so. With his death, the bond that held the Roman states together began to drift and break, creating a rift within. With the untimely injury to Manu the Great, the Spurs lost their great unifier. Not only was Ginobli the necessary third option San Antonio desperately need in their offense, he was the one player capable of merging that widening gap between the starters and dwindling bench. With the loss of their star forward, the Spurs had to rely almost solely on the production of Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, with minimal help coming from a supporting cast that was either too old, or not ready to step up yet. This fact was painfully obvious in game four where the three players on the floor not named TP or TD simply watched in awe of their own teammates, and the closer wasn’t any different. Parker and Duncan took more than half of San Antonio’s shots and scored 56 of the 93 points in their final effort of the season.
The Crossing of the Rhine
In 406 the Germanic tribes led by Alaric I crossed the Rhine river into Italy and sacked the city of Rome. The Romans had long feared the Germanic tribes who made their camps along the northern shores of the river that served as a boundary between the edge of their civilization and the unknown wilds beyond. With his invasion, Alaric was the first Germanic King to take the city, an event that ultimately began the decline of the greatest traditional power in the west (hmm sound familiar?)
Dallas proved they were up to the challenge of crossing the Rhine in taking down the Spurs in five games. For the better part of the last decade, San Antonio’s defense has served as their boundary against Western Conference foes looking to knock off the top dog. The Mavs were able to forge the river by shooting 47.8 percent from the floor in their four wins in the series, nearly three full points higher that the Spurs allowed opponents to shoot during the regular season. If three percentage points doesn’t sound like that much, consider this. Dallas took just a hair shy of 300 shots in their four wins, three percent of that being nine field goals, or anywhere from 18 to 27 points depending on the kind of shots made. The Spurs lost games one, four and five by a total of 30 points; you do the math and tell me this series wouldn’t still be going on.
Of course, the Mavericks were led by their own Germanic King in their sack of San Antonio. Dirk Nowitzki shot a superb 30-56 from the floor in four wins, allowing Dallas to become the first team to knock the Spurs out of the first round in eight years. Down goes the western power. Ironically enough, sticking with the theme of eight, Rome’s fall at the hands of Alaric was the first time in 800 years that the city had fallen to a foreign enemy.
Lines of Succession
There is much debate over when the fall of Rome actually occurred, due in large part to the individuals take took control in the wake of the collapse. The Ostrogoths, an Eastern Germanic tribe, were seen to have many of the same ideals and practices as the Romans and therefore were seen as somewhat of a continuance of an otherwise failing rule. This group took over power for only a short time within the heart of Italy, ultimately falling as well only some 80 years after taking power.
The Mavericks in some sense maintain the ideal of consistency that has made the Spurs such a dominant force in recent memory. Having compiled nine straight seasons with at least 50 wins, Dallas is eclipsed only by the team they just defeated, the Spurs having reached that total for a decade straight. Much like the Ostrogoths, Dirk and co. could see their reign over a conquered foe end rather abruptly with a rolling Denver Nuggets team likely awaiting them in the semi-finals.
Lessons and Aftermath
After the downfall of the western part of the Roman Empire, the structure of Europe began to change. The Eastern Empire continued to exist and for brief periods was able to flourish culturally; the massive size of the original Roman Empire would never again be achieved however.
Perhaps this is what the Spurs begin to move towards now; not necessarily a complete dissension towards the pack in the Western Conference, but a more limited scope of success. It was painfully apparent in this series what an injury to any of the big three does to the dynamic of the Spurs offense; it also showed just how lacking the bench is compared to years past. Bruce Bowen is no longer the player he once was, nor is Michael Finley. Big Shot Rob has moved on and while some of the youngsters show promise, they appear to still be a ways off from being the kind of producers that previous subs were.
Dallas simply had more weapons than San Antonio could handle. Shut down Dirk and Josh Howard and Jason Kidd get you. Take out Howard and the bench led by Mr. Sixth Man goes to work. And then there are nights like this finale where Dirk, Terry and Howard all bring their A game and the aging empire is left in the dust. The Spurs will have their time to recuperate and lick their wounds. For Dallas the satisfaction of a job well done will be short lived with Denver looking like they will be the next peoples ready to be conquered.