Melo and Manu
Cub Scouts the daily hoops scene.
by Cub Buenning
It’s an oft-used adage in the NBA that games always come down to the play in the fourth quarter and last night’s Spurs/Nuggets game was no different. In fact, the aforementioned axiom could have been condensed to mean the game’s final 10 seconds, as this game’s lead changed hands twice in those final ticks. As would be expected, front-and-center was Carmelo Anthony (who played another strong game with 31/9) and the Spurs’ Manu Ginobili. In the past seven years of covering the Nuggets, no opponent (even Kobe) is more hated at the Pepsi Center than Ginobili; largely due to all of his “flopping.”
Half-way though the fourth quarter, a back-and-forth game turned into an almost double-digit lead for the Spurs. But the home team did not fold up the tent, rather, they battled back to make it just a 3-point game with possession and just under 20 seconds remaining.
Here’s where things got interesting.
First, Carmelo got loose for an easy basket (making it just a 1-point game). Teammate JR Smith (who had this titanic dunk in the first quarter; two-handed from the dots?!) deflected the in-bounds directly into Melo’s hands who suddenly gave the Nuggets the lead back. The Spurs ran a perfect sideline-out-of-bounds flare screen for Ginobili who calmly drained a running bank-shot from the left wing to make it a 1-point Spur lead and only 4 ticks remaining. There was little doubt about how the Nuggets would attack the final seconds.
The ball was in-bounded to Melo who opted against his patented perimeter jumper at the buzzer and drove hard to hoop, floating in what appeared to be the game-winner. Immediate pandemonium ensued. That is, until, the crowd realized that an offensive foul call had been called against Melo, ending the game. Of course, lying on the floor among the mass of bodies was Ginobili, who had drawn the charge to preserve the win. While not necessarily a “bad call,” it is just not one you EVER see made in the final seconds of a game, against one of the League’s superstars. I can only assume there was a whole lot of “@*&$^#@ing Flopper!” lines being exclaimed near the Pepsi Center exits.
With finals week going on around the nation’s campuses, it was another slow night of college hoops; however, the Missouri Tigers revenged last year’s heart-breaking loss to Oral Roberts with an 81-62 victory over the Tulsa-based school. With a few minutes left in the first half, the Tigers used an 18-2 run to swell the lead to one that they would never relinquish. The fast-paced, run-and-gun Tigers have one more cakewalk/trap game left before next week’s big Braggin’ Rights game in Saint Louis versus their neighboring rival from Illinois. The Fightin’ Illini have just a Friday date with UI-Chicago left as both teams look to enter that contest with one overtime loss apiece and both boasting top-15 rankings. This year’s installment of the cross-conference rivalry figures to be one of its best in years!
Across the Mississippi River into Tennessee, the beloved collegiate Tigers of Memphis found themselves suddenly short-handed and on the wrong side of a 15-point second-half deficit. Behind the support of their legion of fans (remember, the city is full of Tiger, not Grizzly fans), the Tigers raced back to force overtime against Austin Peay. With continued torrid perimeter shooting in the extra five minutes, the Tigers were able to secure the 70-68 win. Head Coach Josh Pastner has continued to deliver on the promises he made when taking over the program following the departure of the legendary John Calipari some 18 months ago. I always knew that this kid (yes, I am older) had a bright future, stretching back to our conversations about Houston prep basketball when he was still an assistant at the University of Arizona.
This post was a segment of Cub’s blog at milehighsportsview.blogspot.com. The Mile High Five is a daily portion of his blog that covers several aspects in the world of Denver and national sports and pop culture.