Nets/Spurs recap: Why the hail are we here?

by February 14, 2007
11

Hm. This is hard.

I don’t really know how to split our notes anymore because we both do totally different styles. I keep notes through the game, while Jake does more of a sum-up-after-it’s-all-over kind of thing. We’re turning into Outkast circa the whole double-solo-album period. It seems that the AppleSon era may be drawing to a close—it might be best for us to start posting our game notes separately. Until then, he’s in italics, I’m not. And I guess I’ll just post his first again, with my lengthy recap to follow. (You can skip straight all the way to the bottom for Tim Duncan’s reaction when I tell him ‘Lang says he’ll see you in Vegas.’) For the record, Lang would have gone to the game himself, but he was worried about the snow. Silly Southerners.

Here’s Jake.

I don’t really have much to say about this wretched game. Russ takes notes like a machine, and I am only a man. Anyway…

The Nets started off playing well, as we all got to enjoy about ten good minutes of competitive game action. Their defense was good early, impressive when they swarmed the ball and caused a few turnovers. Even though Marcus Williams missed a few gimmes and Antoine Wright floated around the court (I think) hidden in a cloak of invisibility, VC and Mikki Moore kept things tight for a while. And then, with about two minutes left in the first quarter, the wheels came spinning off. Horribly.

I want to second guess Lawrence Frank for not trusting his thin bench and only making one substitution in the first 11:55, as the weariness coincided with the beginning of the San Antonio’s monster run, but that would be hardcore nitpicking. Especially considering how decently the starters started the game. Anyway, as I mentioned, the wheels came off, and it got ugly fast.

San Antonio got whatever it wanted on offense. In other words: BALL MOVEMENT, LOTS AND LOTS OF BALL MOVEMENT; YOU MIGHT EVEN SAY IT WAS EXCESSIVE AND CLINICAL IN ITS SIMPLICITY AND EASE.

On the other end, the Spurs tightened their D and suffocated a Jersey offense severely lacking firepower. While credit is due to San Antonio’s hard nosed D for suffocating the Nets—Popovich probably would have smacked someone if the Spurs gave up over 100 for a third straight game for the first time since ’96-97—it’s important to mention that without J-Kidd the Jersey offense also asphyxiated itself.

The problem: With only one consistently viable scoring option in VC, and no J-Kidd to make sure the ball moved properly, the Nets ended up out of sync on offense. What does that mean? It means passes often weren’t made to the spots that shooters like to catch the ball in. This forced unnecessary isos and disrupted flow. Creativity was forced upon those that very attribute. We witnessed consistent indecision from other players when Carter is away from the ball. Compounding that problem, there was an inclination try and rely even more on VC, which just boxed the team into a corner because of a) Bruce Bowen and b) the rest of the Spurs that were waiting for Vince. Vince shot a very ” Kobe trying to get his teammates involved” 7-14, but the rest of the team was overmatched.

For the first time all season, I’m contemplating the very real possibility that the Nets might not make the playoffs. We’ll see if they can turn it on witha healthy RJ and Kidd in March.

After the game, Russ and I caught a glimpse of Tony Parker and Eva Longoria making out as we walked by a private lounge. (For some reason the door was wide open and the celebrity couple had chosen the plush couch dead center for their celebratory postgame lip-locking. For some reason, it struck me as pretentious.) Anyway, here’s what I imagined their conversation to be between kisses.

EL: Ooh, Tony, you’re so happy.
TP: Yes, well it was an easy win.
EL: Yes, I was surprised at how easily you guys pulled away early, especially given the recent struggles and lack of defensive intensity youguys have been showing.
TP: Well, they were quite overmatched.
EL: Indeed. Antoine Wright had a tough time with you, but he didn’t struggle nearly as much as Eddie House on penetration early in the shot clock.
TP: Yeah, it was also tough for Marcus Williams. That was his first start. He kind of wet the bed. In France, we call those people “tinklers.”
EL: So sad. I’d heard good things about him.
TP: Well I think some of the easy layups he missed affected his confidence and then shots just started rimming out on him.
EL: That’s exactly what I thought! I continue to be impressed with Timmy’s ruthless efficiency. And I love how Manu has accepted his role off the bench.
TP: This is a team, baby. You know that.
EL: By the way, Finley totally torched Bernard Robinson during garbagetime. I know that he’s an eleventh man, but Bernard could maybe try to play some defense and mind his man. He should be trying to show his coach something, not assuming that his man won’t shoot. I mean, GOD, it’s Michael Finley. Have people just forgotten that he knows how to score.
TP: I guess. You know what I realized?
EL: What?
TP: There’s a blizzard coming and the Nets almost shot the weather.
EL: Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.
TP: You know what else I realized?
EL: What?
TP: You’re not actually THAT hot. You’re famous, and while your body does look good proportionally, you’re very tiny and non-descript. I’m not saying you’re not attractive—you are—but you don’t blow my mind.
EL: Hey, have you seen Pascal?
TP: No. Where IS Pascal?
EL: I don’t know. This conversation is getting too long. Let’s have sex on this public couch.

And now it’s my turn. If I can possibly follow that last bit. For the record, I had a camera with me, and considered pointing it back in for an ill paparazzi shot of Tony and Eva, but figured I’d get murdered by security. Not worth it, even if my estate would get a fat check from OK! or something.

On with the show.

PREGAME

The Nets are 11-22 in games without Jason Kidd. I don’t know what their record is in games without Kidd, Nenad Krstic AND Richard Jefferson, but I’m guessing it’s not very good.

Incidentally, we missed all of the pre-game locker room time because Port Authority was a nightmare of epic proportions. Which was compounded by my spilling boiling-hot chai on myself and scalding my hand. Psyched.

FOOD REPORT. Pepper steak over rice. Dynamite. The steamed vegetables are a pass, though. And I skip the usual pre-game hot dog. The selection of Vitamin Water is pretty picked over too, unfortunately. Solid B anyway.

You know, Jason Collins might not be all that great at any one aspect of the game of basketball, but when you add it all up…well, he’s still really bad. He must thank Isiah Thomas every day for inserting Jerome James into the Knicks’s starting lineup and making him only the second-worst starter in the NBA. And James isn’t even bad a player—he’s just in worse shape than half of the beatwriters that cover him.

There’s a press release waiting for us in the media room announcing that the Spurs have essentially traded Eric Williams for Melvin Ely. That should put them over the top.

If Marcus Williams doesn’t take 40 shots tonight I’ll be surprised.

There’s a sign on the baseline near the Spurs bench that reads “I *heart* YOU BIG SHOT BOB. How cute.

The Nets’s pre-game intros are the most over-the-top ridiculous I’ve ever seen. The usual fireworks shoot out of the backboards while Tim Duncan is hanging from the rim, and I don’t even think he notices. It’s also silly to shoot off fireworks when your starting backcourt is Antoine Wright and Marcus Williams. I’m just sayin’.

Interesting note: Brent Barry is a full year-and– third older than Mike Finley, despite the fact that they’re both 11-year NBA vets, and both played four years of college. Did Rick keep Brent locked up in a closet for a year or something? (No John Amaeche.)

FIRST QUARTER

Marcus Williams crosses over Francisco Elson twice, then misses a layup. On the other end, Francisco Elson starts the scoring. I’m not a betting man, but I’ll guess that the odds of that happening (in a game featuring Vince Carter, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker) were pretty damn slim. Even better, Jason Collins scores the first points for the Nets. It’s going to be a long night.

Vince finds Marcus by himself underneath, and he still misses the WIDE OPEN layup. Tony Parker takes advantage and scores on the other end. It’s funny how the Spurs have two point guards (OK three, but Beno Udrih doesn’t really count these days) and the one who ISN’T French is named Jacques.

Tim Duncan off glass. Money. I was going to refer to him as “tim duncan” throughout because he’s so understated, but Microsoft Word automatically capitalizes “Duncan,” and I refuse to go back and change it every time.

Bowen fouls Carter and gets pulled for Finley at the 9:28 mark. Fin immediately launches a 20-footer from the corner and misses. Obviously it’s not the shoes.

The Nets offense without Kidd is an absolute shambles. Shocking.
Still, Carter swats away an entry pass intended for Duncan and the Nets take the lead, 9-8. And Mikki Moore hits an outside shot, and it’s 11-8. Then someone forgets to cover Tim Duncan above the free throw line, and that’s pretty stupid. 11-10. Speaking of stupid, the Spurs commit a defensive three-second violation out of a time out. Greg Popovich is probably not impressed.

Mikki Moore hits another outside shot from the same spot. Big men shooting outside jumpers, awesome. This, of course, leads to Jason Collins shooting the most awkward 20-footer in the history of 20-footers which only draws iron through absolute luck. Soooo bad. So the next time down Moore goes straight down the lane for an emphatic two-handed dunk. Much better.

GINOBILI! In for the first time at 4:44.

Li’l Lawrence puts in Uncle Cliffy and Pop retaliates with Robert Horry. For the record, these are the only two players on either roster who are older than me. At least there’s still somebody. Cliffy responds by hitting his first shot. 1966 represent!

Ginobili breaks up a telegraphed Williams-to-Moore alley-oop, then Horry hits a top-of-the-key three. BIG SHOT BOB. Williams comes back with a deep two, and Ginobili hits a corner three. This three-for-two thing never works out too well for the team hitting the twos.

The Nets, who have made all of one substitution all quarter long, stop the clock with 4.7 seconds left to sub in Josh Boone, Boston Snackbar and Eddie House. None of them contribute anything. End of the first. Spurs lead 26-22.

SECOND QUARTER

Jacque Vaughn! GINOBILI! He’s got 7. Spurs up 28-22.

Nets turnover, Duncan bucket, Nets timeout. Spurs up 33-22.

They show Eva Longoria on the scoreboard, and she gets a HUGE ovation. I don’t get it. She’s a five-foot doll who’s on a crappy TV show. And she’s marrying the OPPONENT’S point guard. I’ll bet she wouldn’t get cheered in Philly.

The Nets next offensive possession is so bad that when the ball inevitably goes out of bounds the refs award possession to the Spurs on general principle (and because no one wants to see the Nets try again). Bowen hits one of his signature corner threes, and the Spurs get the ball back and Horry hits a shot inside. Nets 20. Spurs lead 38-22. I’m not sure what Lawrence Frank is telling them, but hopefully it involves them scoring a “basket,” and maybe even getting a “stop.” (I apologize for using that technical basketball lingo.)

Marcus Williams is back in, and the Nets get better ball movement I guess, but it still ends up going back to the Spurs.

Mikki Moore is back,

Duncan his two free throws, then gets a steal. Eddie House misses a three, and Elson scores to stretch the Spurs lead to 20. The Nets call another timeout with 6:45 to go. They still haven’t scored in the quarter.

Vince checks back in—which is good, because he looked like he was ready to kill someone on the bench—and his first shot is a wild three over Bowen at the end of the shot clock. It doesn’t go in.

The Spurs finally get bagged for a defensive three second violation with 5:29 to go, and the Nets score their first point of the quarter. Carter hits the free throw to much derisive cheering. This breaks a 20-0 Spurs run. Did I mention that the arena is half empty and there’s supposed to be a blizzard later? Glad I came out.

Hassan Adams hits a jumper, then a pair of free throws. Maybe he should play more. But Bowen drops another corner three, and the Spurs lead by 23. Make that 25. OK, 27.

Two Nets baskets in a row—by Carter and Marcus Williams—and Popovich calls for time. Because leading by 23 doesn’t mean much when you give up four points in a row. I hope he comes up with some sort of ridiculous challenge for the second half—like letting Fabricio Oberto run the point.

The whole “Kiss Cam” thing is really bad to begin with, let alone when the home team is trailing by 20-plus. Why they don’t just put the camera on Eva Longoria and her female companion and leave it there is beyond me.

Other things happen on the court that don’t make a bit of difference in the score. 59-38, Spurs at the half. At least the Nets manage to score 16 points in the quarter.

THIRD QUARTER

Carter drives and tries to dunk on Duncan. It’s one of those high-flying attempts that no one else would even think about, but he tries it so casually that it looks almost routine. There’s pretty much no reaction from anyone. He hits one of two from the line.

The next time he gets the ball he tries to go one on eight (approximately) and loses the ball. Brent Barry gets it by the Nets bench, takes a jumper, and gets hit on the wrist so hard by Antoine Wright that we can hear it 10 rows up. We also hear him yell “FOUL!” but there’s no call. At least the shot drops.

Highlight: The Nets dancers come out in SHORT plaid skirts, hiked-up white dress shirts and ties. Apparently the whole Catholic schoolgirl thing wasn’t a dream. Normally you need to spend good money to see stuff like this.

Tim Duncan picks up his third foul with 8:55 to go. If the Spurs weren’t leading by 20, this might be a problem. As it is, no one cares.

Carter misses another 30-footer at the end of the shot clock.

Marcus Williams misses a jumper, Barry comes out with it, and tries to shovel a casual cross-court bounce pass to Parker that is entirely out of his reach. Out of bounds to the Nets. Once again it doesn’t matter, but Pop is probably furious anyway.

Eddie House checks in for Williams, and Carter walks him back all the way to the bench.

Tim Duncan actually gets T’ed up. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that before. For the record, he’s wearing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s beard from 1973.

Parker ends a pretty drive by dropping the ball off to Elson who, of course, drops it.

The Spurs still have a comfortable lead, but they’re just playing weird. Like they’ve been drugged or something. Barry misses two consecutive corner threes.

Jason Collins tries another 20 footer with predictable results.

Cliffy and Horry check in at the same time again.

Marcus Williams has another layup attempt rim out. It’s not his night. As Jake notes, it’s not like Kidd doesn’t have nights like this, but he’s usually doing everything else so well that it doesn’t matter.

Finley hits a jumper over Williams with a hand—literally—in his face. And 1. 73-51, Spurs.

Just as I write “House—not afire,” he gets hot. Go figure.

And the least-intelligent fan comment of the night goes to “How much did the Spurs pay you refs?” It’s 77-51 with 1:41 to go in the third.

House hits a couple of shots, then gets fouled by Horry and actually steps to him to jaw a little. Hm, let’s see, Eddie: Your team is down 20-plus at home, and Horry’s got approximately nine inches and six rings on you. What could you possibly have to say?

Hey, what do you know? It’s Bernard Robinson. End of three, Spurs up 79-60.

FOURTH QUARTER

Why is Tim Duncan still in the game?

83-60, Spurs.

Jackie Butler checks in for the first time. It’s a shock. Apparently before he left MSG for the last time, he found Larry Johnson’s old playoff beard and decided to keep it.

With 9:32 left, the Spurs go up 90-62. Most of the fans have already left.

A Marcus Williams three triggers a 16-2 Nets run that means absolutely nothing but is fun for those who actually stayed to watch to the bitter end. Except for the guy to the left of us who is dead asleep (pictured).

Mile Ilic! At 2:03. He moves like a young Gheorge Muresan, and I don’t mean that in a good way. Call him “Marcy,” ‘cause he’s a project.

FINAL SCORE: 107-82, Spurs.

POSTGAME

Pop comes out in sweats. “Three of their top four were out, so it was pretty much a throwaway game.” Pretty much.

I mention to Tim Duncan (while the media crowd is still around Parker) that Lang says he’ll see him in Vegas. He reacts like I gave him a million dollars. Or like I cursed him out. Or like he does to everything—with no emotion whatsoever. I ask him about All-Star, and he says “We’ve been on the road for 10 days, so it could come at a better time. But it’ll be fun.” Sure it will.

It’s always good to see Bruce Bowen. We talk for a few, he mentions he’ll be in Cabo over the weekend. Must be nice.

No stats worth mentioning.