While everyone is singing the praises of Kobe's 61-point, ZERO-rebound, three-assist performance to set a Madison Square Garden record, I'd rather talk about two teams that played a great game with a number of excellent performances.
Spurs Fight Back, Take Feisty Warriors in OT: 110-105
Clearly the game of the night, unless you prefer individual performances. The Spurs (33-14) are quietly putting together their best run of the season. They have won four straight, are 8-2 over the last 10, and are on an 18-4 run.
I was going to go to my east coast bed, but this game was just too good to turn off.
Warriors and Spurs in a great game? You bet.
Great performances all around and Oracle Arena was rocking as the Warriors (15-34) were close to beating the Spurs three straight times in their own building. They had them down twelve in the fourth quarter. If Monta Ellis didn’t leave with a sprained ankle, they might have held on.
I’ve never seen Ronny Turiaf play so well. His individual defense on Duncan was outstanding, generating four blocks (two on Duncan), two steals, seven points, and seven rebounds in 22 minutes.
Stephen Jackson had a season-high 33 points and got the Warriors the lead in the third period with 16 of his points. Monta Ellis has 17 points and was making big shots and looked ready to lead Golden State to a W, until he got injured in the fourth quarter.
In the end, the Greg Popovich Spurs did what they do—absorb your best shot, and slowly take over the game.
They stopped giving Jackson open looks, with Kurt Thomas and Tim Duncan clamping down on D and grabbing all the rebounds. Manu Ginobili took over the period with 17 points of his own.
Finishing with a season high of 32, Manu was assaulting the basket, generating 2 three-point plays among four driving layups that got the Spurs back in, and a number of huge foul shots, including 4-4 in the final seconds of regulation.
After Ginobili got the foul called on a drive in the final seconds and made the foul shots to tie the game, Stephen Jackson’s leaning jumper missed at the buzzer, and he complained about contact on his elbow. Later he complained that he isn’t esteemed high enough to get that call.
Refs aren’t going to let Stephen Jackson win the game on incidental contact. That is all it was, incidental.
The Spurs are perfect in overtime games this year, and showed why in this game, outscoring Golden State 15-10 to pull a win from defeat.
Tim Duncan scored 17 in the first quarter, before the Warriors put Turiaf on the case. But Tim finished 32 including the first five points in overtime before fouling out. Tony Parker completed the three pronged Spurs assault with 23 points.
For most of the game, I was wondering how far the Spurs have fallen. They were down 12 in the third and Stephen Jackson was getting far too open, scoring 16 points in the period.
After going up twelve at 64-52 and maintaining it at 89-77 with a C.J. Watson jumper at 8:39, the Warriors went six minutes without scoring. The Spurs clamped down and regained the lead after three, 79-75.
But the Warriors weren’t done; as they regained a 12-point lead in the fourth behind Monta Ellis’s shooting.
Don Nelson—Psychologist or Psychiatrist
Say whatever you want about Don Nelson. He is a master at getting the most out of some the league’s most cantankerous personalities.
After embracing and getting Baron Davis to turn the Warriors into something from nothing, he is attempting to repeat the performance with league bad boy Stephen Jackson. To be sure, Jackson is no Baron Davis, but Baron Davis isn’t always Baron either.
Any team that would have Stephen Jackson as its leader might seem doomed. Yet the Warriors are 5-6 recently and have beaten New Orleans and Atlanta, while losing to the powerhouse Cavaliers by one. Unfortunately they also lost to OKC by one the night before, and lost to the lowly Kings shortly before that.
Whatever the rumors about Don Nelson and Chris Mullin are, his teams are trying to win games. Yet, you don’t push on the "Don", as 6’10" rookie Anthony Randolph is finding out.
Don't push on the "Don"
Don Nelson casts a big shadow and is clear about who decides how minutes are used. Remember Al Harrington?
After firing B.J. Armstrong as his agent because Randolph’s handlers feel he deserves more time than what he is getting from Don Nelson, Randolph is looking to find someone who will put a full court press on Nelson and the Warriors for more playing time. Nelson’s response? A Did Not Play-Coach’s Decision in this game for Randolph.
Notoriously tough on rookies, don’t step on the Dapper Don’s toes. We will see how this one turns out.
The San Antonio Outlook
San Antonio is a definite long-shot as a title contender, but they have a proven system with defined role players. And it always amazes me how Popovich finds people who fit well and prosper.
Roger Mason is a highly touted success story, but the Matt Bonner/Kurt Thomas platoon is a surprisingly good fit. Bonner for offense and spacing, Thomas for rebounds and defense. Veteran Michael Finley can still rise to the occasion, and rookie George Hill has surprised.
Yet, I can’t help thinking that they are a player away from regaining the crown, though Popovich keeps this unit performing at a high level. If Manu, Tony, and Tim are healthy come playoff time, don’t be surprised if they get to the Western Finals.
A trip the NBA Finals might be just a little too much to ask. They lost soundly to the Lakers in LA (99-85). But the loss of Bynum makes the Lakers more beatable. San Antonio’s chances just got better. Their games with the Lakers are wars and they beat LA in San Antonio by one. That still counts as a win. I looked it up.
We will have to see how each team is performing come playoff time. But don't expect the Spurs to lay down for anyone.