Disappointing seems like such a... well... disappointing and inadequate word to describe losing to the Spurs last night. On the one hand, this is the Spurs we're talking about, the dominant dynasty of the past decade. But on the other hand, Spurs version 2009 is very different from Spurs version 2005. They're still figuring things out, and this was an opportunity to steal a road win from a team that suddenly looks more vulnerable than they have in years, like last year's Pistons.
Instead, we settle for the pleasure in seeing the Cats make the game competitive with a great third quarter, even though they ultimately lost 104-85. I caution against the notion of microcosm, but if this game wasn't a microcosm (it wasn't), it was a part of the larger developing pattern.
Highlights, lowlights, and a preview of tonight's Dallas Mavericks game after the jump.
(A couple of these were contributed in last night's thread. Username of the contributor is in bold. Thanks, guys!)
-- Tyson Chandler had 8 turnovers in 21:31. That looks like a typo, and I really hope it is. That's the kind of insanely horrible line that will make a fickle guy like Larry Brown yank him from the starting lineup.
-- What do we have to do to improve the free throw shooting? The Cats only shot 18-29 from the line (62%). I shoot about 70% from the line (granted, not in in-game situations, but whenever I practice shooting free throws, I do it in between running lines). I'll show the team how to shoot Rick Barry style. When I shoot normally, I'm about 30%, but the underhand shot has been a godsend for my free throw performance. My email is in the sidebar, guys. I'm available.
-- Gerald Henderson was again marginalized, again forced to watch Stephen Graham stink for more than 10 minutes while he only got 2 minutes. I'm past the point of being angry with LB about this. Even when he finally does give Henderson real minutes on a consistent basis, I'll probably continue to harbor a grudge for this totally unreasonable and illogical railroading.
-- Derrick Brown consistently makes good use of his minutes. In 22 minutes tonight his line was 7 pts on 3-7 shooting, 2 rebounds, 1 steal. What those numbers don’t show is that he was a pivotal player in the 3rd quarter Bobcats run that shaved the once 20+ pt deficit disappear. The numbers also don't tell you about the nasty fast break throw down dunk Brown had during that run. --dudemanhey
(DA: I've shared my soft spot for super-athletic combo forwards before. This is more of the same from Brown, who, thanks to a dearth of power forward options, has shown he's capable of being a rotation player in this league.
-- Gerald Wallace shot 6-9 from the field and 6-10 from the line, for 18 points. That's an uptick from his scoring average, but still very efficient. He only got 6 boards, but that still led the team and was more than 1/5 of the 25 the Cats grabbed.
-- We’re always quick to revel in the numbers when one of our own contains a supposedly better player. Well, Felton and Wallace got contained tonight and what it meant was that Wallace’s numbers were merely damned good instead of incredible and Felton’s stats were reduced to mediocre instead of the numbers of an emerging star. Considering that it happened on the road against a team many think will be duking it out (or am I supposed to call it Chapel Hilling it out?) with the Lakers for the Western Conference crown, I’m not going to cry over it. --Ourdaywillcome
(DA: As contentious as we can sometimes be about evaluating Raymond Felton and defining his place in the NBA sphere, I think there's one uncontroversial thing we can all agree upon: When Felton shoots less, he tends to do more for this team. It's not a direct relationship, seeing as someone like Luke Walton can do very little negative on either end of the court and still not add much, but I do think it's indicative that he's doing other things to help the team. Combine that with a downturn in turnovers and an undeniable commitment to defense, and suddenly his outlook is rosy. Last night was a mixed bag, but was still an improvement upon his past games that inhabit my nightmares. He took only 7 shots. Four other players took as many or more field goal attempts. That's a good thing for a point guard who's never been a good scorer himself.)
Hey! It's a Texas back to back and the Cats will face the Mavericks tonight!
Pump Up Music: Lucky Boy Confusion -- "Hey Driver"
The Big Picture: The Mavs are coming off a win at Miami last night in which Erick Dampier absolutely sonned Joel Anthony to the tune of 20 points and 17 rebounds, and both Jason Kidd and J.J. Barea had 10 assists. I'll go out on a limb and say that probably won't happen tonight.
A developing meme I've noticed this year is the notion that Dirk Nowitzki's millionth straight amazing season is cementing his spot as greatest European player in NBA history. Maybe so. Dude's still in his prime, and that this is under consideration adds another layer to the respect we should have for him. Enjoy watching.
Key to Victory: I really don't think the Cats will have to make many lineup adjustments to match up with the Mavs, even when they go crazy with their lineup permutations. Here's how I'd do it.
When Dallas goes Barea, Kidd, Marion, Dirk, Dampier, I'd put Felton on Barea, Gerald on Kidd, Diaw on Marion, Jackson on Dirk, and Tyson on Dampier. This is specifically because, historically, Dirk has had trouble with smaller, long, defenders. He's at his best when he can put the ball on the floor against slower big men, so I'd take my chances with him posting up Jackson and everyone else is outside, turning Kidd/Marion and others into spot up shooters, which I definitely want to happen. Same thing happens when Terry is on the floor in place of either Kidd or Barea. Put Gerald on him and see what happens. Alternatively, the Cats could follow Mike D'Antoni's lead and imitate what he did when he assigned Jared Jeffries to guard Rajon Rondo: Put Diaw on Kidd, sag off, and dare Kidd to be a jump shooter. That would put Gerald on Marion.
It's still not much of an issue when Dallas goes super small with their three-guard lineup, Barea, Kidd, Terry, Marion, Dirk. Maybe we go slightly smaller with Diaw at center. Or maybe we take special care to save Tyson so we can put him on Dirk in these situations. Basically, it all comes down to a willingness to put Diaw on Marion. Dude hasn't been able to shoot threes in two and a half years. Make him beat you that way.