A thesaurus only holds so many words for demolished

by

In college, while still chasing journalistic dreams, one of the first things I learned to write was obituaries. Everyone has to start somewhere and for burgeoning young reporters the obits are as good a place as any.

One of the tricks of the trade for writing obituaries, when the cause of death was too complicated to decipher or just flat out unknown, is to classify such cases as heart failure. You see, technically everyone dies when their heart stops beating so for all intents and purposes it’s a completely accurate description.

Last night the San Antonio Spurs died of heart failure.

That’s not to say they quit, well, at least not until halfway through the fourth quarter when Battier found himself so open for a 3-pointer he had time to dust the ball off before letting his shot fly. And it’s not to say the Spurs had no emotion or heart. As Graydon pointed out in his recap, the Spurs tried. Hard. But when push came to shove they simply tried to do the wrong things even harder instead of smarter. A forced pass here, a quick shot there. Corporate knowledge be damned because quite frankly it does not exist in this roster anymore. It was like panicking in quicksand.

Before the game I wrote that one of these two coaches was propping his team up with smoke and mirrors. It’s easy to read that, or either of my recaps for that matter, and assume each were disrespectful or dismissive of the Grizzlies as 48MoH’s good friend Matt Moore did. But the underlying themes to each have been don’t panic.

Because Marc Gasol had a hell of a Game 1 and is having a hell of a series, but he hasn’t shot 9-10 again. Writing that was correct and hardly dismissive because while he is a good player, and a reason for the Grizzlies success, Gasol is not THE reason. Respectful as I am of Randolph, and it has been pointed out here that he was doing these things since back when Tim Duncan was still the best defensive player in the NBA, he was not raining 3-pointers.

But as well as the Memphis Grizzlies had played up until Game 4, and as poorly as the San Antonio Spurs had played, the Grizzlies won Games 1 and 3 by a combined six points while the Spurs took Game 2 by six.

The easy and somewhat lazy narrative through three games was that the Spurs were getting destroyed inside, and it was written even as the Spurs defense held up and the team outrebounded Memphis. The notion stuck because at the beginning of the series if Memphis was going to win the assumed blueprint is that is how they were going to do it.

That the Spurs were holding up well in these areas, and that the Grizzlies extremely narrow wins had deviated so much from such a blueprint was reason enough to believe that head coach Gregg Popovich and company would eventually figure out how to get past what has ended up being Lionel Hollins’ true ace in the deck. Stay the course and eventually the percentages will swing back in your favor, right? Tony Parker can’t miss all his shots, can he?

Memphis has exploited advantages inside, but if last night showed anything it’s that those two aren’t necessarily the reason for the Spurs demise. Perhaps now all the smoke and mirrors can be put aside and we can address the true story behind this series: The hyperactive Memphis wings are destroying the Spurs pick and roll attack.

Lionel Hollins gambit is that he has removed the Big Three from their teammates, chasing shooters off the line, denying the passing lanes and ball movement that had made the Spurs a model of offensive efficiency. The only option left to Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili by Mike Conley, Tony Allen, and Shane Battier has been to take the ball to the rim themselves, with Marc Gasol providing just enough resistance that neither can score efficiently enough to force Memphis to change tactics.

Just two years ago the simple solution against such a strategy would be to isolate Duncan in the post and let him either go 13-17 on his way to 35+ points or let him pick apart double teams with passes to open shooters. Even a year ago Duncan might have been able to provide enough one-on-one scoring in spurts.

The last time Manu Ginobili made it through a playoff run unscathed he was still explosive enough to finish at the rim or draw fouls at an insane rate against the likes of this Memphis defense.

And Tony Parker has always depended on his teammates 3-point shooting and clean lanes to provide his best work.

The smoke and mirrors of this series was never about a head coach hiding a terrible team, but a flawed one. The quicker tempo, the pick and roll attack, the three-point shooting. These were all illusions to mask the real fact that age has taken away the two Spurs players capable of looking this ferocious brand of defense in the eye and destroying it.

If not for a botched draft the Memphis Grizzlies could easily be regarded in the same light as the Oklahoma City team they appear poised to face. By the time their playoff run is over, they might be.

As for the Spurs, if and when the team eventually falls there will be plenty of time to analyze where everything broke down. For now, we’ll just go with heart failure.

  • CEOROZCO

    I think the Spurs’ heart still beats, weakly but it beats.

  • http://www.nba.com/spurs/?tmd=1 TheRealDirtyP1

    TP just needs to keep attacking and don’t worry about passing. They’re waiting for him to turn it over, they can’t really answer him. I’ll take 50% shooting from him for sure. If he keeps going into the paint, he’ll get them in foul trouble and collapse those wings to open things up for our wings.

  • Rob

    Tim and Andrew. Thank you for your help. Got it fixed from my end. Hurray, I can post again.

    Sadly though not being official as of yet….I see the fat lady warming her vocals.

    This has been a total break down. Not one person to blame though a lot of blame needs to be accepted by many on this team.

    Should have Tiago played more in the end of the season? What’s happened to Tony? Where’s that terrific bench we saw all season? Why was a rotation of Bonner/Blair which proved to be counter productive STILL stubbornly being used? Where is the “corporate” knowledge that persevered for so many seasons? Simple tasks such as using at least one of your three timeouts to set up a play at the end of a game?

    So many questions to which the answers should be as simple as just do it only to see a team that is unaware and unsure about themselves. From suits to players…it’s been a total fail this first series compared to their regular season. So much so that I think the only course of action for this summer is a complete change of guard and philosophy.

    Congrats to Memphis so far…they play a lot like the championship Spurs used to play.

  • Junierizzle

    Pretty Much. I’ve been saying all along it isn’t the GRIZZ’s size. It’s always been about the SPURS’ offense.

    In a previous post I blamed our shooters. Yes, the Grizz clogged the paint and closed out to shooters. But the fact of the matter is that our shooters just had no confidence. Just look at all the other playoff series. People are shooting with hands in their face, guys running at them, etc. There were so many opportunities where our shooter could have gotten shots off. But they chose to pump fake and drive. BONNER can’t shoot over Randolph? That dude doesn’t even jump. Come on. I would have been more content with the way they are losing if they just put up shots. At least then they could say “well, shots just weren’t falling.” I have more respect for a guy that shoots with confidence and goes 0-9 then a guy that goes 2-9 who doesn’t even want to shoot.
    Just look at Marco Belinelli of the Hornets, dude can’t buy a shot but he shoots with confidence. The fact that he is shooting doesn’t disrupt the offense.

    TP and MANU never had a chance out there. Not with our shooters. They have to shoot or else the offense becomes what it became.

    I think the SPURS were doomed the minute MANU went down. Again he wasn’t 100% Maybe if he was he would have been more effective. The elbow definitely took away his 3 point shot. The 3 has been a part of his game since he was overseas. I really thought Manu was going to play like he did last year pre-broken nose. That also could have freed up the shooters. But hey, injuries are a part of the game.

  • http://regularfan.blogspot.com/ Humberto

    Good stuff here, it’s been pretty clear to me that perimeter defense of the Grizz has been a huge problem for the Spurs. I really think we saw this when the Lakers beat the Spurs back in March. They used the same tactics we see Memphis doing today. Fill in the passing lanes, running every 3 point shooter off the 3 point line. Force Bonner/McDyess to play tough D, and swarm Manu. Perhaps not coincidently, the Spurs went 10-9 after that loss, to teams that can play the perimeter better.

  • Rob

    Agreed. But there is a solution to keeping the perimeter defenders honest in playing the passing lanes as well as running 3 point shooters off the line. That’s attacking the basket with weak side trailers for a dish instead of stagnant players waiting on the wings. Jefferson and Neal would be great at this as well as one of your bigs in position to follow. Instead the offense stagnates/freezes when Parker, Ginobili or Hill make penetration. Now in fairness to what I saw it looked as if they were trying to incorporate a weak side trailer only to not have the timing down to make a concise pass which resulted in many of the unforced turn overs. Whether that’s Parker and Hill not being adept enough to being good passers on the run or a lack of implementing such strategy consistent enough to perfect is another story. But it is a way to beat the defense being successfully implemented by the Grizzlies.

    The Spurs are simply relying too much on spot up shooting and not implementing enough face break situations.

  • Doggydogworld

    The Memphis bigs are changing the game in a lot of ways that don’t show up in the stats. For example, the Spurs are getting defensive rebounds by having their bigs focus on blockout/wrestling match while the guards crash the boards. This works but pretty much eliminates any fast break potential. Also, Grizzly defenders can stay out near the arc because they trust Gasol to defend Duncan one on one. Our perimeter defenders, on the other hand, are much more concerned with helping on their bigs which has opened up the 3 point line for them (e.g. most spectacularly in Q4 last night when Manu came in to cover Gasol on a pick-and-roll and left Battier wide open in the corner).

  • marrocas

    Great read. I agree: only a vintage Manu performance can save the season (getting fouls, making the shooters open with penetration), he needs to wait for the screen to be there before he attacks, and also to be calm and play more of a Nash like game. He could do it. Duncan cannot score against Gasol on the post, he should probably play more like Dice and let Splitter try to post Randolph. The guy can pass from the post. Parker and Hill need to stop going under the screens and fight them. Especially Parker, man is he a weak defender or is he just not fighting those screens? Popovich should probably bench Blair and Bonner all game long and try to fire their players. Green can defend, he should get a few minutes. And yes, heart, tons of heart.
    Let’s try to win game 5 and, if we lose, lose fighting hard for 48min., like the Spurs of old. I think we all would be ok with that.

  • http://profiles.google.com/droid101 Ash B

    The Spurs sucked all year long, and continue to suck. Who’s shocked? not me.

  • Anonymous

    Really? I mean, really? 61-21 is sucking? Dang. I bet there are a lot of team out there that wish they “sucked”.

    They suck now. Doesn’t mean they’ve “sucked all year long”. Are you a Lakers fan or something?

  • SAJKinBigD

    Actually, Manu’s threes have been off all-season – even when it was fairly ill-advised he’d chuck one up there. Not a pretty season at all for him; and this ending to such a promising setup… Ugh. It hurts.
    Still it’s NOT over until it’s over, as they say…

  • SAJKinBigD

    @Humberto: The problem is that coming INTO this series, 3-pt D was a WEAKNESS of the Grizz. How did they suddenly wake up and start doing it? Because, as Rob said: “The Spurs are simply relying too much on spot up shooting and not implementing enough face break situations.” I don’t think the fast break implementation is the problem; the Grizz have defended it well; I think it is totally the first part of this sentence: relying too much on spot-up shooting.

  • austinspur

    As much as the spurs have shat on my hopes for them, I still have faith that they can upset the grizz as is. If the spurs win tomorrow I would say they still have a 30% chance of knockin off the grizz. GO SPURS GO

  • Anonymous

    Glad to see those whiners to be demoslished I never liked their style of play and their constant whinning.

  • Junierizzle

    Yeah but he was still shooting them but not in this series. Word. it ain’t over.

  • Junierizzle

    Yeah but he was still shooting them but not in this series. Word. it ain’t over.

  • Glenn

    As a Grizz fan who has endured 10 years of mediocrity since the team moved to Memphis, I’m not going to lie by saying I’m not enjoying this run. I am. A lot. I am sorry, though, that it has to come at the expense of others who I know want to see their team win just as badly.

    Truth is, I don’t think anybody on this end expected it, either. It’s no secret the Spurs are getting old, but I thought they probably had one more championship run in them. As for the Grizz, I knew they were getting better but didn’t think they were quite there yet. Especially without Rudy Gay. Put it all together, and what I and most others expected, in all honesty, was that this would be the year we’d finally win a playoff game or two but not the series. And that would have been enough — until we saw we could really win it. Now, we’re greedy — and you can’t fault us for that. After all, you guys don’t want to lose, either, even though your team has already given you multiple championships. :)

    Whatever ultimately happens in the playoffs, I think the Grizz have already won in the sense that this newfound success should stablilize the franchise. Even though they’ve been in Memphis a decade, it’s almost like they’ve just arrived in terms of being accepted by the community in a way that has always been reserved for the University of Memphis. Season ticket sales for next season are already through the roof. That’s our “championship,” regardless of what happens on the court.

    Anyway, good luck to you guys. I’m not sure from what I’ve seen thus far that the Spurs have enough left in them at this point to win three straight and save the series (and I obviously hope that doesn’t happen), but I know the Spurs can do it if anyone can. It would be a potentially fatal mistake for our guys to let up, and I hope they don’t.

    Thanks for letting me invade your board for a few moments. Your team is a model for a smaller market franchise, and I hope we’re on our way to becoming as stable and successful over time as you’ve been.

  • NYC

    Jesse, the articles that came out immediately following the game have all felt like prepared obituaries. I can’t fault you guys as writers. You are doing your due diligence. But I do fault you as Spurs fans!

    If… ok, WHEN the end comes, I want it to be of anything BUT heart failure. I understand you made your case of why you chose to designate last night’s lost as heart failure, but that lasting image of no one closing out on Shane Battier has me unable to see it as anything but giving up.

    My only hope is that these guys come back to the AT&T and go out like a drowning rat. Let the cause of death reflect a violent struggle: missing teeth, nails torn from clawing, bursted veins and capillaries, and lungs saturated with fluid. Anything but a peaceful death “in his sleep.”

  • NYC

    Everyone:

    Let us not dignify these trolls with a response. They are beneath us, and it only encourages more of them.

  • DorieStreet

    I think back to the consecutive games the Grizzlies and Spurs played Feb. 27th and March 1st. The trade deadline had passed (Mayo not gone, but Battier comes on board); Memphis was playing the 2nd game of a H/A BTB against San Antonio. The Grizzlies battled back from 8pt halftime deficit to take the lead halfway in the 3rd qtr and was up 1 point with a minute to go. Parker went out with an injury in the 1st half and then missed the 2nd game @ Memphis 2 nights later. Perhaps during that 2-game sequence Coach Lionel Hollins and his staff discovered how to combat the Spurs and worked on it along the way while finishing out the season. Essentially both teams had been in the 1st & 8th positions in the western conference standings for a while-some extra video and practice time on the Silver & Black during those last 6 weeks?

  • Nima K.

    The good thing about Memphis wining this series is that theyre not a mega-pompous flash and glamor team, like LAL or DAL. Small market teams deserve better in this league. Memphis has been acquiring some nice players for the past several years now. It’s about time they started showing some wins in the playoffs.

  • Rob

    Perhaps…but the Spurs also had the same luxury to prepare knowing Memphis was tanking to purposely play the Spurs.

    What part of the last 4 weeks of regular season of playing Bonner and Blair together did not exhibit a poor choice of player rotation is beyond any logical summary. Not to say that has been the only problem. Duncan has played more like Dun. Parker, probably with this playoff stint, should look to be dealt. Jefferson (for what ever reason planned or self generated) just does not provide enough in this system. That’s 3 of this team’s starters. Any team going into the playoffs with 3 of it’s starters not being able to provide significant contribution is going to lose even if they played a 10th seed team.

    No…I don’t think it’s because Memphis had the “luxury” to prepare for the Spurs. To me it’s more of the Spurs just don’t have (in multiple categories) what it takes anymore to win a series.

    Somebody once posted on this site that if the Spurs can’t get past Memphis…what makes them think they could get past anybody else. Perhaps it’s best it ends with the hope something can be done to change the future of Spurs basketball for the better. Even if that takes several years of change and struggle.

  • badger

    Ash B, you suck!

  • badger

    Ash B, you suck!

  • badger

    Ash B, you suck!

  • idahospur

    3 games to win: 2 are at home. Parker’s shooting came back last night but we need more than one good player each night. Whatever can be done to reduce turnovers and make 3’s. If someone isn’t making shots, they should know not to shoot.

  • idahospur

    3 games to win: 2 are at home. Parker’s shooting came back last night but we need more than one good player each night. Whatever can be done to reduce turnovers and make 3’s. If someone isn’t making shots, they should know not to shoot.

  • idahospur

    3 games to win: 2 are at home. Parker’s shooting came back last night but we need more than one good player each night. Whatever can be done to reduce turnovers and make 3’s. If someone isn’t making shots, they should know not to shoot.

  • badger

    Well said, Glenn. You are obviously a dedicated fan who should celebrate this moment and see how far the momentum can take them. Congrats to you and your team. They’ve played physical, but not dirty. Their plan against SA has been very well executed. Although I don’t count the Spurs out completely, it is the longest of longshots to think that they could take Memphis 3 games in a row, especially given the momentum they have at this point.

  • Bob

    Good point. Grizzlies are taking out the role players. The big 3 has to be big. Last night Parker had it going except he kept trying to make plays against the ultra aggressive defense. He’s got to really look to score or draw fouls on the bigs. He also has to know where the help is coming from. I think Ginobili still can own Tony Allen one on one. He’s got to attack him. Duncan has a slight speed advantage on Gasol he can use. They need to try to force some switches so he can work on someone smaller in the post. Like you said they could also use Splitter to shoot over Randolph. Splitter’s too tall for Randolph to bother the shot and Randolph isn’t a shot blocker. Also a guy like Gary Neal who’s fearless needs to play more.

  • tradeTP…after 2 more rings

    The funny thing is we didnt start to suck until McDyess started games. We have a losing record 9-10 games hes starting STRANGE

  • Hassan

    Excellent point, you basically wrote what I have been thinking of…..

  • rrw

    Here’s another observation from the enemy: you fans of the Spurs need to become their source of energy. I’ve read the comments here and other places about how they haven’t done this or that, or about how old they are, but I’m not seeing anything about what you are planning to bring to the table. Memphis represented these past two games. Many of us never sat, and no one stayed quiet for more than a minute.

    Listen, you’ve got hall-of-fame coaching and talent that has delivered consistently for over a decade. Now in their hour of need, you’ve become analysts sitting back and complaining about the would-a could-a’s. Your team doesn’t need to know that they’re aging or that they haven’t played up to their potential – if anything, they’re beating themselves up even more than you guys are.

    Your team doesn’t need analysts or even spectators – they need fans. They need rear-ends in the seats (and preferably out of them) who are hollering at the Grizzlies, yelling at the refs, and screaming even louder FOR your Spurs. So all day tomorrow you guys need to quit the pity party and start figuring out what your role is going to be. Either shut up and let these guys fade ignominiously into NBA history, or get to the AT&T Center and BRING IT. Personally, I sincerely hope that you guys show the rest of us how fans of a championship team should sound. Win or lose, return the respect that your Spurs have given you all these years.

  • Sam

    Wow the perfect inspiration for the Spurs right now are the Magic. Who saw the game? Magic demolished the Hawks and their slogan was “Energy is Contagious” Dwight Howard only scored 8 points. DWIGHT HOWARD SCORED 8 POINTS AND THE MAGIC WON ?!?!?!?!??! The Magic bench was pathetic the first 4 games *cough Spurs cough* and they really stepped up tonight. Great game for the Magic and i’m sure this momentum will carry to game 6 and they will be able to force a game 7. Good luck to the Magic and I hope that the Spurs use this as inspiration.

  • Othello250

    Peter Holt will stop at nothing to sell out the big phone booth!

  • TD BestEVER

    Ya because Blair was scoring more and rebounding better as a starter than as a bench player……… POP just has pushed all of the wrong buttons and the wrong time these past few years…………

  • http://spursworld.wordpress.com Robby Lim

    The Spurs entered the playoffs not in full strength, I know it’s been done and get over with. But maybe, just maybe If Ginobili had played in Game 1 the Spurs should at least tied in this series and not down 1-3. Yet again, it’s not over till it’s over.

  • Gomezd

    I think this is the spurs lowest point since getting Tim. Last season when we were swept by phoenix it didnt feel as hopeless as this, hell we beat mavs manus nose was obviously an issue and the suns 3 shooters were scorching. When we lost to the Mavs 2 seasons ago we were so banged up we really couldnt do much, this is the first time when we have had a healthy core, a healthy Tim and we are getting outcoahed and simply outplayed by an average team (no offence to memphis, they are perhaps better than a 8th seed but they havent played spectacular, they have just played better than us) it hurts, if we manage to win this series and get past the thunder this might all be forgotten soon, but until then we are so deep in the hole its hard to see a way out.

  • Bry

    It’s just a bad series. It happens. When you go through a funk during the regular season (as every team did this year), people just called it ‘a bad stretch’. When you do it in the playoffs, you get eliminated. Coming into this series Memphis was known for mediocre D (they are vastly improved, and now have Battier) not defending the 3-ball (again, playing far better now than during the season) and poor wing players (now thriving on defense – and gaining Battier). The Spurs hit 40% from 3 (not they can’t hit the broad side of a barn), didn’t turn the ball over often (now constantly) and didn’t foul. Ginobili was not an injured shadow, Duncan didn’t shoot once every five minutes, Hill was in the debate for most improved player, Blair was a rebounding machine, and Bonner led the league in 3-point percentage. Popovich was a genius and Duncan was still a defensive cornerstone just playing fewer minutes. All of things I listed have disappeared. They didn’t disappear because suddenly Memphis is a fast rising team, and suddenly the Spurs are old and flawed. They disappeared because the Spurs are playing bad uncharacteristic ball, and the Grizzlies (including their coach) are simply out-executing us. You don’t win 60 games with the big three intact and suddenly become a paper tiger. Just like the Grizzlies weren’t mediocre all season and suddenly become an NBA elite team. I really hope they do well in the next round. But, I doubt they will.

  • DorieStreet

    I think the Grizzlies will hold their own in the conference semifinals. Against the Thunder they went 3-1, with one win in OKC; they went 1-2 against the Nuggets. In all seven games Memphis and those 2 opponents each scored 100+ points (I don’t expect that to happen but a few times.)

    Teams in all sports improve, decline, remain steady, or do some combination of each through the course of a season. The Grizziles struggled the first 3 months of the season, always 2-4 gamess below .500. Then the last week of Janurary they evened out their record to 24-24, then won at a .650 clip the rest of the way. Their longest losing streaks since that point were 2 games– once in Feb,, once in March, and once in April (the last 2 games of the regular season–the “tanked” games). Their 8th place finish masked the improvement the team made in its ability to compete and succeed.

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  • Bruno

    What happen with the posts about Neal/Splitter/Game 5??