San Antonio Spurs 94, Boston Celtics 73

by

Given the caliber of the opponent, the margin of victory and where the game was held, I think it’s fair to describe the San Antonio Spurs 94-73 win over the Boston Celtics this evening as the Spurs most dominant win of the season. Tonight’s contest was the last in a grueling five game stretch during which the Spurs managed to go 3-2 against five of the toughest teams in the league. Let’s be honest– that ain’t bad.

The star of tonight’s game was Manu Ginobili. His stat line, although impressive, in no way does justice to the performance he put on this evening. His 28 points were only slightly above par compared to how he has been playing as of late (Yes, he has been averaging nearly that many points-per-game recently). He shot 9-19 from the field and 2-8 from beyond the arc; neither are remarkable. The statistic that accurately captures how unstoppable he was this evening was his plus/minus: +36.

There are so many little things Manu did over the course of the game– tip long rebounds to teammates; force unexpected turnovers; make clever, accurate passes –that, given my affinity for the granular, I’m tempted to focus on this or that forgettable but telling moment. But given how earth-shatteringly awesome two specific plays were (you know the one’s I am referring to), I am going to give into temptation and embrace the spectacle that is el contusion.

Having thoroughly searched both the play-by-play and the box score, I believe the first of these two moments may never have been officially recorded. I’m referring to the fact that Ginobili finished the night with 0 blocks when, in actuality, he blocked Kevin Garnett so viciously that, for a moment, it looked like he may have booked the Big Ticket a one-way trip to the locker room.

I don’t believe Ginobili was assessed a foul on the play; the Celtics retained possession because he was unable to gain control of the ball after the block and it was lost out-of-bounds (also the play-by-play has no record of a shooting foul on Garnett by Ginobili). I assume the scorekeeper neglected to note that Ginobili blocked Garnett with so much force that he threw a man who outweighs him by 50 pounds straight into the ground. That wasn’t just a block; it was a statement.

My other favorite moment (or, more accurately, series of moments) came at the end of the third quarter. After a pair of Paul Pierce free throws, the Spurs were left with 36 seconds to manage. The ball was pushed up the floor quickly, but not sloppily, and Ginobili found George Hill in the corner. Hill sank the three, pushing the lead back up to 14 and ensuring that the Spurs would go into the fourth ahead by double digits. There were 28 seconds left on the clock– just enough time to get a stop and hurry up the floor for a last second shot attempt.

After a stout defensive possession, DeJuan Blair rebounded a missed mid-range jumper by Paul Pierce. Blair fed the ball to a sprinting Ginobili, who passed the half-court line and rose into the air. He hung there for a moment as the milliseconds ticked by, extended his left arm, and banked in a long three-pointer as the buzzer sounded. There were 12 minutes left to be played, but Ginobili had made himself clear: San Antonio was leaving town with this one.

Eleven other Spurs saw the floor during tonight’s game but, in all honesty, I hardly remember how any of them played. (OK, so maybe I remember but a) it’s getting late and b) it’s a rhetorical tool.) All I can remember is the unstoppable whirlwind that was Manu Ginobili.

  • JB

    Very well written Graydon.

    I must say, despite all of the season long analysis here, Ginobli does give one a moment to simply believe the unbelievable.

    GO SPURS GO!

  • DanielB

    Manu isn’t human. He can’t be. Have mercy on us all, for we are not worthy.

  • wannabe_fan

    3-2 and with a couple of bounces our (Tim’s) way, it would have been 5-0. Yeah, I’ll take it.

    We’re not going to be the champs, but even if we are the 8th seed, I guarantee we will be the team no one wants to face. Personally, I want the suns in the 1st round. Once again, peaking at the right time.

    Great win guys, way to go Manu!

    OK, let the haters come on down and let the hating begin…

  • ruth bader ginobili

    Great five game stretch! Really, close to winning all of them.

    Devil’s advocate: Lakers, Cavs, and Celtics were each missing their best interior defender. Still, pretty awesome, especially without Tony.

    Love how Manu doesn’t look surprised that his one-handed bank-shot three pointer went in

  • BigBalls

    Pop deserves to be tossed a bone. Best coaching effort of the year. It is a shame that 1/3 of his team had to quit on him before he arrived at a place of making sound coaching decisions. And of course, Manu has risen, to save his bacon!

  • BigBalls

    Right now at least, Manu Ginobli covers a multitude of Spur sins. After a 2 1/2 absence, he is finally playing at pre 2007 levels. I wonder if its the contract year thing?

  • quincyscott

    What I was most impressed with tonight was the defense. The Spurs look much, much sharper defending their basket than they did even a month ago. Blocking shots near the rim, rotating to shooters, even after several passes, playing the pick and roll with a lot of energy, trapping the post–they did a lot of really nice individual things, and all looked like they were on the same page. It’s the defense that has been my biggest worry this season, but I do believe they are hitting their stride now.

  • http://mysa.com JL0

    What was up with nearly half the team hitting the locker room before the end of the game? My heart skipped a beat when I saw Manu heading towards the locker room.

  • DNITCH

    That game was awesome, glad we could pick up the win.

    Also if yall haven’t done so already, do take the time to enjoy this Manu highlight from the game as well.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCqefcY7lpI

  • VP of Common Sense

    May every article and comment of trading Manu Ginobili be stricken from the Internet.

    It’s funny to think about how upset us fans get when the Spurs don’t play well and lose. I guarentee we are not even in the same hemisphere of how upset Manu must get.

    Ginobili is a winner and always has been.

    We are not worthy Manu.

  • Hobson13

    Yeah, 3-2 isn’t too bad especially in light of how we lost those two. We lost in OT at the Hawks when we were up by 4 with a minute left to go. We should have won that one, but didn’t execute in the last minute. Seems like the story of the season. We lost by 9 to the Lakers, but in all reality, it was neck and neck for virtually the entire game. The Lakers took the lead and then had a small 7-0 run (I believe) to wipe us out.

    I know they were both losses and we can’t make excuses, but it isn’t like early in the season when we were getting our chops busted against good teams. We lost two VERY competitive, playoff atmosphere games to two very good teams. This team really is coming around with Manu playing his best ball in 2 years, RJ finding some mojo, and GHill doing a nice job filling in for Parker. Hell, the team is playing good ball and yet all Duncan has provided are rebounds and defense. He’s struggled big time to score lately. Hope he can get some of his lift back before playoffs, even though it isn’t likely.

    It seems obvious to me that the big difference is our defensive intensity and rotations. I’m not quite sure why it took 60+ games for us to understand defense, but if you look at all 5 of our last opponents, only the Hawks (the OT game) scored 100 pts. We played damned good defense against the Lakers and Celtics and held OKC (at home) and the Cavs to under 100. To go even further, in the month of March, we have held 12 of 15 teams to below 97 pts. The three that scored more were the Hawks, Magic, and Warriors; all high octane teams. If our defense can crank it up one more notch and improve our offensive execute at the end of games, we may have a chance to do more than just get booted out in the first round.

  • AP

    Nice article, Graydon. We’ve missed your analysis.
    Watching Ginobili tear it up like this makes up for the earlier pain of the season.
    Watching this Ginobili Renaissance has been one of the finest experiences of my basketball fanhood lifetime.

  • ChillFAN

    Sorry Garnett, join the club with all the other stars that Ginobili has simply punked.
    Solid win. Missed game, wish I could have seen Fin’s matador defense. Please, please, any thoughts on Finley’s d?

  • stephen

    Manu Ginobili blows my mind. He is a major beast. Great article!

  • junierizzle

    Regardless of how the season turns out, watching MANU has been a thing of beauty.

    Of course 3-2 is a big deal. Prior to the 5 game stretch “experts” picked this period to make or break the SPURS. At best they should’ve been 4-1 (Hawks game)
    Also I would like to add that both the HAwks and LAkers were credited as having BIG wins against the SPURS. That also says something.

    And we still have TP coming in!!

    It aint over til it’s over.

  • buns

    You can see the block-that-disapeared in the NBA recap of the game (54th s)
    http://www.nba.com/video/games/celtics/2010/03/28/0020901095_SAS_BOS_recap.nba/
    I guess they saw an uncompleted interception or something, although Garnett was obviously going at the rim. Huge play; huge Manu.

    The current standings in the West are quite incredibly tight. 3½ games separate Dallas (2nd) from Portland (8th). OKC (7th) has only two more losses than Denver(3rd). From that it’s hard to predict what the mathups will be in the first round.
    I haven’t seen a lot of games featuring SA’s possible opponent: what do you guys think would be the best suit for the Spurs? Are Dallas Denver or Utah the real worst case scenario?

  • Art

    Manu’s block was Jordanesque. I watched so many Jordan games where he would come flying from the weak side or behind to block a seven-footer’s jump shot.

    As for the buzzer-beater, it reminded me of Manu’s backcourt buzzer-beater in Game 1(?) of the 2005 playoffs against the Suns. Manu’s skills and swagger seem to be coming together. Hope RJ will continue to play like he did last night and McDyess will start finding his shooting range.

  • grego

    @Chillfan – RJ definitely enjoyed going up against Finley. I believe he had 2 plays that were solid against Finley.

  • Nick (Italy)

    Great article.
    This summer, we’ll have to pay a lot of money to keep Manu in town…
    Best,
    N

  • David G

    I wouldn’t want to face the Jazz on the first round, seems they have us all figured out.

  • duaneofly

    That block was crazy!

  • ITGuy

    Go Spurs Go!!

  • BALLHOG

    Great win. Couldnt afford a loss here. Race is entirely too tight.

    Team is communicating a lil better and rotating better on D. Rotations still suck, but thanks to Boston sucking even more, we get the W.

    Still too many minutes for Bonner…23 minutes should yield more production.

    Mcdyess logging 18 minutes as starting PF is odd, especially when his replacement is ineffective. Is he injured?

    Bogans, still funny as hell to me. The joke will be on us if we continue on with this scrub in the playoffs.

    As for Mr. Ginnobli. Each awsome game he puts together makes me more concerned about his status after the season.

    Would he actually return to Spurs at 6-7mil a year? Is he that dedicated to the silver and black that he is willing to leave millions on the table? Hope so….

    Sad thing is that the team will be in the same predicament as it was a year ago. Retooling.

    The team retooled last season. Added pieces and ended up running those pieces out of town. Team went into the offseason admitting that it needed more athleticism and size, but went in a different direction midseason.

    What causes me concern is the obvious. We have a scouting department that looks at these players, as does the coach and FO.

    Yet we continue to bring in, evalutate, and even sign players that we arent sure of. Why bring in players that you dont intend to play? Cant we tell whether a player can contribute, BEFORE we sign them to a contract?

    Even during the draft, we choose another Euro guard who never dawned a uniform, as if we needed no help. As if we couldnt have chosen a player from the thousands of avialable college players that could help off the bench. Then the 3 D League guards added late season was yet another head scratcher.

    As fans, If someone were to ask you what the Spurs will do in the offseason, would you even have a clue? Can it be gauged? Is there even a possible educated guess?

    Here is hoping that they make us contenders. That they lock down Ginnobli and surround him with ballers. With a few additions, the West can still be had.

  • pastrypride

    That was a very fun game to watch as a Spurs fan. In the first half, Manu carried the offense on his back. When he went out, the team looked helpless offensively. Luckily, the Spurs’ D was good and Boston’s offense was bad.

    The most encouraging thing about the game, I though, was RJ. A very efficient 16 points in limited minutes, good rebounding, good hussle. If he can keep playing aggressively and with intensity like last night, he’ll help a lot. I also though McDyess and Bonner were good. Blair made a few blunders but made up for it outrebounding and outhussling the Boston bigs.

    The obvious worry was Tim Duncan. He got a decent number of rebounds for his minutes. But he couldn’t create his own shot at all; he didn’t even try to. As a result, he scores the same way as McDyess. The last few games, he takes catch and shoot midrange jumpers.

    Duncan clearly isn’t healthy, and this is by far the biggest issue for the team right now. If he can get healthy and if the rest of the team sustaining this level, we’ll be a tough out in the playoffs. And if both of the above hold, AND if Parker comes back and can play at a high level in time, we might even make the second round. But those are three ifs, and I’m not sure how probable any of them are.

    I will say this: I think the best teams for us to get in the first round are Denver and Phoenix. If Denver doesn’t have Kenyon Martin, or if he’s not 100% for them, given the way we’ve been playing, I think we can take them out. From what I’ve seen, Denver’s defense has been horrendous lately. They really miss K-Mart.

  • Michael Finely

    I along with all of the other posters on 48minutes gave up on the team far to early this season. The naysayers screamed “Trade Timmy! Trade Paker! Trade Manu… Trade RJ and fire Pop!!!”

    Now… I am on another contender who is long in the tooth. I left playing a great situation to get minutes on team that only has one championship. I feel like the bassist from Metalica (Jason Newstead) who left to join a garage band because he could get more credit. Bad mistake.

  • BALLHOG

    @ Pastrypride

    In ref our best cahnce draw for playoffs being Denver or Phoenix…Agreed.

    However, with Duncan struggling as part of an already undersized and under manned front line, it is a toss up.

    We lost to the Lakers in a game that they didnt play well in. We win a game against a disintrested Cavs team, and now a win against Boston, who also played badly.

    Seems that a 7 game series against a team with a strong front court, will be our 2010 season challenge above all other challenges.

    As for Spurs, they are playing better basketball of late. But, too many jumpers. Especially when your center and your PF have also resorted to jump shots.

    Truth of it is,

    Thank heavens that Jefferson is hitting the boards. Without his rebounding effort, we would be in trouble.

    Can we go into the playoffs depending on our SF to bail us out on the glass?

  • agutierrez

    The aftermath of Manu’s block on Garnett … him laid out flat on his back, was emblematic of the entire night: Manu, virtually single-handedly, laid out Boston flat on its ass.

  • BALLHOG

    Another Spurs cast away, another PF, makes good. Given a viable opportunity to play, Anthony Toliver signs long term contract with Warriors.

    In his last game, T went for season high 30 pts…

    Considered a scrub in SA….

    Somebody help me figure it out……Who is evaluating talent in San Antonio?

    and, what are they smoking?

  • OneWing

    @Bollhog – The same guys that evaluated Tony Parker/Manu Ginobili/George Hill and basically revolutionized the way the entire NBA approaches overseas scouting and second round draft picks.

    Are you at all capable of posting anything positive, or are you just a troll that we should start ignoring outright?

    And anyone else notice the significant drop-off in Jefferson hate on these comments lately (myself included)? The guys is playing like the legit fourth option we were wanting him to be.

  • Trade TP

    ONEWING- The same guys that evaluated Bogans, Bonner, Ian, etc. Hill was the only “STRETCH” that we made. Just because Ballhog doesnt approve or sheepishly follow everything that our organization does make him a “troll.”

    It just means he has his own ideas about the team and what would make them more successful. We’ve seen what doesnt work, yet blind fans seem to think the current course is the best route. Instead of name-calling why not debate or argue your or his point?

  • idahospur

    There will be a lot of teams that will be spending big money on LeBron and Bosh, then there will be the next level of teams that are wanting Manu to come on their team.
    After looking at this 3-2 stretch, this team can beat good teams, and can develop strategies to compete in a 7 game series (as long as they do not get tired).
    This team knows how to win, and I’m convinced Duncan is playing back seat role to rest up and let Manu go back in time to 2005.

  • lvmainman

    Kudos to Jefferson for being more assertive in going to the basket and grabbing defensive rebounds. Pop has finally gotten thru to him on those aspects.

    Pop needs to get him to stop shooting jumpers, especially when the Spurs are in the bonus. That 3 pt shot that was blocked came with like 15 seconds on the shot clock with the Spurs in the bonus. Pop told Jefferson to bend his knees to catch the ball instead of driving to the hole with the Spurs in the bonus.

    When was the last time anyone has seen Jefferson make a jumper? Every basket yesterday came via a shot in the paint.

  • Mr. Anonymous

    Nice to win.

    Depressing to see as Manu raises his game, Duncan’s starts to fall.

    This season is painful.

  • agutierrez

    Chillfan: Michael Finley “D” is an oxymoron.

    On the issue of the FO’s prescience on Manu: don’t forget that in 1999 when they picked Manu at 57, they also had the 29th pick and selected one Leon Smith. Sometimes it’s genius, sometimes it’s pure luck.

  • Chris K.

    Sour grapes from Shaugnessy of the Boston Globe:
    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/dan_shaughnessy/03/29/duncan.spurs/index.html?eref=sihp

    Says it’s “absurd” to call Tim Duncan one of the Top 10 players of all time.

    I’ll let our readers have at him.

  • Cheyenne Harty

    Well, it looks like the Spurs are on their way to another 50-win season. Never would have thought this a couple of weeks ago. I’m impressed.

    By the way, great game last night. Really liked the bench’s aggressive play. Loved watching Blair get back into form, though I cringe at his young-pup knack for stupid fouls. Hopefully this will improve next year.

    The most important question right now is what to do with Parker and Ginobili once his Frenchness comes back. Should Parker come off the bench now that Pop has found an effective starting five? Or should he start, so Duncan can benefit from the duo’s longstanding pick and roll relationship? Also, I can’t remember the last time Parker came off the bench, and I worry whether he will be able to transition into that role during such a short time frame.

    Unfortunately, whatever the decision, it seems that by playoffs Pop will still be tinkering with the rotation.

  • rj

    @ mr anonymous.

    we are winning, aren’t we? isn’t it an added bonus that we got so little from tim in this game and still won?

    he will be productive come playoff time.

  • spursdude

    hey graydon did you happen to see dan shaugnnessy column about tim duncan not in the top 10 best nba players. talk about homer’s but come one man that guy is an idiot

  • BALLHOG

    @ Trade TP

    Beautiful response to OneWing…THX for the assist.

    @ lvmainman

    Masterful post indeed. Ahhh, I see that you too can see the truth. You are correct on Jefferson. Bringing him in here and trying to convert him to a spot up shooter was ridiculous. He is not that player. Jeff driving the ball to the rim and getting to the line is his MO.

    Took a season for Pop to figure that out. In the process, Jeff looks like a scrub and he is just another player to be devalued by this coach. His trade value has plunged due to that coaching error.

    As for the Spurs chances this season, Doesnt look promising to me. Not hell bent on negative, just a realist. Right now, things seemto be improving. Teams seems to have played better basketball.

    However, what happens when Ginnobli has an off night?

    Its the reason that playing Hairston early in the season was so very critical. Now its too late. Hairston will be needed in the playoffs. Why continue to sit him? Especially in the upcomming NJ game.

    Just hoping not to see this kid thrown into the fire during a playoff series following multiple DNP’s. Not good for him or the team.

    Assuming that we win a 7 game playoff series with our current frontcourt, and Bonner and Bogans logging 20+ minutes per game seems far fetched.

    Sitting our only center for the entire season might bite us in a crunch as well…

    We will see….

  • Big Whit

    Will (or should) Tim play tonight? I say no.

  • therealkman

    It was a very impressive win by the Spurs. My unsong hero was Jefferson. He was relentless on the defensive board and attacked often on the offensive end. Can the Spurs over take the Mavs for the Division title?

  • junierizzle

    @BUNS

    I think the toughest series would be against the JAZZ. I still think the SPURS would win but it would be hard.

    1.It’s hard as hell winning in UTAH. Even if you are up by 15 in the 4th you might end up losing by 15.
    2.BOOZER plays like GOD against the SPURS. Why he can’t shoot over GASOL the same way he shoots over DUNCAN is beyond me.
    3. THey are great shooter. EVEN AK47 doesn’t miss against the SPURS.
    4. CONFIDENCE, especailly after sweeping the SPurs this season. They know they can beat the SPURS. As opposed to other seasons when they knew they couldn’t, no matter what.

  • Mr. Anonymous

    To say ‘Tim will bring it come playoffs’ is merely conjecture at this point, and I know he has a great track record… But I’m a pessimist, lol. All I can see is a player who has substantially dropped off for the past 3 months.

  • SpursfanSteve

    I think the primary reason (or the reason behind the reason) for Ballhog’s (and other’s) disagreements with what seems like the majority of poster’s here is that he is more of a positional purist. Whereas most of us see “Bigs” and “Smalls” Ballhog sees Centers, Power Forwards, Small Forwards, Shooting Guards, and Point Guards. For instance, Tony Parker is an excellent guard- and an excellent point guard for our team. He initiates the offense and does whatever needs to be done with the ball. Sometimes thats shoot, sometimes that is get an assist, and sometimes it is pass the ball back to the perimeter where it gets passed again. In most of those cases, he doesnt get an assist, which is one of the things many people measure PG production off of, but he did what was best to help the team win. Many people see no assists and say the he shoots too much, which if you look at his shot efficiency ratings show thats not really the case. Jason Kidd is the opposite. He is what most people think of when they think of point guards. He racks up assists like crazy.

    The point is, most of the disagreements on here seem to be “Blair is not a Center- he’s only 6’6″ or “Bonner cant jump and doesnt play in the paint, so he cant be a Center”. But over the past few weeks, against the top competition, Bonner has averaged about a block and a steal a game- a feat that would put him as an above average Center in the league (especially coming off the bench like he has been). Add this into the normal justification for his seeing more than spot bench duty (him spreading the floor), and it’s clear to see that he is DEFINITELY earning his minutes, even if he never dunks again this season. I’ve strayed a bit from my original point- i believe that positional lines are blurring. Tony is not a “PG” he’s the small guy and the initiator of our offense.

    Ugh. I ranted. I dont know if any of that actually supported my point. But on to another tangent:

    He’s not the best athlete, but he is probably one of the best ROLE players in the league. Role players dont really play by position. They do what needs to be done to make their team better- and Bonner makes the team better. That being said, Bonner would never be a first option for any team. Or a second, or a third. But he makes good teams better. Put him on a bad team, and 9 games out of 10 he’s going to be in over his head and make that team look worse. He’s earned his PT and i hope he continues to get 20-25 minutes a game.

  • Jim Henderson

    Just FYI, nobody brought RJ over here to simply be a spot up shooter. That’s a ludicrous suggestion bent on painting Pop & the FO as scapegoats, or as clueless, or both, which is clearly NOT the case. No, for some reason RJ HIMSELF could not get comfortable driving the ball earlier on. That’s almost completely on him. There’s never been anything inherent to the Spurs system that precludes anyone, including RJ, from taking the ball hard to the rack, on a regular basis (Pop & FO NEVER expected RJ to “mirror” Bowen role). Look at Hairston. He’s never had a problem with it, and his penchant for taking the ball to the rack is NOT the reason he’s seen limited playing time this year.

  • Jim Henderson

    By the way, the biggest thing that has happened as a result of having some success against very tough opponents over the past five games is that the team is actually starting to get their confidence back. As you all know, CONFIDENCE is huge in basketball, both as an individual, and as a team. It’s very important that they keep building on this heading into the playoffs to avoid an early exit.

  • Eric

    Bonner is productive because he KNOWS he is a scrub. I like that about him. He knows he is limited and that’s why he tries his hardest so he can get the most out of his limitations. If only everyone played like that we’d win every year. We need more people to play like him. Not more people like him, but more people that play to their potential.

    PS: Manu plays that way also. They’re the only two players in this team that do.

    Having said that, I think we have a shot this year. Everyone is scared of us now. If Parker comes back, they’ll start Parker, Hill, Bogans, Duncan and Dice. They all play good together (See TD’s numbers with and without Parker).

    Then you bring RJ and Manu off the bench (with Hill, Bonner, and Blair) and you have a 48 minute wrecking crew. I can’t wait for Tony to come back and Duncan to step it up. GO SPURS GO!!!

  • Jim Miller (jimjule)

    Parker’s return??? I’m guessing Tony starts, Hill plays the two and Manu is the point forward. Jefferson will have to split time with McDyess according to who the opponents have on the floor and Timmy does what he does. That will keep the three point threat available, which Jefferson falls short on and still maintain the pick and role options from the Spurs three guard offense. Jefferson has looked real good on the boards lately and might work well as a undersized power forward. Going up with big lineups like the Lakers will insert McDyess for Jefferson. The weakest link with this starting lineup is Parker’s defense against point guards who can post him up. The big question is who will take over as the instant offense player off the bench. I wonder if the newly acquired Alonzo Gee can fill that bill.

  • Renato

    Two things: first its great to see the spurs playing good basketball again. Last night was an illustration of what i expected all year, except put hills points as parkers. Jefferson played what the spurs expected out of him 12-16 pts with some rebounds.

    Second: I hope pop is smart when parker returns. The team is playing great right now. Dont mess the rotation. While Parker is great and Im not one of those trade parker ppl, Im saying let him come off the bench and then finish games. Way manu did for so long during championship years. In fact, it might be more benefitial to parker as he currently is to come off the bench

  • phoebus

    Buns, Ballhog, Pastrypride et al on matchups/seeding:

    Strategically, the West bracket as it stands right now seems to be just about ideal. Climbing up to the 2 or 3 seed seems very unlikely given our remaining SOS, and the 4 or 5 would probably mean 1) playing Utah in the 1st round (bad), and 2) facing LA in the 2nd (obviously bad). So the 6 or 7 is not only somewhat likely-looking, but the matchups definitely favor us.

    So as the 6 or 7, we’d likely have Denver and Dallas, in either order, in the 1st and 2nd rounds. As stated, Denver, especially w/o K-Mart, can’t get us on D at all. Popovich’s gameplan on D is kryptonite to Anthony’s game (see also Durant.) Dallas, while not as ideal an athletic matchup for us, I have a feeling is a team that puts fire in the bellies of TD, Parker, and Ginobili. 2006 and 2009 are why. True, Carlisle has as good a shot as anyone (other than Sloan, Zen Master, and Stan Van) in mitigating the Spurs’ coaching advantage. I just have a feeling that Ginobili has some imposition of iron will that he’d be especially eager to pull on the Mavs.

    Chances of beating both of them, then? Difficult, but far from undoable. Especially given Manu’s ability to control games whereas neither Den nor Dal has a player comparably gifted. Short list of those who are in the WC: Bryant, healthy Paul, very healthy Roy, future Durant, occasional Deron.

    On to the hypothetical WCF, and the *really* important reason why the Jazz need to stay on the Lakers’ side of the bracket and away from ours: not only are those 2 teams the best in WC at beating us, they’re extremely good at thrashing on each other. Not so much this year, when LA’s had Utah’s number, but remember 2008 when the outmatched Jazz took them to the rack? Jackson and Sloan inspire each others’ A-games. Though it would likely be the Lakers, it’s easy to envision whoever comes out of that series being very, very tired.

    Against the Lakers in the WCF, we would of course be heavy underdogs. But an imagined Spurs team that had even gotten that far would of course be a much stronger, in-their-groove one. Better than last night’s Spurs even, with TP back and the hypothetical notches in the belt of having just slain 2 favored opponents.

    6/7 seeds, of course, don’t go to the finals in the NBA. African-American presidential candidates don’t get nominated, much less elected, either. But sometimes the circumstances in favor of a very unlikely scenario click in to place, and we *might* be seeing that right now. Still a lot of if’s. If Parker coming back doesn’t create a cohesion crunch between his minutes and Hill’s. If TD’s knees don’t get nailed somehow (knock on wood), because that’s always a possibility.

    One insinuation that keeps popping up around here is that Ginobili’s triumphal return has something or other to do with a contract. A) Who cares, B) We have no idea about the real dynamic between Manu and the FO, C) He’s creating wins, not just stats, which is always the difference between a deserved, valuable contract push and a merely self-serving one, and D) Hell I’m glad. I wouldn’t have wanted the FO to have any excuse for letting him walk, even if he’d had a terrible season. He might not have been as dominant as TD or as healthy as Parker over the years, but to a lot of Spurs fans, he’s always been the most entertaining, pride-inducing guy on the team.