Tuesday , Apr , 29 , 2008 C.Y. Ellis

San Antonio Spurs: Set Yourself on Fire

San Antonio Spurs: Set Yourself on Fire

When there’s nothing left to burn you have to set yourself on fire…

The Suns were going to come out inspired in game four, everybody in San Antonio with the appropriate brain cells firing off knew this. That wasn’t the problem.

The problem, as one local Spurs fan told me, is whether or not the Spurs would “lay back and take it easy.”

It’s hard to start calling out the effort and/or desire of a team that’s up 3-1 in a playoff series, against a fine opponent, but taking a 86-105 ‘broom stick up the ass’ beating earns you the right to get your manhood questioned, I don’t care who you are, or how many games you’re up.

Spin it anyway you want, for whatever reason the Spurs came out devoid of the focus and desire necessary to close out a playoff series. No, it wasn’t a must win for the Spurs. And yes, Phoenix deserves a lot of credit for the guts they showed and the way they played. But the problem isn’t so much that the Spurs dropped one on the verge of a sweep – because honestly a lot of teams do – or that Phoenix manned up and scathed off elimination.

The problem, as one local Spurs fan told me, is that we all knew they would – “they always do.”

The initial reaction I had to game four, indeed the words I was vehemently yelling at my TV screen, was something close to, “make a fucking shot already!” The Spurs shot a collective 32-82, that’s 39 percent for you math majors. And it’s not just that they were missing shots – they were missing open shots. It isn’t just the fifteen turnovers, it’s that so many of those were careless, unforced errors.

The Spurs generally looked inept offensively throughout the entire game. Tony Parker, who had a personal fiesta every time he took he floor in the first three games, looked like he was playing with a  hangover.

Bad offense is something to be expected from time to time, but the struggles the Spurs had in game four were indicative of carelessness and lack of focus.

The Spurs have had bad offensive games before, I mean shit, they’re the Spurs. The idea is that they’re supposed to be able to win games even when they struggle offensively. It’s based on this little concept called defense.

Defense, as defined in the Oxford English Dictionary, is described as not letting the Phoenix Suns run a goddamn train up your ass. Secondary definitions include: hustling your lazy ass back on defense, and not committing stupid fouls on defense because your lazy.

I think the Spurs need an English lesson. Or perhaps a History course to remind them of how they used to play defense.

I said it immediately after two quarters, “you can’t win allowing 65 points per half – no one can.” I can deal with the struggling offense, really I can. The Spurs can win without running up the score. But when the San Antonio Spurs start allowing absurd amounts of points, they lose, period. Lack of effort, lack of focus, and lack of intensity get reflected in the results, or lack thereof, of your defense.

And yes, to Phoenix’s credit they played a good game. Raja Bell finally decided if he was going to take all those threes he might as well make a few, and Boris Diaw started making good on all that ‘too quick for bigs, to big for quicks’ nonsense we’ve been hearing for three years now. They deserve their props. So, props.

The offense will come around for the Spurs, I have no doubts about that. As for their defense, that depends largely on coach Gregg Popovich and how much of a fire he lights underneath his guys leading up to game five. Knowing coach Pop and the way the Spurs respond to a challenge that shouldn’t be a problem either.

The problem, even if it doesn’t matter in the long run, is that inexplicable lapse the Spurs seem unable to avoid, the one that will nag me no matter what.

The problem, as one local Spurs fan told me, is that every time the Spurs seem in absolute control, they have to set themselves on fire.

[image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/heyvikram/]