By Chris Le
Order has been restored in the universe, as the Western Conference favorites, who were upset in their series-openers, set things straight and defeated their lower-seeded foes. In the first game, the San Antonio Spurs evened their series against the Denver Nuggets at one game apiece with a 97-88 win.
A few things came to mind as I was watching the game. The Spurs always allow a role player from the opposing team to simply go off on them. Last year’s opening round saw Bonzi Wells turn into Wilt Chamberlain, absolutely abusing San Antonio, and Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who had never even come close to sniffing a single second in the playoffs until that series, plays the his best basketball of the season. There was Andre Miller and Earl Boykins having monster games against the Spurs in the 2005 postseason.
This time, it’s Nene Hilario. Though his numbers aren’t entirely eye-popping, they belie his play on the court. He’s been a man among boys, even against Tim Duncan, muscling the two-time MVP on both ends of the court. But the thing with the Spurs is they usually keep a lock on everybody else, and they did a decent job this time around, limiting Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson to a combined 46 points — a significant drop from the 61 they managed to score in game 1.
Also, I’m afraid Tony Parker is continuing his run of dud performances in the postseason. While he did score 20 points and dish out 6 assists, he also committed 6 turnovers. And when Denver really started to press the issue and mounted a small comeback, his play, though not going completely down the drain, suffered significantly. When the game is on the line, he becomes overly aggressive, often times wild with his drives to the hoop and his jumper becoming gut-wrenchingly erratic.
In the waning minutes of the game, Manu Ginobili, the team’s clutch go-to scorer next to Duncan, took over most of the ball-handling duties because Parker’s play wasn’t cutting it. In a sense, Tony’s a lot like Mike Tyson, the ultimate front-runner. If things are going well, look out, no one can stop them. But apply a little pressure and they fold. It pains me to say this, as I’m a huge Spurs fan, but we’re going to need clutch guard play in order to advance.
The back half of the double-header saw the Dallas Mavericks crush the Golden State Warriors in a 112-99 pasting. After getting some flack for playing a smaller lineup, Coach Avery Johnson started the squad that won 67 games in the regular season. The strategy worked. It’s also helpful against the Warriors when Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson are tossed for complaining about a call.
What’s with these refs lately? First, there was Joey Crawford ejecting Duncan for laughing; now, stars are being bounced for arguing, and not very excessively from what I saw, a ticky-tack foul? These NBA refs need to check their egos at the door and realize that this is the playoffs. You can’t just toss a team’s best player just because you feel that they are threatening your authority. If I were refereeing a postseason game, a player would have to damn near murder another player in order for me to eject a proven superstar. Then again, I don’t have delusions of grandeur or the emotional sensitivity of a teenage girl like most refs today.
For the Mavs, Game 3 heads to Golden State on Friday at 7:30pm PST on ESPN while the Spurs will go to Denver for a 5pm PST showdown on Saturday on ESPN.