August 30, 2014

Elyria
Partly cloudy
70°F
test

Any taming this wild animal?

No sooner had the Cavaliers dispensed with, er … make that totally whipped … the Pistons in Game 6 when the topic at the TNT analysts desk turned to the San Antonio Spurs and the upcoming championship series. The analysts were each asked to make a prediction.
The question had barely escaped the host’s lips when Kenny Smith answered, “Spurs. In five.” Everyone’s eyebrows shot northward. “Wow. Just like that, huh?” the studio host said.
The next guy also picked the Spurs. Then it was Charles Barkley’s turn. It had been The Round Mound of Rebound who, after earlier predicting that Detroit would take the series from Cleveland, had done an about-face and said the Cavs would thrash Detroit in Game 6. And it had happened.
A slow smile spread across Barkley’s face. “The Spurs,” he said, “… now that’s a whole different animal. San Antonio in five or six.”
So.
A whole different animal.
As the Baha Men (say, whatever became …) once put it, who let the dogs out? Man, these Spurs are mean. Not to butcher metaphors or anything, but Thursday night was like watching someone pick the legs … then the arms … then the wings … then the head … off an insect.
The funny part is that it’s not really all that terrible to watch. In fact, it’s almost mesmerizing. One part pain, two parts poetry. Some of it’s even pretty to watch. See, right there:
The way LeBron finally shakes Bruce Bowen, the constant shadow, and the way Duncan or Oberto or Finley slides over to pick him up. Almost like they had been playing together for years and years and won three championships and could read other’s minds.
Wait … they have and they can.
A whole different animal.
The season’s numbers may say the Detroit Pistons are the NBA’s best defensive team, but don’t you believe it. Not for a minute or for even one possession on the 24-second shot clock. The Spurs are to a team’s offense what a praying mantis is to an insect out on a limb. Pick. There goes an arm. Pick. And a wing …
The Pistons thought they had something when they came up with that defense whereby everyone but Diana Ross, Elmore Leonard, Kronk Gym and Eminem rushed at LeBron James whenever he touched the ball.
Which is why James was able to shred the Pistons’ D with a myriad of sharp passes and assists. The Pistons came up with that ploy because no one man, not even the one who answered to the name Prince, could stay with LeBron. So they gambled and sent the house. It didn’t work. Not even in the two games Detroit won did it work. If Donyell Marshall hits that three from the corner off LeBron’s pass and LeBron gets the call instead of Rip Hamilton in Game 2 … the Cavaliers actually sweep the Motown thugs.
But the Spurs. A whole ’nother beast, aren’t they?
As for revving up fear and loathing — not to mention a smattering of good, old-fashioned hate — amongst the faithful here, hell … bring back the Pistons. Rasheed? An easy guy to loath. Prince and the goggle-eyed Hamilton? Pair of aliens, those two. Chauncey Billups? Forget him and the horse he rode in on.
But the Spurs. How in the heck do we work up a loathing for Tim Duncan? Duncan’s a ballplayer’s ballplayer — the consummate professional. He’s so smooth he makes George Clooney look awkward. If he were any more polished he’d be a sterling silver tea service. Shot off the glass … finger roll … pick ’n roll … fadeaway from the key … rebound … thwap, another blocked shot. But it’s one done with finesse and élan and not with a scowl and mustard and a thumping of the chest.
And what of Tony Parker, the waterbug cleverly disguised as an NBA point guard? Quick. Make a choice: You can have your miserable life … or you can be the guy who scores 27 points and has seven assists in Game 1 of the NBA championship series and who, in exactly one month, will be marrying the comely Eva Longoria. In Paris yet. Geez, what a toughie.
What? You wouldn’t make that trade? Okay, so maybe at the last second you’d renege and have a change of heart. But, seriously, what’s not to like about the guy? He’s a terrific player, a nice guy, has a great smile and, oh yeah, has Eva. It’s almost not fair.
(There was a moment during the first quarter when a Cavalier sent Parker crashing to the floor with an especially hard foul. As Parker writhed on the floor while the trainer tended to him, the 18,000 under-30 crowd at Quicken Loans Arena roared its approval.
That, combined with the fact that it was impossible to hear the announcers and the analysts on the Jumbotron on what was Amateur Nite at The Q, sent me out of the arena at halftime and into my car where I could listen to Joe Tait while heading for my couch.)
Aside from the irrepressible Ginobili, an Energizer Bunny with a terrific shooting touch, the rest of the Spurs are rather faceless. Except, of course, for James’ shadow, the aforementioned Bowen. Before the series is over, I suspect we will not only know his face quite well, but LeBron may see it on his bedroom wall at night after turning in.
The Shadow performs his role so well that the other Spurs can clog the passing lanes. They cluttered these lanes enough so that LeBron could not pass like he had against Detroit. As for driving to the hoop, the only time LeBron ever got stuffed like this would have involved a Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, dressing and mashed potatoes.
As Sir Charles says, this is a whole different animal. The Cavaliers have until Sunday night to figure out a way to tame this deadly efficient beast. Good luck with all of that.