Oh, to be a Spurs fan. Year after year of professional execution on and off the court: drafting top European talent in later rounds, finding NCAA collegiate castoffs, under-paying for overlooked role players and retaining homegrown stars. It was that dedication to excellence, to the minutia of the game, that defeated an otherwise solid effort by the Bobcats 95-91 Monday night in Charlotte. ‘Cats fall to 1-6, Spurs move to 5-1.
- Gary Neal is this year’s George Hill. Fifteen points in fourteen minutes on five three pointers, the 26 year old “rookie” from B-more via Europe killed the Bobcats this evening from beyond the arc. Neal set up camp outside and never hesitated, often finding himself wide open until Charlotte decided to cover him in the 4th. Too late. Neal and Manu Ginobili were the difference makers in this one, combining for 10 threes and total of 41 points.
- Manu is back. Ginobili looked like his old self, leaving his man in a trail of screens and ferreting himself free for numerous putbacks and second chance opportunities. Combined with the outstanding depth of quality youngsters on the roster (Neal, Hill, Splitter, Blair, Anderson), a healthy Manu might keep the Spurs’ title window open for yet another season. They look good.
- Stephen Jackson is on the Verge. If I’m Larry Brown, I’m putting a call into the highest levels of the League Office. The refs have been openly baiting Jackson for an ejection all season. Tonights 4 free throw attempts were JAX’s first in three games and he should’ve had at least a half dozen more. I swear I’m not being a homer, the no-calls are near egregious and it is only a matter of time until Jackson has some sort of mental breakdown either on the court or off. You can see it in his body language. Something is brewing and the officials know it.
- Both Jackson and Gerald Wallace were held out of the game late. Jackson didn’t seem hurt but Wallace left in the third with an undisclosed injury. Brown may have pulled JAX simply for his performance: another 6 Turnovers for Stephen to add to his 3.5/game average. Again, the refs agenda seems to have distracted him to the point were he’s openly forcing passes and dribble drives that aren’t there.
- Nice games by Tyrus Thomas, Boris Diaw and Gana Diop. Tyrus continues to hustle on every play, blocking shots and going for loose balls. His skill level is still low but you gotta love the effort. Diaw looked good again despite the added bulk, going for 15pts, 6rbs, 5asts. Let’s hear it for Gana Diop! He’s gone from being an absolute joke and salary cap albatross to “an overpaid backup center.” Gana really defended Tim Duncan well during his 15 minutes of action, looking much more fluid and mobile this year and while he’s no Brook Lopez offensively, he’s not killing the team on that end anymore. Those fortunate enough to watch the game may have witnessed Gana’s first (and possibly last) turnaround fadeaway twelve footer from the block. Nothin’ but net.
Yeah, the Bobcats are 1-6 but I’m still not panicking. One through twelve, the roster has never been as solid and I have to believe that Brown and MJ are working the phones to upgrade the PG position soon. Nothing against D.J. — he’s doing as well as we could have hoped — but he’s simply not the long term answer at the most important position on the floor. ‘Cats are much better than their record and I fully expect them to make the Playoffs come April.