Sunday, April 15, 2007

Words can hardly describe

What a great game.

This one was surreal for me, not least because I watched the whole thing on video tape after getting home from my Sunday afternoon reading group. Fast-forwarding through timeouts and free throws already changes the feel for the game, but on top of everything else, I can honestly say that I’ve never experienced an end of a game like I did this one.

I should say at the outset that I’ll stand by my claim that this game didn't tell us anything in particular about the Mavericks. I love the win, and 66 wins puts the Mavericks in a different historical category than 65 (now they’re top 10 all-time), so I'm thrilled about that. But even aside from the lack of postseason implications this one had for the Mavericks, Tim Duncan’s absurd ejection late in the third quarter surely gave Dallas a huge advantage.

Duncan got called for his second technical of the game for clapping and laughing at a foul call while sitting on the bench. The showed the whole replay, and he didn’t speak a single word. I'm not sure I've ever seen something like that in my life, and I wonder if it means David Stern phoned in that Dallas needs to win 68 this year.

But even if both teams claimed that the game didn’t mean anything to them, they played as if it did, and I loved it. Some thoughts:
  • At halftime, Tony Parker called the game a “great practice for the playoffs” and it was still better than every other game played in the NBA this week.
  • Avery announced before the game that no one would play more than 26 minutes, and then he caved in probably, oh, half-way through the first quarter. Dirk, Howard, Diop, Terry, and Harris played 37, 37, 34, 32, and 31 minutes. My guess is, Avery was expecting a laid-back game, but the players on both sides had something different in mind.
  • The crowd in Dallas loved it.
  • The play after the second Duncan technical, Josh Howard completely threw his body into Fabricio Oberto and got the call against Oberto.
  • Devin Harris got to the rim whenever he wanted to; at one point he also hit a 3, and then took a charge on the next play.
  • Jerry Stackhouse hit his shot over whoever was guarding him.
  • There were hard fouls.
  • ABC showed big chunks of the game with the sliding camera that lets you see how fast the players are really moving; I don’t know if I want it all the time, but it gives the game a great feel.
  • Guys on both teams hit their open shots.
  • The Mavericks contested every Spurs shot at the rim.
  • Both teams played good defense and scored a lot for most of the game.
  • Dirk has hit 666 field goals this year. He’s exactly one make over 50% for the season.
  • There was an 8 second violation on Tony Parker on a normal possession with no one guarding him.
  • Francisco Elson airballed an open 17-footer.
  • The Spurs have one guy named Francisco, and another guy named Fabricio. They also got 10 minutes from a guy named Jacque.
And then we get to the end, which I especially enjoyed. Dallas had been down by about 3 for most of the fourth quarter. Then Dirk hits a jumper with 1:15 left to tie it for the first time in the fourth quarter. Then Greg Buckner––Greg Buckner!––strips Manu Ginibili and goes coast to coast for the lead with 50 seconds left. A couple of plays later, Jerry Stackhouse misses 1 of 2 free throws (and the one that goes in barely goes in) with 10 seconds left and a chance to take a 4-point lead. (Sound familar to anyone?)

So there’s 10.8 seconds left, with the Mavericks up three, and the Spurs inbound the ball to Michael Finley, and then –– the screen literally fades to black, after which WCVB-TV meteorologist Dick Albert comes on and explains that Boston is going to receive heavy rains and possible flooding tonight. After a commercial breaks that follows, the 6 o’clock news starts.

I kid you not. The Boston ABC affiliate preempted the last 10 seconds of Mavericks–Spurs in order to start the local news broadcast on time.

And I didn’t care. I was frankly thrilled, and got a good laugh out of it, because I hadn’t thought the game could get any stranger.

Just to make one last point: on the pre-game show Jon Barry repeated a little piece of nonsense that I've heard from about 6 different commentators this year. He said that the Manu Ginobili foul on Dirk on the “last play” of game 7 last year is the only reason the Mavericks beat the Spurs.

Obviously that foul was huge, and based on the replay (the three minute mark on this youtube clip) Dirk is lucky that he didn’t get called for an offensive foul before he got to the rim. Lots of things needed to go right for the Mavericks to win that game, and there was certainly some luck (not to mention favorable officiating) involved.

But the Ginobili foul happened with 21.6 seconds left. If Dirk makes the layup with no foul call, Dallas is within one, they foul the Spurs on the inbounds, and then even if the Spurs hit both free throws, Dallas gets the ball in the exact same position with 20 seconds left.

I can only assume that none of these commentators ever actually watch the replay before they say these things, but honestly––what are they thinking when they say things like that? Dallas gets within one with 20 seconds left, and you say the only reason they won is because there was a foul on the play? There’s no chance Tony Parker hits 2 free-throws and then Jason Terry hits a clutch 3 for the tie? And as for how the game actually played out: what about Manu Ginobili’s missed layup after Dirk’s free throw? And how about the non-call on the last play when Duncan got the offensive rebound and Dirk got credit for blocking Duncan’s shot even though it looked like a hack?

And for crying out loud, how about overtime, when the Mavericks outscored the Spurs 15–7 on 4/6 FG and 7/8 FT? And professional commentators are still saying the only reason Dallas beat San Antonio was because of the Ginobili foul? I even heard Charles Barkley say it a couple of weeks back.

All I can think of is that after someone said it earlier this season, no one checked the replay to make sure it was an accurate assessment of the game’s end, and then everyone else just repeated it as if it were true and obvious.

It’s just one more piece of the national TV sportscaster orthodoxy that has developed for talking about the Mavericks this year: all they care about now is the title; Avery Johnson has really helped them develop a commitment to defense; Dirk and Nash are in a two-man race for MVP, but Dirk gets the nod because Dallas has the better record; Josh Howard has developed into one of the best two-way players in the game; and my favorite: Mark Jackson said tonight that Devin Harris is “probably one of the quickest guards, with the basketball, in the nba.” Glad to see he’ll go out on a limb with something like that.


Jeremy said...

the mavs can bury all that bs if they play like the great team they are during the playoffs.

just win, baby, just win.

scoots said...


Can anyone think of any other points of analysis, besides the ones I mentioned, that the media just mindlessly repeat every time the Mavs play on national tv?

Jeremy said...

"Boy, the Mavs sure miss Steve Nash"

...oh wait, my bad. that's one I've NEVER heard.

Please god, spare us a Suns series in which we have to hear six times per quarter that Nash and Dirk are best friends.

scoots said...

By the way, David Stern is apparently upset with Joey Crawford for ejecting Duncan the way he did. Sounds like Crawford was just having a bad day. Read the story here.

micah said...

Evidently Crawford had a really bad day. No one will be seeing him until next season. Can he come back after a suspension like that?

JKnott said...


I finally came to your mavs blog after all this time. This is a good argument. But in a way, isn't it always somewhat literally wrong to say "the only reason" about anything? Anything that has ever happened was a result of multiple factors. Even if the foul on Dirk was in the last second of the game, it would still be the case that IF the Mavs had not played so well to get to that point of only being 3 down in a game 7 against the Spurs, and IF the Mavs had not played better than the Spurs in overtime, that one foul would not have done the job alone.

So what I'm asking is, do we do away with "the only reason" statements completely? Or is there a certain non-exact but useful way to use that kind of argument, that would therefore not be proved wrong simply by pointing out other factors, which are always present anyway? Sorry to get philosophical.

But on a psychological note, I think that is just a way of dissing the Mavs for their loss to Miami in the finals, like saying "you didn't really belong there anyway, chumps!"