LOS ANGELES — And you thought the NFL was “One for All, All for One.” That was until Camp David sent out that “make-these-series-competitive-or-else” memo . . . and the Spurs and Pistons compassionately complied.
How else could you possibly explain Sunday’s double “mother of all moribund monstrosities” manufactured by San Antonio and Detroit?
Change of venue? If that was the case, Kobe ought to fly like an eagle out of Colorado. I haven’t seen such disinterest among visitors since Euro Disney.
First, the Spurs show up (in theory) at the office supply center no way resembling the fighting fortress of the Alamo. Sure, the desperate Lakers made adjustments; it’s illuminating how good they can look simply by Shaq and Kobe upping their amperage and aptitude, as well as playing in concert with their teammates.
Still, the Spurs could not have been less eager to respond to their opponents’ aggression. None of the thousand points of light that worked to perfection in Games 1 and 2 saw any ray of repetition in Southern California. Instead, they were forced to hoist up threes (11-27) as opposed to having drive-bys snuffed out by The Big Stalker (eight blocks), while the home team earned 18 more free throws.
Speaking of the uncharitable stripe, I whipped out my trusty abacus and came up with this fun factoid: Through three games, the Spurs are 39-for-73 (53.4 percent) from the line, while the Lakers are 54-for-91 (59.3). Together, they’ve combined for less than 57 percent.
And then there are those misfiring Pistons; never a threat to turn over that third digit on the scoreboard, they did themselves especially proud Sunday, managing a franchise playoff-low 64 points. That’s really saying something because you’re taking into account 260 postseason games.
The good news is, at least the Pistons outscored the Tigers, who paper-plated 15 runs Saturday . . . but, alas, also lost.
Think about it: Detroit shot 28.9 percent from the field (0-for-10 from deep) and converted just 22 shots. In other words, the Nets made more stops in one game than Larry Brown has in his whole career.
Breezing to the finish line with Jason Kidd aborting 12 of 14 shots is either an aberration or a testament to the Nets’ aspirations to return to The Finals for a third straight time. Of course, Chauncey Billups misread nine of his 10 putts, but that’s not important right now.
What counts is the Spurs and Pistons dutifully allowed their rivals back in their respective regionals. If nothing else, NBA’s teams cooperate with the commissioner. Camp David is pleased.
Had the Timberwolves lost Game 2, Flip Saunders would have had to go. How do you have Kevin Garnett out of service for a crucial two minutes in the fourth quarter of the most critical game in franchise history and allow the Kings to kidnap momentum (via an 8-0 run)?
Let the league’s MVP rest on his laurels on his time.
Furthermore, had the T-Wolves blown another home game (i.e. the series), Garnett, in good conscience, would’ve been compelled to return his MVP trophy. Except for some free throws (5-for-6) — two of ’em unearned thanks to a bogus loose-ball call against Brad Miller — Minny’s franchise player did nothing of consequence (0-for-2 from the field) when Sanders finally got him back on the court.
While there’s nothing wrong with deferring to Sam Cassell’s scalding shooting in the final three minutes, it’s unpardonable for a guy like Garnett to put the ball in the trembling hands of Trenton Hassell and Fred Hoiberg — unprepared to produce in such a compression chamber — for must-makes.
How can you expect peripheral players to bail you out when even the twice championship-tested Cassell clearly wilted under the weight of the moment until the end, when the Kings began to act like they were behind instead of up 10?
Considering their individual and collective experience, it was amazingly scandalous how the Kings demonstrated such inferior clock management and shot selection.
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