TrueHoop: Roger Mason
Posted by Kevin Arnovitz
Welcome to All-Star Saturday night.
Since my spirit is dampened by the exclusion of Steve Novak from the Three-Point Shootout, and I've never forgiven the judges for robbing Dominique Wilkins of the 1988 Slam Dunk crown, I thought it would be a good idea to bring in some help for tonight.
Rob Mahoney of The Two Man Game and John Krolik of Cavs the Blog will be joining me for the evening's festivities.
Since Rob "refuses to acknowledge the existence of the Shooting Stars competition," we're going to start our coverage with the Skills Competition.
Follow along, won't you...
KEVIN ARNOVITZ: Welcome...
KEVIN ARNOVITZ: So I just got back from the 3D studio in the bowels of the arena which, I have to say, makes this competition a lot more interesting
JOHN KROLIK: End of shooting stars...well, Detroit's season hasn't gone the way they wanted it to, but I'm sure the fans are just as happy with this.
KEVIN ARNOVITZ: Also visited the practice court where the 3PT participants were warming up. Bibby looks strong
JOHN KROLIK: I've got Kapono. Until proven otherwise.
JOHN KROLIK: I like Parker, then Mo in the Skills comp. It's all about that mid-range J. If Rose hits it, it's his.
ROB MAHONEY: My heart says Roger Mason, but my brain just beat up my heart and told me to pick Kapono. Seems like a no-brainer.
KEVIN ARNOVITZ: I like Harris in Skillz..Mason in 3P...but, as I said, Bibby was stroking it on the practice court 10 mins ago
JOHN KROLIK: Mason will win if it comes down to the last shot. Dude's an assassin, right down to the name.
KEVIN ARNOVITZ: Minus the little swastika on his forehead, natch.
JOHN KROLIK: Playlist so far: Brittney Spears, John Legend. I'm intrigued for the night.
ROB MAHONEY: I once heard that Roger Mason killed a man. No - AN ARMY OF MEN. Ruthless, truly.
JOHN KROLIK: I'm still steamed my boy OJ didn't take HORSE home. Dude hit some sick shots.
KEVIN ARNOVITZ: Just to review Rob's skills reforms.: Could they block two shots at the same time? Who could steal it from Chris Paul first? If all players were given a ball and a finite space, who would be the last man standing with an active dribble? Could they block a shot launched out of a machine like a clay pigeon?
ROB MAHONEY: I actually missed HORSE entirely. I heard it was kinda lame. Any consensus?
JOHN KROLIK: Could Rudy surprise us in the Dunk Contest tonight?
KEVIN ARNOVITZ: Rudy is my bottom-dweller for the sole reason that he played THU nite in Oakland, Last night in the Rook/Soph game....So he's on a back-to-back-to-back [hat tip: Henry]
JOHN KROLIK: HORSE-Nobody was hitting at first, then guys hit some 40-footers, Rick Barry Free Throws, backwards, OJ went from the stands, but then Durant closed it out by just raining threes, which was a bit anti-climactic. Still liked it overall.
JOHN KROLIK: My bottom-dweller is Nate-I just don't think he's got 3 contests worth of dunks in him.
ROB MAHONEY: Rudy will disappoint only because no one expected anything from him, the rumors of awesome soccer-inspired dunks surfaced and got all of our hopes up, and then we'll inevitably be disappointed because well, he's Rudy.
JOHN KROLIK: Harris is going too slow around the guys.
ROB MAHONEY: Devin Harris has to slow down for the cameras to capture him. It's all part of the plan, John.
KEVIN ARNOVITZ: A Sham-mockery
JOHN KROLIK: The difference is effort, Mo.
ROB MAHONEY: The real reason Mo Williams wanted to be in Phoenix for this weekend: SKILLS CHALLENGE, YO.
JOHN KROLIK: BALLBOYGATE! The NBA All-Star conspiracy against Mo Williams continues.
KEVIN ARNOVITZ: Vintage Rose. Perfect, except for a missed J.
ROB MAHONEY: LeBron will now carry out his vendetta against ball boys everywhere.
ROB MAHONEY: How does Derrick Rose coast through the challenge and still smoke everyone?
JOHN KROLIK: And goodbye, Tony Parker.
KEVIN ARNOVITZ: The PHX fans are pleased
ROB MAHONEY: We'll just forget that I picked Tony to win. Cool?
JOHN KROLIK: My friend put 20 bucks on TP and 10 on Mo. He is displeased right now.
JOHN KROLIK: Not really playoff intensity in the 1st round of the skills challenge.
KEVIN ARNOVITZ: The problem with this event is that all the elasticity is in the jump shot...[and, to a lesser extent the passing]. So it's really a foul shot shooting contest.
ROB MAHONEY: When is the Gerald Wallace/Josh Smith/Andrei Kirilenko skills challenge? I'm ready to have my world turned upside down.
KEVIN ARNOVITZ: 1st Place: $35,000
2nd Place: $22,500
3rd Place: $9,000
4th Place: $9,000
JOHN KROLIK: You Gotta Get Anthony Randolph and Julian Wright in there too.
ROB MAHONEY: Derrick Rose was HUNGRY for that Skills Challenge title. Finished it nicely with a sweet dunk -- the best thing I've seen in the last two hours.
Posted by Kevin Arnovitz
When a player executes something as dramatic as Roger Mason's buzzer-beating 3PM for the Spurs yesterday, much of what precedes it tends to fade from our memory. That's especially true if your sensory hard drive is filled with 240 minutes of basketball viewed over a 13-hour period. I'd forgotten about the moments just before Mason's shot until I read Michael Schwartz's tremendous recap of the PHX-SA game at Valley of the Suns. I then re-watched the inbounds set the Suns ran with the game tied 88-88, 7.7 seconds remaining on the clock.
Remember, the Spurs had just trapped Steve Nash against the sideline, forcing the Suns to call a timeout. Coming out of the huddle, Grant Hill is the inbounder for the Suns. Here's VoTS's account:
Again, Nash set a nice back pick on Michael Finley, who was guarding Grant Hill, and Tony Parker decided against switching onto Hill. That left Hill wide open for a go-ahead layup after Amare hit him with another beautiful pass from up high.
With the shot clock running down, I was thinking, "Shoot the damn ball already Amare! so as to avoid a shot clock violation, before he hit Hill with a perfect assist to beat the clock.
It was a beautiful set run with uncanny precision, the kind of payoff you want to see after being parked in front of your set for two and a half hours. Schwartz reminds us, "the Suns used the same play that beat Orlando earlier this month." [You can watch a replay of that set against the Magic at about the 1:41 mark of this highlight package.]
The Spurs countered with that drive-and-kick from Tony Parker to Roger Mason in the far corner. You can view the play at the 1:08 mark of this highlight reel:
Speaking of a moment late in the game, Tim Duncan reports, "That was a specific line that he (Popovich) used, 'it will probably come down to one play in this game' and it did come down to that." If one wonders how the Spurs manage to devastate the Suns with such frequency, this is undoubtedly part of the equation. Pop coaches composure into his squad; he allows them to prepare for the big moment minutes before it arrives. Popovich may not be a Zen Master, but he is a masterclass coach. This is a classic example of that psychological aspect of elite coaching which separates the gold from the dross. Or, if you will, this is the thing that separates the Spurs from the Suns.