By John Carroll
Spurs shine; Shaq watches
What the San Antonio Spurs did to the Miami Heat in Wednesday night's game, a 98-84 win for the Spurs, was simply another basketball clinic courtesy of the defending champs. The effective drives to the basket by Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili set the tone. And Tim Duncan, free to roam without Shaquille O'Neal to challenge him, was immense.
It would have been more interesting had Shaq been on the court, not on the sidelines in his one of his dapper suits. Duncan dominated with 28 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks. When the Heat used Udonis Haslem or Antoine Walker on Duncan, it wasn't a fair fight. Of course, you have to wonder how much it would be a different game with Shaq in there.
But you could count on Heat guard Dwyane Wade to make it a battle. Facing the Spurs' tough defender Bruce Bowen, Wade finished with 31 points on 8-20 shooting, and was 15-17 from the line. He had 10 assists.
Everywhere he went, Bowen was hounding him, with Duncan and the rest of the team lying in wait. I was impressed by Wade's ability to get to the free-throw line at the end of a five-game road trip. He's just a powerful, slashing type of player. Wade's got those young legs, and I think any great player is going to be juiced up to play the Spurs. Wade was. For some reason, Jason Williams didn't seem to be.
Every time up the floor, the Heat seemed to run a play run for Wade, or he at least touched the ball. That's a good thing, and a bad thing. It's good thing because he's a great player. But it's a bad thing because the other team knows what's going to happen.
Wade is not just a Reggie Miller-type that runs off screens. Wade's got more ball-handling skills. And when Bowen's playing a guy like Paul Pierce, he can use his smarts, positioning and savvy. But the Heat set a lot of screens for Wade, which limits Bowen's individual effectiveness as a defender.
Wade has been carrying a heavy load. The Heat without Shaq don't have any true low-post game. With Shaq back, they'll have more of a normal inside-out game. Alonzo Mourning's good, but they don't throw the ball to him like they did eight to 10 years ago.
And they're asking Mourning to do quite a bit. He might be pushed beyond his limitations. They didn't use him a lot in the fourth quarter. But down the road, it's good that he's used to playing that many minutes in case Shaq gets in foul trouble.
As for the Spurs, they take most teams to school. Parker's ability to score in the paint as a guard is mind-boggling. I was watching them play against Boston recently, and it's just a clinic. They can stumble with the wide-open teams like Phoenix or Dallas. But when they play the "normal" teams like the Heat, they are in their element.
If wins are clinics, then count this as basketball clinic No. 14 for the Spurs. Once Shaq gets clearance from the medical clinic, he can help Wade get back to operating with the normal inside-outside punch.
Nets forward Vince Carter complains to referee David Jones about a call. The ultimate result wasn't in doubt as the Nets defeated the Bobcats 97-84.
Hey Greg, In your "how west will finish", you forgot that a team exists . . . you know . . . one up there . . . you know . . . leading a division now . . . you know . . . with one of the top 2 players in the game . . . you know . . . hint -- the team name is that of an animal.
You have the Wolves missing the playoffs? Please. They still have the man who, despite what others may say, is THE best player on the planet, and a supporting cast that is a much better "team" than the cast of me-first players who ripped apart the team last year. In case you hadn't looked at the standings lately, they are leading their division by 1.5 games, which is the widest margin in the league, and are playing .500 ball on the road, the mark of a playoff team if there ever was one. By my calculations, they look like the favorite in their division, which should translate to at least a top 3 seed in the West.
Are you kidding me! The Lakers aren't going to make the playoffs when the only player they have is Kobe Bryant. The Warriors will be there because they have Baron Davis, Jason Richardson, and the up-and-coming Troy Murphy. Even if Davis gets hurt they have a viable back-up in Derek Fisher and I don't know if you remember but last season Dunleavy excelled when put in the point guard role, so don't think the Warriors are just going to sit back and relax. They will be in the playoffs.
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Heat center Michael Doleac uses any means necessary to stop Spurs penetrator Tony Parker. For this foul, Doleac was ejected.
Quote of the Night
-- Royce Webb
Dan (San Jose): If the Warriors keep up their current pace, would Baron Davis garner MVP consideration? Everyone knows without him, the Warriors are still in the cellar.
Chuck (Chicago): We know Tim Thomas has trade value cause this is the last year of his deal. But who is going to trade us a star for cap relief? Shouldnt we just buy this guy out like we did with Eddie Robinson?
With victories in Milwaukee (Tuesday) and Toronto (Wednesday), the Lakers won road games on consecutive days for the first time in the post-Shaq era. The second games of back-to-back contests, whether at home or on the road, have been particularly troublesome for the Shaqless Lakers, who were 5-14 in such games last season (fifth-worst in the league) and 0-3 this season, until Wednesday night's win.
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Losing isn't everything. Losing is the only thing.
This is why the Lakers are worth watching, even when San Antonio is whacking them by 20 and some cat named Smush is trying to stop Manu Ginobili from dunking with his left hand. How Phil Jackson responds to the circumstances of this debacle will illustrate more about his authentic nature than any of his nine championships, and it will dictate whether he is remembered as A Great Man.
I suspect this is part of the reason Jackson returned to coach a Lakers team he knew would be terrible; he understood that a dramatic failure would shape his personal narrative more than another shallow success. Jackson supported the political career of Bill Bradley, but his worldview is much closer to Bill Clinton's: Jackson wants a legacy, and this is how you get it.
What do Gilbert Arenas, Allen Iverson, Pau Gasol, Chris Bosh, Marcus Camby, Brevin Knight, Mehmet Okur, Chris Paul, Troy Murphy and Ricky Davis have in common?
Following most Fantasy league rules about position, it would be the ideal team for fantasy success, Eric Karabell writes.