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Fraternizing with the enemy again: A pre, during, and post-game feast of interaction with JollyRogerWilco

Whenever the Spurs and Lakers get together, so do the two fine SB Nation blogs covering those two teams.  It's always good banter and plenty of off the walls creativity, and the first go round with which I was involved ended up being pretty classic, so I was more than happy to get in the mix once again.  This version of things was a little different, because what started as a pre-game exchange ended up, due to mitigating circumstances, into including both in-game and post-game stuff.  None the less, it's another display in the mounting case that two bloggers are better than one.  Without further ado, the sequel to last month's riveting exchange between myself and Pounding the Rock's JollyRogerWilco.  And if you want to mingle (once again, please be friendly as a loss like that stings and we know it), check out their post on PTR.


The last exchange we did was kind of like Schubert's Symphony No. 8 in B minor, unfinished. So, seeing as there were some points you made that I never got to respond to, I'm going to catch up before moving on to more recent things. I think I can agree that as far as NBA coaches go, Pop and Phil are are in a league of their own. Pop and Phil: wow, that has a bit of a ring to it. Kind of sounds like a 70's buddy cop TV show. Maybe a children's animated series about a boy and his beloved dog. Or better yet, a brand new product designed to repair flat tires.

Phil Jackson has got a lot going for him. First, you can't argue with all of those championship rings. Second, you can't argue with the person who has the rings because, much like Patrick Roy, they simply may not be able to hear you speak. Third ... well, as proficient and stable as he's been through his tenure as coach of the Lakers, as productive and consistent as the triangle has been when implemented, as stifling and problematic as his defenses are -- there's just a limit to how much praise I can make myself heap on a coach who marginalized my favorite team's initial championship with a punctuation reference. Let's just leave it at that, shall we. You were more gracious toward Popovich than I just was toward your coach, so I suppose you win the sportsmanship award this time.


Now I can't hear you because I'm behind this glass.

In January, you had talked about Pau Gasol; how well he'd done in the '10 Finals and how "relatively weak" he can play when he's not focused; the difference between last season's regular season, when he was outspoken when the Lakers got away from playing inside-out, and his current lack of frustration with the team. Has that changed at all in the last month? Do you see him asserting himself again, or has he been continuing his "aimless wandering" as you called it?

I didn't realize until I just checked the schedule today (for what must have been the 759th time this year) that the Lakers and Spurs play each other three more times this season, and every matchup is just over a month apart. In fact, that's true for all four of this season's meetings - Dec 28, Feb 3, March 6, and April 12. It's great to have these games spaced out and able to enjoy some personal space. I'm kinda surprised, but it actually appears as though someone at the league office was paying a bit of attention to the schedule, instead of simply feeding all of the data (arena concert dates, SEGABABA variables, home and away details) into a computer and approving whatever it spit out. What a pleasure to think of enough time going by in between the LA vs SA games for each of the teams to be able to breathe some before it's time for the next contest. It's quite a change from all of the weird scheduling that the Spurs have had so far in this calendar year: the Minnesota home-and-home, both Nets games in an 8 day stretch, two Griz games in three days. Blech.

So, your guys have been streaky since Antonio McDyess's buzzer-beating game-winning tip-in. I know that I talked about streaks when Gil Meriken and I discussed the December game, but this is something else. Four wins followed by three losses followed by five wins. Can you say roller coaster? And if so, has it still felt like watching those games is equal parts work and passion? With the Mavericks winning 17 of their last 18 games, there's been a lot of talk about whether they can catch the Spurs and get home court advantage, but there still just isn't a team in the league that concerns me as much as the Lakers do when they're playing well. I just feel like their top end is higher than that of any other team, and it ought to be an epic series if the Spurs and Lakers meet in the playoffs.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. There's still 25.6% of the regular season still left to be played. There's a game scheduled in Texas for Sunday. And although Tony Parker is expected to be out with a minor injury to his calf, we still need to set this game up. So how do you feel L.A. is playing, and do you expect to see anything different than what we saw in the first two meetings?


Loving the buddy cop show angle, The prospect of Zen Cop, Bad Cop alone makes the whole project seem genius.  Just imagine it: Phil walks in to the room with a suspect, sits down, and does nothing.  A little while later, Pop walks in and starts punching the guy in the face repeatedly.  Cut to PJ beginning to meditate; back to Pop wailing on bad guy's face.  Can anyone stand up to that kind of psychological torment?  Physical abuse without even an attempt at discussion?  For all the bad guy knows, these guys don't even want a confession so much as Pop just likes wailing on dude's faces.  It works even better because Phil is known for not calling timeouts.  Eventually, the bad guy would sing like a canary, PJ and Phil would both look at each other, and then both would punch the guy in the face simultaneously.  And Scene.

Regarding the whole asterisk thing, I get where you are coming from, but I think you are looking at this all wrong.  That was a classic Phil Jackson love tap.  It's how you know he cares, like when your big brother sees you for the first time in a while, and his first act is to smack you on the back of the head. That was PJ saying "I see you, Spurs" and yanking your chain a bit.  Just the other day he said that Ron Artest understands the triangle better than Kobe does.  It's when Phil stops taking jabs that you should truly feel marginalized.  But yeah, the man is kind of dick, the kind that is only acceptable if you've earned it by being better than anybody else at what you do, which really means its only acceptable because nobody else has the ability to make it unacceptable. 

*Vague Movie Spoiler Alert* Pau Gasol is all better now.  In fact, he was pretty much already there the last time we talked, but his re-birth was so new that weren't able to place full faith in it just yet.  He apparently had more appreciation for Kobe Bryant's literary references than my own.  While I portrayed Gasol as a man stuck in a life without meaning, Kobe drew the parallel between PG and Natalie Portman in Black Swan, saying that Pau was very much the White Swan and the Lakers needed him to get in touch with the Black Swan side of himself.  Pretty much from that moment, Pau turned things around.  Take what you will from the fact that he'd apparently rather consume himself in pursuit of excellence (and madness) than kill another in the pursuit of understanding (and madness).

The Lakers schedule has been relatively even keel all season long, that most recent three game losing streak notwithstanding.  9 out of 10 blogs have responsibly reported that the Lakers will only play 15 back-to-backs all season, the least of any team, because, you know, the NBA always likes to favor the Lakers.  Of course, something like 2 out of 10 blogs have responsibly reported that the Lakers only face something like 9 teams on the back end of their own back-to-backs, so their net ratio of advantage/disadvantage from the whole SEGABABA thing is one of the worst in the league.  Either way, the NBA has seemed to do their best to ensure that every Lakers game is played under the fairest of circumstances, even if the Laker team hasn't always obliged.  The exception would be the most recent 3 game losing streak.  The first two of those losses were the cruelest kind of schedule loss that is possible in today's NBA.  They were the third and fourth of a FOGAFINI, which is bad enough, but the third game, in Orlando, was a matinee.  Basically, the Lakers played three competitive basketball games (against three playoff teams) in less than 90 hours.  It's the closest the NBA has come to a THRGABABABA since that asterisk plagued lock out season (I kid, I kid).  And then the Lakers had to play again the very next night.  That's how a great team playing great basketball has a losing streak.  Not that any of this explains the loss to the Cavs, which I have no intention of explaining or justifying.


The 2010-2011 Lakers season in pictorial form


 That roller coaster you speak of, the Lakers have been playing that way all season.  They've done almost everything in streaks so far this year.  8 games up, 2 games down, 5 games up, 4 games down ... you can pretty much segment their entire season this way.  They've only had five instances all season in which they've alternated results in three straight contests (W-L-W or L-W-L).  Nearly every game has been a continuation of the streak, or the start of a new one.  In truth, it's not really a roller coaster.  I hate to be so trite as to break out the old "flipping the switch", but this Lakers team definitely has one.  The problem is that Kobe gave the switch to one of his young girls, and she's flipping that thing like a strobe light.  If you ever wondered what the cross section between a good basketball team and a disco would be, now you know.

Speaking of which, let's take some time to reflect on the last game between our two clubs, because it was awesome.  I won't say that all of Lakers Nation took that loss as well as I did (the McDyess tip in made me laugh because of how stereotypical it was of both team's seasons), but without a doubt it was the most entertaining and well played game (from both teams) that the Lakers had been a part of to that point in the season.  And I think we owe you a rather large thank you for it, because that loss really woke the Lakers up.  You could almost see them go "Whoa ... we just lost a game we really tried to win?" Since then, they've been a much different team (3 game losing streak once again notwithstanding). 

The Lakers are in a much different place coming into this game than they were the last one, but I don't know how much difference you will see in terms of the team's play, because the Lakers played about as hard as they can in that game too.  It was just a great game, and I'd expect another one if the Tony Parker thing weren't looming in the distance.  I would hope the Lakers can sink more than 2-14 three pointers, since, you know, literally everybody does better than that against the Spurs, but, while the season at large and overall record don't acurately assess the Lakers' true potential, I think that game was a pretty fair reflection of our two teams: So evenly matched that a little luck is required to win, either way.

But alas, Tony Parker.  I'm wondering how PTR took the news that he would miss time.  After all, the storyline of the Spurs season, the foundation for all other amazing features like great record, has been the health of this team.  There's been none of the debilitating injuries that have sidelined or reduced the big three in year's past.  I just looked it up, and until TP started missing time, the Spurs had the same starting lineup in all but one game.  Where do you fall on the injury inevitability scale?  Do you see TP's injury as the first crack in the dam, a sign that the miracle that is the Spurs health this season coming to an end?  Or are you relieved that the Spurs picked an injury up now so as to no longer be tempting fate, since it is something which should be fully healed by the playoffs?  How about the effect on the team's play?  On the surface, the injury came at a pretty rough time, since you have to play the Lakers, Miami twice, and Dallas in Dallas over the next couple weeks.  Are you afraid of losing your ironclad grip on the NBA's best record?


Wait. What's this? Apparently my whole line of questioning has been rendered null and void by one Tony "Wolverine" Parker.  Somehow, his 2-4 week calf injury has disappeared after two measly games, and he had little trouble dropping 15 points and 8 assists in Friday night's victory over the Spurs.  I gotta tell you, having been well versed in Spurs injuries over the course of my basketball watching career, this is starting to get fishy.  The whole 90% of games with the same starting lineup thing is already surreal, now your players are recovering from injuries faster than normal, Tim Duncan is still alive, and Matt Bonner couldn't miss a three pointer with amputated hands ... I'm only 2% serious when I ask this, but can we be sure the entire Spurs team isn't taking performance enhancing drugs?  I don't think it's possible they would do it collectively as a team on purpose.  I'm just saying I wouldn't necessarily put it past Pop to "spike" the Gatorade, so to speak.  You have to admit, it would explain an awful lot about how a team full of old dudes is suddenly performing at a higher collective level than they ever have. 

In truth, I don't really believe any of that, but that's what the Spurs have left the rest of us with at this point, grasping at straws and accusing bodacious cheating claims.  There's nothing else left for us to do.



I'm so glad that you explained the whole PJ love tap thing to me. I almost didn't bring it up, because it's been a bit of a sore subject for the last dozen years or so. I've always been well disposed toward believing that your coach is a good guy. I liked him quite a bit during his Bulls days. I was a Rockets fan at the time, having been raised in Houston, and they weren't doing much at the time that the Bulls starting collecting rings. So I certainly preferred to root for Chicago over New York, and when he attacked Pat Riley and the Knicks in the press (for playing dirty, and the refs for allowing it) I was inclined to agree with him and believe he was right. He was describing what I felt I was seeing, and I was glad when they advanced and went on to get a trophy. But when he started busting on the Spurs (or so I thought) that's when he started to change in my mind from Bulls Jackson, to Los Angeles Phil. And I didn't like the way he attempted to insert himself into the conversation, when I didn't even see that he had a dog in the fight.

When fans spend so much time with our favorite teams, there's a point where the familiarity is second nature, and it becomes hard to remember ever NOT knowing the things you know about them. That Manu was born in Bahia Blanca and grew up watching his older brothers play basketball at the higher levels before he quickly passed them all in the course of about a year and a half. That Tony started playing professionally at 14 and purchased his a basketball team in France. That Tim was so into Dungeons and Dragons when he was in college that he has a wizard tattoo on his back and when he came into the league, he wanted his nickname to be Wizard. The way the team operates and the relationships between the players and coaches, the staff and owners become as well understood as the inner workings of our own office politics. I find myself continually surprised when someone in my acquaintance reacts badly to something Popovich says. I'm amazed that they don't realize he's joking. "You can't really think he's being serious about that," I have found myself saying more than once. "He's just being sarcastic.That's not what he thinks at all."


Beware the love tap from the Phil

You may have had a similar moment when you read what I'd been upset with Phil about. Hey, the Spurs and Lakers go way back, and ever since the sweep of LA in '99, I'm sure there's been some bad blood, and bitterness bubbling under the surface on both sides. But nothing that Jackson said or did really stuck with me like that crack about the asterisk ('cuz, that's the Championship you're talking about there, guy) and since you've decoded that comment as a sign of (dare I say) affection, I'm wondering just how much your perspective on that statement is going to change the way I'm used to viewing him, and whether my grudging respect will become something less caustic. Of course, I'll still want him to lose as often as possible, but that just might be the extent of it.

Ahh, the inevitable discussion of the schedule. Here's how I feel about the schedules, who's favored and who has a fair set of games, and who gets the short end of the stick. [Steps up onto soapbox] There are too many teams, games, and arenas involved for anyone to do that job and NOT end up with entire communities upset with him/her. There are simply too many moving pieces involved. I think they do the best they can, ust like the refs. Wait a second, that may be going just a bit too far. Probably not a good thing to disillusion people about too many things at once. We'll save the refs for the April game, shall we?

Which brings us to your "flipping the switch comment" concerning the Lakers, and while I've always smirked about teams who've tried to do that, feeling secure in the knowledge that those teams would certainly be punished for such hubris once the playoffs came to town, enough we-play-hard-when-it-matters teams have won rings that I'm not as smug about it anymore. Which is a good thing, because this year I'm seeing some tendencies in the way the Spurs have been playing -- especially as far as defense is concerned. They'll coast through the first two or three quarters, just playing on offense and letting the team hang around as long as they can match baskets with the Spurs. And there are plenty of games that are won that way; with no special defensive pressure necessary. But every few games, a team will get hot, or it'll just be a good team, and suddenly the Spurs defense will be everywhere, there will be a quick 10-0 run and the game will be over. I guess we can just say that while I'm not exactly comfortable with it, I can at least be switch-flipping tolerant.

Where do I fall on the injury inevitability scale? I'll tell you. First, this season hasn't been as healthy as it would appear. Second, the injury inevitability scale OWES us, big time. We should have at least one, if not two, seasons like we're currently seeing, after the run of injuries the Spurs endured starting late in the regular season of 2007 until now. This team is DUE to be healthy. Hopefully that's enough to help you understand why, with as healthy as they've been this year, I'm not feeling like the other shoe is about to drop. It's because nearly half of Imelda Marcus' collection has been dumped on San Antonio over the last three and a half years. And this year's scoring has been spread out across so many different players, that when someone HAS gone down this year, and we HAVE had our injuries, it really hasn't affected the team much, as the record shows. As far as Tony goes, it's a bruise. They can call it what they want but the initial word was contusion. You can have a bad bruise that lingers, but it's not going to bother him in the playoffs unless it's a bruise of epic proportions.

And now that I've responded to your points and answered your questions, I feel ready to try out my new maybe-Phil-isn't-such-a-bad-guy-after-all mindset, and take on the next scene of Pop and Phil. [Cue the cheesy 70's music]

Pop and Phil enter the station house after processing the criminal they had just beaten into a confession. Before they can sit down at their desks, they hear their names being bellowed from the captain's office. As they walk toward the yelling, the two detectives share a wry smile: this isn't going to be a picnic.

[Interior, Captain's office: ]

Behind the desk sits a short man with a wide, lined face, glasses, and an impeccably tailored suit that despite all the effort, still manages to look just a bit too large. Despite the forced smile and eyes that tend to dart a tad too much, there's iron in his voice and the temperature in the room darts several degrees south as he says begins chewing out his star detectives.

Captain David Stern: Why? Why must the two of you torture me so? Do you hate me? Is that it? You despise me, don't you? Well do you?

Pop: Not particularly.


Phil: Well, Captain, it's really quite a stretch to call him a suspect when we were right there when he took the microchip.

Stern: Did you SEE him take it with your own eyes? (Silence) Do you have video of him grabbing it? (More silence) No, you don't. And I know you don't because you wouldn't be interrogating him if you did!

Pop: We don't need any video now because we have a signed confession --

Stern: THAT WE CAN'T USE! You have no solid evidence that he took the chip. You don't have the chip, and all we now have, is a man with his eyes swollen shut whose lawyer is telling me he wants your badges. AND I MIGHT JUST GIVE THEM TO HIM. (Takes a deep breath and removes his glasses.) I need you two to lie low for a while, I need you to take a few days leave and go to Scranton. Seems like they have some troubles with a strangler.

Pop and Phil: But, Captain --

Stern: Don't you "But, Captain." Me. You're lucky you're getting any job at all. I could suspend you without pay for that stunt you pulled. NOW GET OUT OF MY OFFICE!

Or should it be PJ and the Pop (a la BJ and the Bear the infamous TV show about a group of truckers, led by a young Greg Evigan, playing BJ McKay who was accompanied by his faithful companion, the chimp named Bear. And for those who don't remember the show, I am not making this up. See for yourself.


Which coach gets to be the monkey?



God, how I wish the injury inevitability scale worked with that kind of karma, but that's just now how it works.  Just look at Portland.  No matter how long the Jail Blazers era lasted, no team deserves the kind of crap they've gone through over the past few years, but it keeps happening, at least in part, because their main dudes have bad wheels.  Up until this season, I would have said the same thing about the Spurs (mainly just Manu, but a little bit from TP and TD as well).  It's genetics, pure and simple.  I'm telling you of all this not to try and bust up your parade, I hope very much that the Spurs and Lakers both reach the postseason healthy so we can kick your ass fair and square, but I'd hate to see you expect the Spurs to maintain good health through karma, only to see that dream die if somebody picks up something serious.  We've got fairly serious injury potential too, in Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant.  Except, with Kobe, it just doesn't matter what happens to him, he'll play through anything.  I love Bryant with all my basketball heart, but I have genuine concern for what his life will be like once he stops playing.  He's driving his body so hard that I feel like he'll be a cross between Bill Walton and Muhammed Ali in 20 years.

As my last act on this go round, I wanted to take some time to acknowledge something which might make you and your readers a little queasy at first glance.  Based on all the comments from you and PTR the first go round, I feel like I'm doing a good bit of the Lord's work in showing that behind all the fanboy posturing (of which there is admittedly too much), there's a great chunk of Lakers Nation that's really worth knowing.  To tell the truth, I see more parallels between SSR and PTR than I do in any other site.  Both sides have awesome communities, though the same could be said of almost all of SB Nation, but I don't think there are a whole lot more NBA sites that have so many memes as to require an index.  I won't make any kind of argument equating SSR's memes with PTR, because your lexicon is unmatched.  PTR has an entire language of its own, and we can't touch that yet, though I'd say that's more from our relatively young age than anything else.  All I'm saying is that, deep down, SSR and PTR have a whole lot in common, and I'm trying to use my status as a well-liked ambassador to build a bridge between the two communities.  Behind all our unapologetic arrogance, and behind the 24-7 media coverage that just goes along with being in the 2nd biggest media market in the country, we really are just like you, I swear.

On that note, good day, see you in April, and hopefully beyond.      


And for dessert, since the timeline on this exchange had both before and after, JRW and I decided on a little during as well.  Here is the transcript for our in game chat.


jollyrogerwilco Alright, Chris. The jrwlings are set up in the living room watching UP, Mrs. JRW is ensconced in her artist's studio (the bedroom) painting, and I'm sitting in front of the 42" LCD with my notebook, ready to go in-game here. Got anything special to hit off with before tip-off?

Chris Just that I need to take lessons from you on how to distract significant others.  I had to buy my wife off with a $300 meal last night.  How about an over/under on Spurs made threes in the first quarter?  I'm thinking maybe 10?

JRW Sounds like a fair number, if Friday was any indication. But with Manu driving on the first two possessions, perhaps the 3's will have to wait. BTW, was that Bynum with the block on Manu's 2nd foray into the paint? Nice D from him. And what's the deal with Artest's missed freebies? Ugly.

Chris Those Artest freebies were so ugly I'm forced to believe he felt morally compelled to miss them because the foul call was soft.  As for Bynum, he's been straight Howard-esque on defense lately.  Seriously, if he played like this all season (if he played all season, more like) he could be a DPOY candidate.

JRW Have you ever known Artest to feel morally compelled to do ANYTHING? Just don't really feel like he's motivated in that particular way. Just sayin'. As far as the early going is concerned. I'm really pleased with what I see from the Spurs defensive rotation. And Wolverine's (Reference to Tony Parker) steal of a bounce pass on an LA PNR. Impressive.

Chris Don't sell Artest short.  He's a weird dude, and while his moral compass may not be the same as yours or mine, don't think it doesn't exist.  The dude raffled his championship ring for charity.  That's got to be a moral compulsion.

Oh, and Wolverine just had his shit sent back by a Nightcrawler block from Bynum there. Bynum teleported two feet closer to the basket than TP was expecting.

JRW Yeah, that's his 2nd block too. Now if he only had a healing factor, then he'd be able to overcome the Curse of Oden, and actually finish a season that he started, or vice-versa. As to your prediction about 3's. Manu's missed his first, and seems to be off with this outside touch after another long miss followed by another missed 3.
Nine point lead as LA's jumpers are all finding the bottom of the net.

Chris I've already sent Phil Jackson an email instructing him to get someone to sneak Bynum some of the Spurs Gatorade.

And Bonner hits a three.  I think the universe will explode the next time Bonner misses from deep.  The only reason he's shooting so well is because the fate of the universe rests upon it.

JRW I guess SA's offense should really be focused on getting him a look at a 3 on every single possession. Because, regardless of who would be destroying the universe, I think it's best to assume that more points are better than fewer when looking at the short view, in terms of the game going on right now. And with Lakers seeming unable to miss, and sporting a 15 point lead, I'm starting to feel pretty comfortable in my weekend assessment that Miami's defensive #s have been somehow artificially boosted. The Spurs got any shot they wanted on Friday, but today has been quite different already.

And another Spurs shot hangs on the rim for an eternity and falls out. Followed by an LA 3 pointer.

Chris The Guinness Book of World Records just called to inform me that they are on hand in San Antonio to record the biggest change in point discrepancy between two first quarters ever. This is all part of Pop's plan to get the Spurs more publicity through obscure methods.

From 24 up to 21 down ... That's a 45 point swing over the two games

JRW Really, can you blame him? If leading the league in wins for nearly the entire season isn't enough to get the press talking about you, what is? But in all seriousness, while I agree that Spurs fans can make a point about a lack of press in the if-the-Lakers-had-this-record-then-ESPN-would-be-hyperventilating, I just don't think there will ever be a time when earning press will be something San Antonio can do. They'll be a story because of WHO they've played (Friday's headlines like "Heat lose" instead of "Spurs down Heat") or WHEN they play (another championship, perhaps) because there just aren't enough Spurs fans to make the ratings.

And Pau makes a 3. This 22 point lead is a weather-the-storm kind of thing, or it'll be a short night for the starters.
Pau for three? Yep, it was that kind of night.


Chris Holy shit ... Pau Gasol just hit a three pointer.  I don't know if I can speak for the next 5 minutes

JRW They must have had an infusion of Charlie Sheen's tiger blood.

Chris See, normally a big early lead for th Lakers is a bad thing, because they'll just assume they've got it in the bag and stop trying.  But the Spurs are the only good team in the league who are OK with giving up when down big too, so we might end up watching a terrible 3rd quarter

JRW Honestly, I'm all for that. But on a day when Pau's dropping three's and LA's shooting, what is it, 73% of their shots, I just don't know. This is just something that I didn't plan for, when we talked about doing this: the possibility of a non-game. What would we do for the next 2 hours?

What's that? We don't really talk about the game anyway? Good point.

As Brown hits from deep with a man right in his face.

Chris Yeah, in terms of this chat, a non-competitive game is the best possible situation.  That way, our creative juices won't be distracted by silly things like watching the game or guttural screams.
This is a silly question, but just to be sure, nobody else has done this to SA have they?

JRW Hornets and Magic BOTH did.  Made SA look silly.

Chris Hmm, the Spurs seem to have latched onto an effective offensive strategy ... if you get 5 attempts on a single possession, you will probably score.

JRW Woah, a Spurs possession that lasted nearly a minute and featured 4 or 5 offensive rebounds and finished with a terrific Hill spin AND 1. I'm just not sure that can be replicated for an entire game -- as an offensive strategy!

Chris In any case, we won't know anything about this game until the first 5 minutes of the 3rd quarter.  If the Lakers are focused and intent to make this count, the lead will be maintained, but if the Spurs cut 10 points off the lead in the first 5 minutes, we'll have a good game by the end of it.

JRW The end of the 2nd and the beginning of the 3rd will speak volumes. I couldn't agree more. And we've just crossed the halfway point of the 2nd quarter as Bryant shoots a triple bouncing off the back board, bounce again jumper that drops.

Chris You know what I love about Kobe ... The Lakers are currently up 26 points on the team with the best record in the league on the road, and I'm not thrilled with his shot selection.  And in the games in which he shoots 25 times and has no assists, I think he played well.

JRW: Artest flexing and sniffing his underarm. What a like-able guy.  Oh, he was kissing his bicep. Never mind.  And Gasol actually misses a jumper -- his first?
Caught on camera: Ron Artest flexing his guns.


Chris Hey, I never said the guy was likable ... just that he has a weird sense of right and wrong that manifests itself at strange times.  If the NBA were a D&D game, Artest woud be Chaotic Neutral ... not Evil.

JRW: See, that's somewhere I'm just not going to be able to follow you, even if Duncan could match you reference for reference. Although I understand what you mean about Artest. Chaotic neutral fits him to a T.But Manu guarding Kobe and drawing a completely different kind of T wasn't anything I was expecting. Does he get hot like that very often. Hot=angry with the elbows, I mean.  Regardless, he's unconscious right now, at least.   Then again, so's EVERYBODY with "Lakers" on their chest.  Honestly, you guys are shooting like SA did against Miami.

Chris He does get hot like that often.  In fact,  called that T a possession before it happened.  Kobe had the look.  But he's also totally in control of being out of control.  When he gets a T like that, its the equivalent o a controlled burn.  He's letting it happen because its good for the environment ... I guess that analogy sort of broke down there at the end, didn't it.

Two straight Bonner misses and we're all still here.  Clearly I was wrong about the universe thing, and now the Lakers are totally in the Red Rocket's head.
JRW Nope. Controlled burns ARE actually good for the environment.

Chris Heh, but are KB technical?  I guess from 29 teams' perspectives, the answer is yes.

JRW Well, if he can get a tech, NOT get another, and keep shooting lights out, then I say it's good for ANY environment. And as for Bonner, I must say that the knock on him has been that he's lights out during the regular season, but gets shut down in the playoffs when good defensive teams refuse to leave him, or rotate to him quickly enough to prevent him from having the time he needs to shoot a three. And so far, it looks like LA's been pretty successful with doing just that. It's exactly what most Spurs fans have been hoping against hope against all year. A Bonner disappearing act in the 2nd season.

Chris See, I don't really thing that's a matter of Bonner disappearing.  Bonner's MO is what it is ... open shot = made shot.  If he's not open in the playoffs, that's not on him.  It just means that the stars on the team have to take greater advantage of the defenses that help less off of Bonner.  After all, you can't cover a guy better just by willing it so.

JRW Yeah, but you're being quite reasonable with that argument. Something that fans (even Spurs fans  are not always known to be. And here we are in the 2nd half that we're saying will be so telling.)

Chris Ron Artest just ran into a bunch of spectators with drinks, that might be the most villanous thing he oes all game.  Though I will say that covered in soda is a good look for him.

JRW Soda, whiskey, filet mignon, sulfuric acid -- ok, I don't mean that last one. I don't particularly dislike Artest the person. I don't really like him either, but it's really the player that I don't like. But if he was a Spur I'm sure I'd change my tune immediately, as long as played hard and smart. Oh, does he not always do that?

RJ2.0 with an AWESOME block of a Pau shot in the paint.

Chris Until this season, he always has played hard.  This year though, his play had fallen off so much that, well you know the saying about a guy that lost a step?  We were worried that he had lost three.  His recent form has made clear that he was slacking as much as anybody on the team, and he's a big reason why we're so improved lately.

Chris And before I forget ... the coffee was NOT THAT HOT?  Not impressed with the customer service in the AT&T Center.  I guarantee that the coffee served to the courtside patron in Staples is scalding ... and probably laced with cocaine.

JRW See, that's the difference between the left coast and the southland. You guys have the cocaine fueled coffee technology down pat. Here we're forced to do our best to keep it hot while adding in Pop's PEDs.

Chris Heh Bob looked like he might be in need of some PEDs.

JRW: Well, there are your first 5 minutes of the 3rd, and Manu gets a great look at a floater in the lane without anyone in his face and he misses. Looks like this 30 point lead can be expected to stick.Which means that I'm going to be forced to be creative under less than optimal circumstances -- as my favorite team is being soundly thrashed.

Chris Is it that they are getting trounced that has you upset?  Or that it is the Laker that are doing it?  Because, with that record, I'd think you could laugh off something like this with relative ease.

JRW Well, it's the combination of the blowout and who's playing, of course. And while I have pretty thick skin where announcers are concerned, to hear the ABC crew dog the Spurs and praise LA just two days after glowing about SA and dissing Miami. It's enough to make me hit the mute button.

Chris By all means, do.  The less people listening to Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy the better.  And the lead has kept up until the 3 minute mark of the 3rd.  Do any of the Spurs starters see time in the 4th quarter?

Tiago's mission: make the deficit more palatable.


JRW Not a chance. Look at the lineup right now. Splitter, Hill, Novak, Neal and Bonner. If there's one thing that's certain season, it's that if it's the 2nd half, Pop will sit the older-guys when a game's out of hand, or almost out of hand, or threatening to be out of hand, or looking like it might begin to start to get out of hand. This year's offensive changes are probably for the exact same reason. Duncan's worn down at the end of the season the last couple of years, and so finding rest, whenever possible, has been the '10-'11 touchstone. The fact that that's the case while owning the league's best record just points to the quality of ball the Spurs are playing.

Hey, they got it under 30.

Chris See I find that hilarious, because once again we have the two best coaches in the league having diametrically opposed strategies.  This game's over, Pop knows it, and has no problem resting his startrs completely.  Meanwhile, PJ doesn't care the exact opposite way and will play his rotations will not be adjusted until well into the fourth.  I guarantee that either Pau Gasol or Kobe Bryant will see time in the 4th quarter.

Another thing I find funny are percentages.  For example, the Spurs are shooting 34% from the field, and that's terrible. The Lakers are shooting 48%, and that's pretty good (though it certainly took a nose dive in that 16 point third quarter). Meanwhile, my keyboard is only shooting 80%, as 1 out of 5 keystrokes seems to be missing, and is making these responses pretty difficult to hammer out.  Apologies for any typos.

JRW And that's just utterly unfamiliar to me, that such a great coach would refuse to adjust his system/rotation in extreme situations - whether up big or down big. How does that affect the fanbase. Certainly you're used to it, but does it chafe that he's so unyielding on this kind of thing?

And you were right, of course. Pau's in the game playing with Odom and Barnes. So weird.

Chris Boom, Pau Gasol starts the 4th quarter (he hasn't been out in the 2nd half yet).  PJ strikes again.  Honestly, I have no idea why he does it, but I think it is becase his biggest concern is with rhythm.  He wants Pau to play these minutes because he doesn't ever want Pau to get used to not playing these minutes.  Either that, or he just does not give a shit about his players.

JRW Last night I took my two oldest boys to get their hair cut, and while we were waiting, I picked up a Sports Illustrated with a profile of the manager of the Real Madrid football/soccer team, Jose Mourinho, who is possibly the best coach in the world. And while the way he relates to his players impressed me so much, I can't imagine Phil wouldn't care about his guys. I know you were joking, but it's really quite a head-scratcher, and I can't make sense of it.

Chris No, its definitely the rhythm thing.  And on a personal level, I understand it completely.  It's like with sleeping habits.  If you sleep 8 hours a day every day, you will be well rested.  If you sleep 6 hours a day every day, you will be less well rested, but your body will adapt and you will be more or less fully OK.  But, if every now and then, circumstances allow you to sleep 10 hours a day, you will feel better initially, but it makes it harder on your body to go back to six hours.  I'm not saying PJ's strategy is better than Pop's, because I don't believe that it is, but there is value to what he's doing, even if it doesn't seem to ake much sense.  ... and I have to tell myself this as I see injury plagued Andrew Bynum replace Pau Gasol with 7 minutes left to play.

JRW By the way, I should have said that no starter but Blair would see anymore court time. Whenever Pop calls all the children off the street, it's DeJuan who's regularly out there with the garbage-time squad. And seeing as he's just 20, it makes sense that he wouldn't need the additional rest. As for the rhythm thing, I can see the point. And while I would never have thought of that reason without having talked with you, I can see the potential benefit. But it sure is more fun to imagine the nasty enemy Lakers running up the score just because they're bullies who need this kind of game to make themselves feel better. I hate that I feel that way sometimes, because it's petty, but it sure can be enjoyable.

Chris I know Blair's young, but he also has no knees.  That has to count for something, right?

JRW Thanks for reminding me. I was going to touch on that and forgot. The man has no ACLs whatsoever. And for those who are wondering how we at PtR feel about that, check this out.

Tiger, tiger in the night...

Chris It's official, my take on the PJ strategy is officially correct, because Mark Jackson just said the exact opposite.

JRW GOLAnd with that, the lead is under 20. And there's less than 90 seconds to play.  So the 22 game home win streak comes to and end. As does the least competitive game I've ever done a "live" chat about.   But now I must ask you, how do you feel about this win, knowing that SA's splits show that they're pretty awful in early-day games, and Pop didn't keep trying while the Spurs couldn't hit a thing and LA couldn't miss. Does that change anything for you?

Chris I don't put much stock in this game, except to say that the Lakers, when focused, are a beast of a team, but that's usually true of the defending champion.  In this particular game, the Lakerswere hot, the Spurs were very un-hot, and in thos circumstances, a blow out usually happens.  It would be stupid to claim that this game is proof that the Lakers will dominate the Spurs in the playoffs, because SA won in L.A. in a much more evenly fought contest.

I'm glad to see the Lakers flex some muscle (literally), but the actual result doesn't matter in the least.

JRW It really is hard for my readers to continue to harbor the unrealistic view of all Lakers fans as unmitigated blowhards when you continue to be as evenhanded as you are. All the same, thanks for joining me for this. I enjoyed it, as always, even if the game was a smoking pile of mesquite-smoked refuse.  ...mesquite-flavored refuse.

Chris You know what they say, one man's shit is another man's fine dining.  And the mesquite flavor is awesome either way.

JRW You could pour all of the mesquite flavoring on this one you want, and I don't think it would raise its awesomeness rating at all.

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