The best way to describe this effort was, "Not enough". We came out with fire to start with, but not enough. We held the Spurs to one-and-done for part of the game, but not enough. When they pushed us we pushed back, but not enough. We worked the ball around to open shooters but they didn't hit enough. A couple people drove but not often enough. You get the idea.
I was especially happy that we handled the San Antonio press well, though ultimately it accomplished its purpose by forcing us to run our offense while fighting the clock. I was happy that Joel Przybilla and Jarrett Jack took no guff from the Spurs when they got feisty. We let them off the hook a little bit in a play that Mike Rice mentioned late in the first half. The hoedown surrounding the Duncan thing had just passed and both teams were taking shots at each other. Tony Parker had the ball for the first time in the new Duncan-less offense. He did a couple of dipsy-doodles down the lane and laid it in with a couple of Blazers watching. Even though there was little chance of them stopping the play legally the proper response, as Rice indicated, would have been to go for a block and just take the hard foul, possibly laying an elbow upside his head in the process if you could. That would have helped shut down the drives. It didn't happen and from that moment the Spurs and everyone in the building knew they owned us. Even the refs started letting them get away with far more physical play than we were allowed. But that's not something to scream about...we earned it.
No matter which way you slice it, the fact that we didn't win a single quarter in a game where Tim Duncan played only 11 minutes has to be considered disappointing.
I was encouraged by the play of Martell Webster, Jarrett Jack, Travis Outlaw, and Raef LaFrentz. In all the cases except LaFrentz, however, we needed more consistency through the game. Each of the others got hot and faded. Outlaw at least played an active, controlled game when he was on though. This wasn't wild Travis, this was the more bankable Travis that the team has longed to see. I also thought Sergio had another nice stint.
The big question will be Brandon Roy, but again and again we have to point to the defense. He'd burn one Spur tonight and another would be right there. There was just no air in between them. After a few minutes of that even easy shots become hard. It messes with your brain. We don't have to panic. He will overcome this. Just wait and let him play through it. The only thing I wish is for him to just forget it and play. He needs to keep shooting and trying to score. Kobe Bryant and Gilbert Arenas don't give a damn when they miss a shot. They just keep shooting anyway. I'm not saying Roy is that style of player or that he plays at their level but right now, on this team, that's the role he plays for us. Just go out there and be the man and let anyone who complains go hang. If eventually you have to be pulled out then let it happen playing your own game to the utmost of your ability, never having given up on yourself. But he won't ever have to be pulled.
Also it has to be said again that some of the guys who play alongside Brandon contribute to this. They can't help it. They just have holes in their game that make it easy to put extra pressure on Roy. We saw that again tonight with Joel. As well and spirited as he played San Antonio still basically ignored him on defense and got away with it. If you still have the game on tape, rewind back to 8:05 left in the first quarter. You'll see a drive and dish to Joel in which his man left him then recovered to block his dunk. Joel had exactly the right idea and I'm not faulting his execution or desire hard to miss that the perfectly run exchange ended up getting snuffed at the cup. It's also hard to avoid imagining what Oden would have done with that ball. After that what incentive is there to watch Joel at all? That's one more guy free to bother our main guys. We also saw Steve Blake's weakness when he has to create late in the clock, which is another way our butts hang in the wind. If I'm the opponent I do just what San Antonio did tonight. I press to make us use clock, otherwise I simply shut down our main options, forcing them to pass and running time off of the clock. If I can get it down to six seconds and have the ball in the point guard's hands I'm going to be very happy with the results. If I have to allow that point guard an occasional open shot off the pass because I overplayed Roy, so be it. I'm not getting beat by Steve Blake no matter how many shots he hits. Granted Blake and Przybilla don't make Roy miss an open shot underneath the rim but those shots aren't the problem. It's the inability to get rhythm throughout the game caused by the extra pressure. Unfortunately I don't see a viable answer to this right now. We need Joel's defense and Steve's ability to run the offense right now. We have no comparable substitutes.
Realistically no matter what we did we were going to lose against Dallas and San Antonio anyway. I'm curious to see how we play against Memphis tomorrow night. A blowout would be very poor form. At this point this is a game we probably need to win to avoid a complete emotional tailspin.