It ain't pretty, but damn does it work.
Bonzi Wells wasn't even that spectacular on the low post in offensive set plays Sunday night - he played much sharper last Tuesday in San Antonio, before Popovich decided to bring doubles upon first dribble. But has a 6'5 guard ever been so tough to keep off the offensive glass? I mean, this isn't Charlotte or Atlanta we're talking about here. It's the San Antonio Freaking Spurs, winners of two of the last three NBA championships. This is Tim Duncan. This is the best defensive team in the world. This 30-year-old off-guard isn't supposed to be averaging 14 rebounds over four games against them.
Call it "The Passion of the Bonzarelli." I can't imagine how many people will crack the "must be a contract year" joke - hell, Bill Simmons dispensed with it before the playoffs even started. Whatever the motivation - last season's playoff suspension by Mike Fratello, the always-hovering reputation as a selfish cat, the contract, a lesson to John Nash and Jerry West - it's working. The guy has been to truest sense of the word "Threat" - constantly a threat to get a steal, a block, a backdoor cut, a putback dunk, a stunning drive, a perimeter jumper, an open-court look. The guy can truly do it all right now.
I'm not saying the Spurs are worried - in fact, I doubt they are. But I think they should be worried. Very worried.
- Mike Bibby hasn't gone off yet. He's had two good games in a row now, with Sunday being best performance yet thanks to his work passing the rock. (The Steal not included, however. That's his second biggest playoff play ever. And that's saying quite a bit.) But Bibby hasn't gone off, like he did every fifth game this season. Over the weekend, I worked on some season progression - charting how each rotation player did throughout the season, looking at highs and lows and runs of good and bad play and such. (I'll be posting those in a few weeks.) One of the things that jumped out with Bibby was that every few games, he just threw up monster numbers. He of course had that great run in late January (when the team, actually, wasn't doing so well), but there are a number of 30-point games sprinkled throughout the season. It's been a while since he's had one. I think he has the ability and confidence to completely take over one game this series.
- Shareef had an amazing Game 2, but hasn't been heard from since. That guy has way too much pride (and skill) to not flare up against Horry, Nesterovic and Mohammed again.
- The Spurs still don't have an answer for Ron-Ron or Bonzi. No small forward or off-guard on San Antonio is nearly strong enough to match up with The Beasts one-on-one. I know Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford are good, but I'm not sure they can just conjure up a 1995 version of Scottie Pippen. (I wouldn't put it past them, though.)
- Brad Miller is a creature of confidence. I think he has plenty right now. When he does have confidence, he's the best offensive center in the league. Tim Duncan is going to be forced to stay in B-52's face at some point, leaving even more o-boards from Bonzi and Kenny Thomas.
- Speaking of K-9: If the Spurs somehow do find a way to keep Bonzi off the offensive boards - which they have to do to win the series - then Kenny Thomas might be left a bit more free to do his work. K-9's rebounding prowess has been mostly kept in check. That can't last too long - Thomas is way too active.
- Kevin Martin is not finished yet.
- The Big Nasty is fully engaged in this series. He pretty much crushed Fabricio Oberto (I think it was him? I saw a scrunchie) with less than a minute to go. What a dude.
- The pace of the series has picked up. Tuesday is a must-win for the Spurs - I don't think they want to face elimination in ARCO. (Who would?) Game 5 will be the third in five nights. It's no back-to-back or four-in-five, but don't discount the lack of rest for Duncan. He's a gamer, and he didn't get the ball nearly enough Sunday through no fault of his own. But still. This isn't the traditional three days between every game series. It's a quick-paced series with lots of momentum swinging west.
We've got a series, ladies and gentlemen. Hold onto your hats!
(Oh, and... ahem... I love this game.)