Posts Tagged ‘Antonio McDyess’

Z-Bo’s Play Leaves Grizzlies Feeling Empty

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SAN ANTONIO — It was early in the third quarter when Zach Randolph simply did the kind of thing that he does.

Mike Conley had driven into the teeth of the Spurs defense and had his layup attempt pop out. So there was Randolph, all 260 pounds and city-block wide of him of him, rising up out of the crowd in the paint to tap the ball back into the basket. It was notable only because Randolph had taken seven previous shots and not made a single one.

Z-Bo had been Z-B000000.

When itwas  finally over, Randolph had just those two points to his name, which meant that he was outscored by all but two players on the Spurs’ 12-man active roster  — and that’s using the term quite loosely, since Tracy McGrady hasn’t truly been relevant in half a decade. It took Aussie Patty Mills, cuddly as a koala, just 66 seconds off the bench to pop in a 3-pointer and move ahead of Randolph on the day’s scoring list.

All of which goes a long way toward explaining the ugly 105-83 thumping the Grizzlies took from the Spurs and why Randolph chose to enter the post-game locker room and express regrets to his teammates.

“He tried to apologize first off, and we wouldn’t accept that,” said the point guard Conley. “We said, it’s not you, it’s all of us.”

There were so many things wrong with how the Grizzlies came out and played the opener of the first Western Conference finals game in franchise history that Z-Bo might as well have been holding a bucket to catch the water when the dam broke.

Tony Parker merely took the ball almost from the opening tip and drove it anyplace he wanted toward the Memphis basket, finishing at the rim and stabbing in mid-range jumpers. The Spurs’ wing men set up residence in either corner and all they had to do was wait for the ball to find them for open shots. The Spurs finished the day making 14 of their 29 attempts from deep, setting a franchise playoff record for 3-pointers. It was hardly the kind of performance you might have expected from the No. 1-rated defense in the NBA during regular season and more like playing a game of keep-away with a class of kindergartners.

“We didn’t play well,” said Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins. “I mean, it’s not anything specific.”

However, it can specifically be said that Grizzlies will be done if Randolph doesn’t even bother to show up. Z-Bo and his partner Marc Gasol punished the Spurs with their inside game two years ago when the Grizzlies became just the second No. 8 seed in history to knock off a No. 1 seed.

But that was a different Spurs team, one that was not as healthy, not nearly as deep and not as remotely capable of coming at Randolph with the overwhelming force of a tsunami.

“They were disrupting my rhythm,” Randolph said. “It was just one of those nights. I played like I did against the Clippers in L.A.” (more…)

Spurs-Grizzlies Means No Apologies


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SAN ANTONIO — Tim Duncan sat down heavily and breathed a sigh of someone who had just been asked to lift the back end of a school bus off the ground.

“It’s not going to be pretty,” he said. “Sorry.”

But the playoffs mean never having to say you’re sorry.

So when the Spurs and Grizzlies open the Western Conference finals on Sunday night, there will be no apologies offered.

Only elbows and hips, pushes and shoves, pulls and grabs and tugs and slaps and takedowns that could turn seven games into one gigantic bruise.

Having already dealt with the front-line size of the Lakers Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol and the aggressive play of the Warriors’ Andrew Bogut, Carl Landry and Festus Ezeli, the Spurs realized it was all just a warmup to the tandem of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, for whom grit and grind is more than a slogan.

“If you thought (the Golden State series) was physical, it’s going to turn up about 10 notches,” Duncan said.

It’s possible the Spurs might still have a few black and blue marks left over from their run-in with the Grizzlies in the first round of the 2011 playoffs. San Antonio entered that series as the prohibitive favorite and wound up becoming only the second No. 1 seed in history to lose to a No. 8 seed in a best-of-seven series.

By the time the series was over, the Spurs were as bludgeoned as they were beaten by Memphis’ inside game. Duncan, who played with a sprained ankle, and Manu Ginobili, who played with a fractured elbow, were exhausted and exposed.

Now though, the Spurs are feeling like a team that is much more equipped to deal with the Grizzlies’ size and force, having added Tiago Splitter to their starting lineup and Boris Diaw to their bench.

“It’s going to be a big-man series,” Duncan said. “I think the size definitely helps us. We’re a different team than when we faced them a couple years ago.”

The 6-foot-11 Splitter was a rookie in 2011 and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich did not feel confident using him two seasons ago, choosing to go with 6-9 veteran Antonio McDyess in his final NBA season. Splitter played just 51 minutes in the entire season and did not set foot onto the court until Game 4.

“Of course, you always want to play, because you believe that you can help,” Splitter said. “That’s the part of you that is the competitor. But that is the past and now I feel good.”

In the four regular season meetings this season, Splitter averaged 10.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and was able to stand his ground against the low-post relentlessness of Randolph.

“Its just nonstop fighting,” Splitter said. “He’s a warrior over there with the rebounding and positioning.”

The experience two years ago gave the Spurs a head start on the rest of the league in recognizing the Grizzlies as powerful, growing championship contenders.

“I’ve seen them as a major threat for years now,” Duncan said. “Obviously, they beat us in the first round when we were the top seed. They’ve been a very solid team, a very good team. They have always played us really tough. We respect them and their capabilities and we’re not surprised they’re here.”

Popovich rates the Grizzlies with Miami and Indiana as the top defensive teams in the league. But the Spurs themselves turned around the battle against the Warriors and put the clamps on the backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson with a defensive job that was aggressive, thorough and a throwback to their old championship ways and days.

Now it’s toe-to-toe, elbow-to-elbow, hip-check to bump-and-grind with the Grizzlies at a time when the 37-year-old Duncan can see the finish line.

“This run this year is extremely special to me,” he said. “People continue to count us out, year in and year out, and we continue to make runs deep into the playoffs. This is a special one.”

And certainly no reason to say you’re sorry.

Spurs Stand Tall Despite Sitting Duncan

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OAKLAND, Calif. — Gregg Popovich manages Tim Duncan’s minutes all season long as if he were a pastry chef baking a souffle. Too long in the oven and everything can fall flat.

“It’s what we do,” says the Spurs coach.

Except how many coaches would do it with a two-point lead in the final 4 1/2 minutes of a close-out game in a playoff series that always seemed on edge?

But there were a couple of weak jumpers that seemed to come off tired legs and then an absent-minded crosscourt pass that nearly took the bald head right off the shoulders of referee Joey Crawford and wound up in the stands.

So that’s how Duncan came to watch the final scenes of his 200th career playoff game, a 94-82 win over the Warriors that put his Spurs back into the Western Conference finals.

“I don’t think he was giving me a break,” Duncan said, ruefully smiling and shaking his head. “I think I had played three or four pretty bad minutes in a row and he decided to go with something else.

“It is what it is and we were able to finish the series. I wish I could be out there, but honestly the way we playing and the way we finished it was the right move. So I’m happy for it.”

It is what it is and the Spurs are what they are, which is a more experienced, more mature, just plain better team than the one that bolted to a 2-0 lead over Oklahoma City in the conference finals in 2012 and then was steamrolled out in four straight defeats.

They’re a team that could have Tony Parker make only 1 of his first 13 shots and survive. They’re a team that could have Manu Ginobili go 1-for-6 and still advance. They’re a team that could have their 14-time NBA All-Star Duncan get the hook in the clutch and still go into the next round against the rugged Grizzlies as the team to beat.

“Oh, it won’t be pretty,” Duncan said looking ahead to the mud-wrestling match with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. But then again, neither was this and yet the Spurs somehow made it look like a work of art.

Maybe nobody but Popovich could have gotten away with sitting Duncan down at that critical point in the game. After Stephen Curry hit a jumper from the key to cut the Spurs’ lead to 77-75, Duncan made his wildly inaccurate pass and the Oracle crowd rose for one last deafening roar.

“I just made that choice,” Popovich said.

Probably no superstar of his stature would have accepted the seat on the bench with Duncan’s aplomb.

“Of course, as a player you want to be in there competing,” he said. “But you had other guys in there getting the job done, so it was obviously the thing to do.”

It is that union of coach and star, that steadiness that has enabled the Spurs to advance to the Conference finals for the eighth time — with four championships already — in Duncan’s career.

There was a time — just two years ago — when the Spurs were the No. 1 seed in the West and were unceremoniously run out of the playoffs by the No. 8-seeded Grizzlies. It was a series when Duncan limped in on a bad ankle, Ginobili played with what was later found to be a fractured elbow and the Spurs’ bench faltered. So Popovich chose to roll the dice with last-gasp veteran Antonio McDyess over a rookie named Tiago Splitter.

Two seasons later, Splitter was hitting 6 of 8 shots, scoring 14 points, grabbing four rebounds and holding his own on the inside of the defense while Duncan became a spectator.

Duncan and Ginobili are older now, but the Spurs are deeper with Splitter, Danny Green and the quietly deadly force of Kawhi Leonard stepping up. They’re a team that can see the in-full-bloom Parker miss 12 of his first 13 shots in the game and be confident that he’ll make the right choices and hit the big shots when needed.

Ginobili won the incredible double-overtime Game 1 of the series by hitting the game-winning shot on a night when he was 5-for-20 from the field. And even though he could hardly find the basket in Game 6, twice in the last three minutes, he drove toward the hoop, drew the defense to him and delivered perfect passes into the left corner that produced treys from Parker and Leonard.

The Spurs’ core that looked old and tired the last time they faced Memphis in the playoffs is older now, yet playing spryer because Popovich is so diligent about managing those minutes. However, there is also fresh blood running through those veins in Leonard, Green and Splitter that makes much of what’s happening this season possible.

Even stunning things like Duncan watching from the bench in the close-out stretch of a close-out game and nobody thinking twice.

It’s what they do.

Popovich On Splitter’s Rise: ‘It Helps Timmy A Lot’

HANGTIME SOUTHWEST – Is Tiago Splitter the most important player on the San Antonio Spurs?

OK, so nobody’s going to make that argument with a straight face, but consider this comment from coach Gregg Popovich: “He’s just healthy and getting consistent minutes, so that’s helping us. It helps Timmy a lot.”

Helping Timmy, as in 36-year-old Tim Duncan, is nothing to sneeze at, especially as the Spurs head into another back-to-back tonight at Milwaukee followed by Thursday’s game at New York.

Thirty-three games into his third NBA season, Splitter seems to have finally put a stranglehold on a starting job. He gives San Antonio a sturdy, 6-foot-11, 240-pound power forward to handle the inside dirty work while lessening the burden and creating space for the ageless Duncan, who is again putting together an All-Star-caliber season.

“I’m the kind of player who to win games sometimes doesn’t mean you are going to score or make all the plays in a game,” Splitter said Sunday before piling up 13 points and six rebounds in a blowout of the Dallas Mavericks. One night later he went 5-for-7 from the floor for 10 points plus a couple blocks in a rout of the Brooklyn Nets.

“The situation is good and that’s what I want to do, come in here, win games, help the team to win,” Splitter continued. “I think we have great offensive guys, everybody can score on this team, so it’s not about scoring every night — be consistent, do whatever Pop wants to do on the court, play intelligent.”

It’s been a slow build for the Brazilian, who turned 28 on New Year’s Day. He’s dealt with some nagging injuries while adjusting to life in the NBA and under Popovich’s unique tutelage. He’s played behind the now-retired Antonio McDyess and DeJuan Blair, who has bounced in and out of the starting lineup as well as the rotation the last few season, yet was Popovich’s choice to start at the onset of the season.

“I think every day you learn something with him. He is one of the greatest coaches ever,” Splitter said. “Of course, you understand how he thinks, how he understands the game, so it’s easier. It took some time. I took a year to figure out everything and last year I was totally different and felt like a player again last year.”

Now it’s up to Splitter to hold onto the job for the foreseeable future. As a starter he is averaging 10.5 points and 5.8 rebounds in 25.0 minutes, about seven more minutes than he was logging as a reserve.

Where the brawny Splitter can really make a difference for San Antonio and give Timmy the most help is by taking on the brunt of defending the big boys in the West, such as Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard, Zach Randolph, LaMarcus Aldridge and Serge Ibaka.

“Somebody asked me a while back what has he improved in. I said nothing. He just hasn’t played,” Popovich said. “What he does for us now healthy is what he’s done in Europe for a lot of years. He’s been on championship teams over there. He’s a defender, a rebounder, a solid pick-and-roll player. He doesn’t have moves and he’s not a big offensive threat, but he’s every coach’s dream because he does everything so fundamentally sound.”

No, Splitter isn’t the most important player on the Spurs. But on a team that’s been considered too small up front to get out of the West, his importance can’t be understated either.

McDyess, Stojakovic Hang ‘Em Up

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY BUREAU – Monday brought the end to two great NBA careers.

Antonio McDyess and Peja Stojakovic are both hanging up their sneakers, and both are going out knowing they’ve still got a little bit of game left.

Stojakovic went out on top, winning a title with the Mavericks last season. He played his part too, hitting 29 threes in the playoffs. That included a ridiculous 6-for-6 performance from downtown in Game 4 against the Lakers. Before retiring, Stojakovic ranked 27th among active players with 13,647 career points and fourth all-time (behind only Ray Allen, Reggie Miller and Jason Kidd) with 1,760 3-pointers.

ESPN.com’s Marc Stein has the story

The three-time All-Star told ESPN.com on Monday that the physical toll involved in playing after a string of back and neck troubles, at age 34, convinced him that “it’s time” to step away from the game despite interest from a handful of contenders in signing the sharpshooter away from the Mavericks.

“When you start competing against your body more than you’re preparing for the actual game,” Stojakovic said, “it’s a wakeup call.”

Stojakovic does have the privilege of leaving the sport after nearly 20 years as a pro on an unquestioned high, thanks to some standout moments during the maiden title run in Mavericks history.

McDyess ranked 35th among active players with 12,227 career points in 15 seasons. He never got his ring though. McDyess joined the Pistons right after they won the championship in 2004 and joined the Spurs two years after their last title.

McDyess was under contract with San Antonio for this season, but his deal was partially guaranteed. The Spurs had hoped to bring him back, but they couldn’t convince him to play another year. So they waived him on Monday.

Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News gives us the details

The teams acknowledged that McDyess won’t be back, and the club will get to remove $2.6 million, the non=guaranteed portion of his contract, off its player payroll for the 2011-12 season.

McDyess, a former All-Star and an Olympic gold medal winner i n 2000, started all six playoff games last season. After the Game 6 loss in Memphis that ended the playoff run of the No. 1 seeded team in the Western Conference he made it clear to the Express-News that he intended to retire after 16 seasons.

Thunder Inside Men Do The Job

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will continue to draw the biggest crowds and garners the most headlines for all that goes on with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

That’s what All-Stars do. But if the Thunder challenge the Spurs, Lakers and Mavericks for the Western Conference crown this season, they’ll have to do it from the inside out.

And that means they’ll need more of what they got from Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka in last night’s win over Portland that clinched their second consecutive playoff berth. The two Thunder bigs came up with clutch, back-to-back blocks at the rim in the final minute of a tight game (above), setting the stage for Westbrook to finish the Trail Blazers off with big shots in the final 53 seconds.

“They do a good job protecting the basket,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks told the Oklahoman. “They compliment each other very well.”

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StatsCube: Best Bench in Basketball?


On Wednesday in New Jersey, the Chicago Bulls trailed by seven when Omer Asik entered the game in the first quarter, and by four when Ronnie Brewer and Taj Gibson checked in a couple of minutes later. When Asik checked out in the second quarter, the Bulls were up four. When Gibson checked out, they were up eight. And when Brewer checked out, they were up seven.

As great as Derrick Rose is, the Bulls’ bench has been absolutely critical to their success.

The Bulls rank 23rd in the league in points per game off the bench, but in Thursday’s StatsCube analysis of Sixth Man Award candidates, I wrote that the Bulls have the best bench in basketball because of how strong their second unit is defensively.

A day later, I’m going to admit that the “best bench” proclamation was made a little hastily — and with a big emphasis on defense. According to NBA.com StatsCube, the two best defensive lineups in the league (with a minimum of 100 minutes on the floor together) are Bulls’ lineups that include Brewer, Gibson and Asik.

But the No. 1 offensive lineup in the league is also a bench unit. The Spurs‘ lineup of George Hill, Gary Neal, Manu Ginobili, Matt Bonner and Antonio McDyess barely meets the 100 minutes requirement, but has been amazingly efficient.

That Spurs lineup edges out the Bulls’ lineup of Rose, Brewer, Luol Deng, Gibson and Asik as the best bench lineup in the league overall. And yes, Ginobili, Rose and Deng are all starters. I’m defining a “bench lineup” as one with at least three players who don’t normally start for their team.

Bench lineups with positive plus-minus

Team Lineup GP Min. Off. Eff. Rank Def. Eff. Rank Diff. Rank
SAS Hill, Neal, Ginobili, Bonner, McDyess 23 101 129.2 1 93.6 14 35.6 1
CHI Rose, Brewer, Deng, Gibson, Asik 37 126 113.7 25 83.2 2 30.5 3
DAL Barea, Terry, Marion, Nowitzki, Mahinmi 20 102 117.8 10 97.3 28 20.5 9
PHI Williams, Turner, Iguodala, Young, Brand 31 108 108.8 56 92.3 11 16.6 15
LAL Blake, Brown, Bryant, Odom, Gasol 31 108 118.6 8 104.0 67 14.7 18
LAL Blake, Brown, Barnes, Odom, Gasol 36 175 109.4 49 95.5 20 14.0 20
OKC Westbrook, Harden, Durant, Ibaka, Collison 39 130 109.7 47 96.7 26 12.9 26
DAL Barea, Terry, Marion, Nowitzki, Haywood 44 341 113.2 27 102.2 58 11.0 35
CHI Watson, Brewer, Deng, Gibson, Asik 32 111 86.5 132 77.0 1 9.5 40
OKC Maynor, Harden, Green, Ibaka, Collison 25 130 116.3 13 108.6 100 7.7 47
LAL Blake, Brown, Walton, Odom, Gasol 21 127 103.1 91 95.5 21 7.6 49
DAL Maynor, Harden, Durant, Ibaka, Collison 35 106 104.6 83 100.0 44 4.6 65

Off. Eff. = Points scored per 100 possessions
Def. Eff. = Points allowed per 100 possessions
Rank is among all 133 lineups that have played at least 100 minutes together.

There are a lot of stars mixed in with those lineups, but that’s the way it goes in this league. Lineups comprised of five reserves are rare in this league. The Suns had a very effective one last year, but with all their roster changes, they haven’t been able to capture that same magic.

So even though they’re coming off the bench, it’s critical for bench players to complement their team’s stars and fit the coach’s game plan. The Bulls’ reserves obviously do that. Tom Thibodeau‘s squad ranks just 15th in the league offensively, but is at the top of the Eastern Conference because of its No. 1 defense.

No Miami Heat lineup is listed above, and it’s been said often that a lack of depth is one of Miami’s biggest issues. They rank dead last in the league in bench scoring at 22.2 points per game.

The Heat have five lineups that have played at least 100 minutes together, and they all have a positive plus-minus, but they all include Chris Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

Amazingly though, each of Miami’s 15 most-used lineups have a positive plus-minus. That’s a lot of mixing and matching, and it’s all been relatively successful. And though the Heat don’t have any great lineups with at least three bench players, they do have a lot of guys on their roster who have contributed.

Bench players with a positive plus-minus (see notes below):
7: Miami (Chalmers, Jones, Anthony, House, Dampier, Haslem, Howard)
6: Oklahoma City
5: Chicago, Denver, L.A. Lakers, Orlando, Utah
4: San Antonio
3: Boston, Dallas, Milwaukee, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia
2: Charlotte, Golden State, Houston, Memphis
1: Atlanta, Indiana, New Jersey, Portland, Toronto, Washington
0: Cleveland, Detroit, L.A. Clippers, Minnesota, Phoenix, Washington

Notes:
1. Only players who have played at least 300 minutes and have started less than 50 percent of the games they’ve played in were counted.
2. Players are counted for their current team. For example, Nate Robinson is counted for the Thunder.

So while Miami doesn’t have any reserves who have consistently put points on the board, Erik Spoelstra has managed to find ways to use them effectively.

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

Spurs Go Gaga Over Gaga

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Who says the San Antonio Spurs are a crusty old bunch?

Not us. Not when it becomes clear that the NBA’s best team is filled with guys that are on the cutting edge of fashion, pop culture, music and entertainment.

You don’t believe it?

Fine. Show us another crew that turns a Lady Gaga concert into a team outing … as the Spurs did the other night.

Tim Griffin of the Spurs Nation blog of the Express News explains:

Several Spurs forgot about their disappointing performance in Miami with a respite from basketball after returning back to San Antonio the following night.

Spurs guard Tony Parker said about half of his team attended the Lady Gaga concert Tuesday night at the AT&T Center. Parker posted several pictures of the concert at his Facebook account. And Manu Ginobili uploaded several pictures on his Plixi account of the headliner.

“It was great. She’s a great performer,” Parker said of the concert. “She did great. I like her stuff.”

Ginobili didn’t talk to the media Wednesday as he recovered from a sore throat that was noticeable after the Miami game. But Parker said he couldn’t tell if Ginobili was screaming during the show.

“I don’t know,” Parker said. “He was sitting in front of me. I don’t know if he was screaming. But he was moving his head. I could see that.”

Eldest Spur Antonio McDyess was one of those who didn’t attend.

“Maybe the young guys were there, but not me,” McDyess said, chuckling. “I don’t know one of her songs.”

We didn’t say they were all cool!

Spurs swear Lakers still best. (Honest)

SAN ANTONIO – They are 51-11, several lengths ahead of the field in the race for best record in the league, are coming off a 125-95 torching of the heralded Miami Heat that could have had them arrested for arson and have already beaten Kobe & Co. twice already this season.

But you still won’t get the Spurs to say that anyone but the Lakers is the best team league. Especially with the two-time defending champions up next for a Sunday afternoon date at the AT&T Center.

“They have a great team, I must say,” said Antonio McDyess. “Every team we face is competition for us. You’ve got Dallas in the West, New Orleans, other teams. But they (Lakers) are the best team until you take their title away. I think we always look at it that way. When we step on the court with the guys who have won two championships in a row, until you take that title away, they are the best team.”

The last time the two teams met on Feb. 3, McDyess’s tip-in at the buzzer of a missed Tim Duncan jumper gave the Spurs an 89-88 win over L.A. at Staples Center.

“That’s by far one of the most memorable tip-ins I’ve ever had,” he said. “Especially playing against the Lakers, I’ve never had that opportunity to tip in a ball to win such a huge game for us. It’s definitely gonna be a memory.

“Right now, it’s pretty much a blur. When I tipped it in I didn’t really think that I really did it, that it counted. So I kinda hesitated to even celebrate for a second. But they didn’t blow a whistle and I remember going toward the center court and having the guys coming towards me. That was a great feeling at that point.”

It was not only a rare shot, but the play elicited the quite rare occasion of a smile from coach Gregg Popovich.

“I only saw it on replay,” McDyess said. “I never saw it in the moment. In the replay I saw him smile like ‘We did it.’ It was kinda good to see that.

“(He’s usually) mellow, angry-faced. From everyone it was a good feeling. Seeing Pop smiling was even better.”

But now Pop is back into his scowling, not-give-an-inch game mode and will barely acknowledge that his own club has reached 50 wins for an NBA-record-tying 12th season in a row while the Lakers have struggled often. Don’t try telling him that anyone but the Lakers is sitting atop the mountain.

“Sure. Sure. Yep. They’re defending NBA champions,” Popovich said. “They’ve won two in a row. It seems perfectly logical to me that at times their focus might not be 100 percent. But they’re a group with fantastic corporate knowledge. They know how difficult it is. Because they know that they also know what it will take down the stretch here and come playoff time.

“So I think they deserve the respect for that and until proven otherwise. That will convince me, when somebody beats them four out of seven (in the playoffs). Then I’ll believe they’re not the best team in the West.”

About Last Night: Heat & Spurs Flex

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The Spurs needed some Antonio McDyess heroics at the buzzer. The Heat got a monster performance from LeBron James from buzzer to buzzer.

With the Eastern and Western Conference All-Star reserves announcement as an appetizer, we couldn’t have asked for a better menu last night.

The winners can take plenty away from their performances.

The Heat’s true MVP showed that he’s still the one man in the league capable of completely overwhelming an opponent in ways that few other players can. James lit up the Magic for a team-record 23 in the first quarter, had 29 points before halftime and probably could have scored even more. That budding Heat-Magic rivalry we were all hoping to see doesn’t exist right now.

Meanwhile, the Spurs continue to make fools of their critics (us included) for assuming that they won’t be able to match up in the frontcourt with other elite teams. McDyess and Tim Duncan have membership cards for the NBA’s Silver Foxes Club. But they’ve still got plenty of juice left in those old(er) arms and legs.

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