Gi-no-bili! Barkley's Favorite Player Takes Over in the Fourth QuarterThe San Antonio Spurs bounced back from their terrible Game Three performance to post a 91-79 Game Four victory over the Utah Jazz. The Spurs lead the Western Conference Finals 3-1 and are one home win away from their fourth trip to the NBA Finals in the Tim Duncan era. Some analysts fell for the trap of reading too much into the margin of Utah's Game Three win but right after that game I wrote, "Look for a much closer contest in Game Four and don't be surprised if the Spurs go back to San Antonio with a 3-1 lead." Duncan had decent numbers but looked out of sorts at times, leading ESPN's Mark Jackson to say, "I've never seen him play worse." Duncan still managed to put up 19 points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots, which is a pretty good night's work for most players, but he did have five turnovers. The Spurs got vital contributions from Manu Ginobili, who finished with 22 points, six rebounds and three steals. He scored 16 fourth quarter points, including three free throws that put the Spurs up 82-72 at the 3:57 mark after Derek Fisher fouled him while he was attempting a three pointer. Tony Parker (17 points), Michael Finley (13 points) and Fabricio Oberto (11 points, 11 rebounds) each scored in double figures for the Spurs.
Some deride Ginobili for flopping when he tries to draw charges but you have to give him credit for this: when he receives a hard foul, he doesn't whine and he doesn't act tough and try to start a fight; he stands up, dusts himself off and shoots his free throws. On the other hand, the Jazz clearly lost their cool down the stretch, as Coach Jerry Sloan and Derek Fisher were both ejected. "They just have not conducted themselves with the poise necessary to win a close game," concluded ESPN's Jeff Van Gundy, who probably wondered why Utah did not collapse like that when he coached the Houston Rockets against them in the first round--doesn't that seem like a lifetime ago? Not only Utah's players and coaches lost their composure but also their fans, who threw debris on the court after the game, as Michele Tafoya explained to the national television audience that it would not be possible to do the traditional postgame interview on the court. The final result and the ugly behavior at the end should not detract from the fine performances turned in once again by Deron Williams (27 points, 10 assists, three steals) and Carlos Boozer (18 points, nine rebounds), who have emerged in this postseason as one of the top young duos in the NBA. They just did not receive enough help from their teammates, none of whom scored in double figures. As ESPN's Tim Legler put it on SportsCenter, "Utah is basically playing two against five offensively." This was Utah's first home loss of the 2007 playoffs and most likely their last home game of these playoffs as well, unless the Jazz are able to pull it together and win in San Antonio, always a daunting task.
posted by David Friedman @ 1:12 AM