The NBA Closer is written by Matt McHale, who feels like he's watched Spurs-Lakers in the playoffs about a jillion times over the years. Or maybe it's just been Spurs-Whoever. When he's not misremembering his playoff history, he can be found mourning the death of the New Orleans dream at Basketbawful. Enjoy!
Sherman, set the WABAC machine to 2004. Forget the plutonium, the Flux Capacitor and the DeLorean. Turns out you don't need 1.21 GIGAWATTS!!! to achieve temporal displacement. Doc Popovich has discovered the real secrets behind time travel, and the San Antonio Spurs were his TARDIS in last night's 91-82 victory over the New Orleans Hornets.
Said Popovich: "I was standing on the edge of my toilet hanging a clock, the porcelain was wet, I slipped, hit my head on the sink, and when I came to I had a revelation! A vision! A picture in my head! A picture of this! This is what makes time travel possible in the NBA: Slowing the pace to a crawl, playing a suffocating and physical defense, working the ball inside to a dominant big mand and then hitting from outside when he's double-teamed, avoiding mistakes while capitalizing on the mistakes of our opponents. And it works! HA HA HA HA HA! It works! I finally invented something that works!"
The Spurs didn't shoot well — 39 percent -0 but they won the rebounding battle, hit 12 threes and, as usual, imposed their will on a younger, less experienced team. Manu Ginobili led San Antonio with 26 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists, and he hit four free throws in the final 60 ticks to open the wormhole that would send the Spurs back to the Western Conference Finals. Tony Parker added 17 points, Timmy Duncan finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds, and the roleplayers — specifically Ime Udoka, Michael Finley and Cheap Shot Rob — knocked in clutch threes.
Meanwhile, the Hornets weren't thinking fourth dimensionally, so they have to make like a tree ... and get outta the playoffs. Chris Paul (18 points, 14 assists, 5 steals), David West (20 points, 9 rebounds), and Tyson Chandler (13 points, 15 rebounds) got their numbers, and Jannero Pargo came off the bench to explode for 16 fourth-quarter points — on about a jillion shots — to help New Orleans cut a 17-point lead to three.
But the young-uns finally acted their age and got rattled by the implacable (meaning "not able to be plac'ed") efficiency of the defending champs. Peja Stojakovic, reverting to his 2002 Sacramento Kings form, hit nothing but air on an open three. West boned an open 12-footer. And several Hornets — or was it only Pargo shooting? — missed open threes in the final minutes as the Spurs slowly walked away with the game.
Said Cheap Shot Rob: "People always talk about you being old because you don't dunk anymore or slash as fast as you used to slash, but we're one of the smartest teams in the league and we have a very good coaching staff. We didn't make stupid mistakes tonight."
The Spurs will face the Lakers — again — for the right to move on to the NBA Finals. Game 1 is Wednesday in L.A.