Games to Watch

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The Spurs recently released their ’09-’10 schedulewhich means it’s time to get excited.  To help you get back into Spurs mode, here are some games to watch and things to look forward to.  Be sure to Tivo/DVR/do whatever it takes to have the March 8th game against the Cavs recorded so you can rewatch it.

Spurs vs. Hornets
Wednesday, October 28th

Why?
Beause this is our home-opener!  I’ve been looking forward to this game since Game 5 against the Mavs, and I assume you have too.

What to look for?
— First, check out our starting lineup.  Will Coach Pop choose to start Manu or Jefferson, McDyess or Bonner, Finley or Mason, or will he throw a curve ball and start someone we haven’t even considered?
— Pay attention to Pop’s bench rotation.  Early in the season he will probably limit the Big Three’s minutes.  Tony may see especially low minutes since he chose to play for France rather than let his body recover from a long season.  He is also dealing with an ankle injury.
— Notice who is calling the game in the AT&T Center.  The Spurs seemed unable to decide who should call the game and rotated announcers throughout the season.  I must say, it annoyed the hell out of me.  I think they finally settled on Big Kev.
— As far as the Hornets go, pay attention to how the players interact with Byron Scott.  Rumor has it they hate him.  When he calls a timeout, count how many players are checking out the Silver Dancers rather than paying attention to what he has to say.  When a free throw is being shot, see if he is trying to convey anything to his team, and more importantly, watch them ignore him.


Spurs @ Mavs

Wednesday, November 18th

Why?
This game will serve as an early measuring stick for the Spurs.  Obviously, the Mavericks knocked an injury-riddled Spurs team out of the playoffs last season.  At this point, knock on wood, we should be healthy and will be able to get an idea of how the Spurs match up against one of the best offensive teams in the West.

What to look for?
— Pay attention to what happens when the Mavs go small, because they will.  When the Mavs put Kidd, Terry, Howard, Marion, and Dirk on the floor, will the Spurs also go small or will Pop punish this small lineup with his bigs?   
— Watch Tony Parker drop 30+ on Jason Kidd.  Ever since the Spurs nearly traded for Kidd the year after we beat him in the finals of ’03, Tony seems to take this matchup personally.
— Count how many boneheaded plays Drew Gooden makes on the defensive end of the floor.  This will be a little difficult since Dirk and Kidd may disguise his mistakes with their own ineptitude, but still look for it.
— Also count how many times Dirk flops when shooting to draw a call from the officials.  And Mavs fans call Manu a flopper, how hypocritical.

Spurs vs. Celtics
Thursday, December 3rd

Why?
Because the Celtics won the championship two seasons ago and feel as if they did not lose to a team last year, they lost to injuries.  The Celtics still feel like champions and will bring that attitude to the AT&T Center.

What to look for?
— If you want to play a fun drinking game at home, drink every time Kevin Garnett drops the F-bomb.  You will get loaded, I promise. 
— Notice how Garnett, Pierce, and Allen are moving.  I feel as if one of these guys is destined to get injured during the course of the season and if you notice one of them limping, their season may be nearing its end.  Those three just have too many games on their odometer and are getting a little too old to play the minutes that are being asked of them. 
— I wish Vegas let you bet on which official is going to get assigned to specific games.  If they did, I would put the house on Joey Crawford officiating this game.  
— Enjoy the Parker versus Rondo show.  This is the key matchup of the game.

Spurs vs. Lakers
Tuesday, January 12th

Why?
This is a matchup of arguably the two best teams in the West.  It will be the 36th game of the season, so at this point both teams should have developed an identity and it could be a nice preview of the Western Conference Finals.

What to look for?
— Tony should run Derek Fisher ragged.  Will Phil Jackson have enough confidence to play Jordan Farmar extended minutes?  Farmar struggled last season and the Lakers’ most obvoius weakness is their point guard position.  If Tony can dominate the game, the Spurs will have a great shot at winning.
— If Kobe gets hot, who is Pop going to use to cool him off?  Without Bruce, this will be a point of contention for all Spurs fans.
— What lineup will Coach Pop go to when Phil plays Odom, Bynum, and Gasol at the same time?  My guess is he will put an even smaller lineup in to give these three bigs a headache on the defensive end.

Spurs @ Nuggets
Thursday, February 11th

Why?
This is the 5th away game of the 8 game Rodeo Road Trip.   Always an important stretch for the Spurs, this game is especially critical because it follows a Spurs, Lakers battle.  It will be vital for the Spurs to win this game if they dropped the previous one in LA in order to avoid a potential slump.

What to look for?
— In my opinion, the Nuggets overachieved last season.  They benefitted from other teams’ injuries.  Generally when a team overachieves as they did, they come crashing down to reality the following year.  If this happens, the wheels will come off since they are loaded with crazy people.  Just keep an eye on the body language of the Nuggets’ players.
— The Nuggets lost their best perimeter defender in Dahntay Jones.  Look for Manu to have a huge game. 
— Similarly, the Spurs lost Bruce Bowen so if JR Smith or Melo get hot, that will be a very bad thing for the Spurs.

Spurs @ Cavs
Monday, March 8th

Why?
King James and Shaq.  That’s why.

What to look for?
— At this point of the season, we should pretty much know how the James, Shaq experiment is going to turn out.  My guess is that they will not have improved much from last year.  Shaq really does not address any of the Cav’s problems.  It will still be fun to watch them play, though.
— Who will Shaq guard?  It will have to be Tim, right?  Tim should be able to dominate Shaq with his superior quickness.  Expect Tim to draw Shaq away from the basket to limit his effectiveness as a help defender.   
— Pay extra attention to the coaching matchup.  Mike Brown is intimidated by Coach Popovich.  This was very evident when the Spurs faced the Cavs in the ’07 finals and swept them.  Mike Brown is baffled by Pop.

Spurs vs. Magic
Friday, April 2nd

Why?
In my opinion, the Magic own the most talented roster in the NBA, at least on paper.  This late into the season, both teams will attempt to use this game to make a statement to the rest of the league.  This will be an extremely intense contest with a playoff-like atmosphere.

What to look for?
— A weak running hook by Howard.  It was his only move last season, and if Patrick Ewing spent the entire offseason teaching him everything he knows about post moves, it will be his only move this season as well.
— As I said, on paper the Magic are an extremely talented team; but are they too talented?  That can be an issue in a locker room full of big egos.  Also, Barnes, Gortat, and Bass all play the same position and will be fighting for minutes.  One of them will not get the minutes he probably would on any other team in the league.  I just feel there is a possibility that this team may implode.  Keep an eye on it for me.
— Vince Carter quit on his team in Toronto.  Clearly, he was extremely selfish as a young player.  Has he outgrown it?  The Magic are definitely hoping he has.

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