I'm a Spurs fan... there, I said it. I'm upset that they lost last night, depite the well recited factoid that they have lost their first playoff game for the past couple of years. Still, much of what I saw last night gives me, and Spurs fans all over, reason to panic.
First of all, Denver was able to get 95 points on the Spurs defense, but not only did they outscore the supposed masters of tempo control, they outdefended them as well. For much of the night, Duncan, and everyone else in black and white seemed unable to get off solid shots. On the other end, the Spurs could not put a stop to Iverson and Anthony's abilities to take it inside. This is both surprising and upsetting, seeing as how much of the Spurs defense is predicated on Bowen's toughness and Ginobli's speed, which are supposed to keep dribble penetration to a minimum. Denver seemed capable of pushing the tempo at times and slowing it down when they needed it, San Antonio rarely looked like they were in control, and without their ability to force teams to play their style, I don't think the spurs have much going for them.
Scarier than both of those were the way that Nene was able to bully Tim Duncan. I have long believed that Nene is an underated defender, but I had no idea just how good he was. With Camby intimidating would be dribblers, the Spurs best bet was to get the ball to Duncan and let him go to work. Duncan shot 7/17 and at times looked frustrated against Nene's defense. At other times, the Spurs used Duncan as a point forward, giving him the ball high and allowing him to make plays. This was when the team looked their best, and Duncan is certianly capable enough (7 assists last night), but Duncan is not Chris Webber, it is good to post him up high sometimes to distribute, but in general, he belongs on the block with his back to the basket. What I'm hoping is that Duncan finds a way to use his faceup game more. He has the skill to get by Nene off the dribble, but with Camby's presence on help, taking Nene off the dribble might be risky. In general, the Spurs showed that the Nuggets are more than capable of giving them fits. Pop and his soldiers are in need of adjustment. Perhaps we need to see the ball in Ginobili's hands more, allowing him to push the tempo before Camby and Nene are able to get set. The spurs are a better than averege running sqad, with Parker and Ginobili, alongside Brent Barry and Finley who can spread the defense. Eitherway, something needs to be done or the Spurs will be fishing with alot of questions to answer.
The Mavs' loss is the one more people are talking about, yet it was the upset that has been predicted over and over the past few weeks. I did expect Dallas to lose one or two to GS, but not this soon and not this bad. Still, I think the Mavs have more positives to take out of this game than does San-Antonio. As Hollinger and others have pointed out (http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/playoffs2007/insider/columns/story?columnist=hollinger_john&id=2846252), Avery Johnson might have over-adjusted his lineup to match up with Golden State. Dirk just doesn't look comfortable when he plays the 5. I, like Hollinger, think that Dallas should focus more on playing its game. They are a much better team, they need to force Golden State to match up with them.
All told, last night was a very exciting first Sunday night of playoff basketball, but no one has been eliminated yet. While both Texas giants should be sweating, it is much to early to start talking about historically unprecidented upsets.