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Brees Grounded and Pop’s Sleep Plan

By Pauly

Los Angeles, CA

The Spurs-Heat line jumped from -5.5 to -12 or -13 in some places. It was a are rainy afternoon in SoCal and went to a viewing of Lincoln. Before the previews started, the theatre showed one of those bits about turning off your phone, including texting. Of course at that precise moment, I was bombarded with texts about the line moving from -5.5 to -13.

Before I left for Century City, I got a tip that Tim Duncan and Tony Parker were both sitting out. I pulled our order on the Spurs (I wanted +6 or better). A few minutes later, word got out that Popovich sent Duncan and Parker on a plane back to Texas. A few minutes after that, a trusted source revealed the straight dope… Pop shipped four starters back to Texas.

Holy shit!

Green and Ginobli were also told to go home and rest, while Pop took the remainder of the Spurs to Miami to battle the Heat.

We liked Spurs +6 playing in Miami. I’m glad I didn’t pull the trigger on the overnight line. I scrambled and put in an UNDER 205 bet before the line moved. I sent out a few texts to our clients and friends of Ocelot Sports advising them about the line move and to jump on it before the public found out. I walked into the dim theatre and as I took my seat, the public had found out when the bookies moved the line to -13.

Too many texts. I turned off my phone and settled into the film.

Popovich is a former Air Force guy and understands the concept of “troop rotation” which he astutely applied last year during the lockout shortened season. Pop often scratched veteran players (listing them as “OLD” on the injury report), particularly on back-to-back nights. He opted for that strategy this season against the Miami Heat because his vets were road weary.

The Spurs spent most of November on the road, and were on the tail end of a 10-game road trip playing four games in five nights. Pop not only scratched four starters… he sent them back to San Antonio so they didn’t have to bother with making the trip to Miami. Rest is the key for old guys, plus Pop had faith in his bench, which is one of the deepest in the West (which begs the question… were the Spurs always that deep, or did they get deep because Pop played his bench, who in turn got much better because they got the necessary playing time to keep them fresh and effective?)

Hubie Brown had a strategy when he coached the Kentucky Colonels in the old ABA in the 1970s and he played 10 guys as much as possible, that way everyone was happy to get playing time. A happy team was an effective team. Hubie knew that he’d have to install an uptempo offense and defense in order to get all 10 guys in any given game. Oh, and about those other two guys on the team? Hubie said the 11th and 12th guys were marginal players thrilled to be on a pro team, so they wouldn’t bitch about playing time.

Flash foward forty years later. Pop’s strategy is simple… don’t wear down your troops during the regular season so they are tired and infective in the playoffs. Pop incorporates his bench by limiting his starters’ minutes during the regular season. During last season, he rested Duncan outright. Sometimes he sat the Big 3. The stars get rest and don’t roll the dice with getting a freak injury, while the bench feels needed, which is a psychological edge. They might get not minutes all the time, but they’ll get their number called eventually.

Pop asked his second string to take on the defending champs Miami Heat. They held on in the first half then went on a rush in the 3Q to open up a 7-point lead! Miami rallied and won the game… but it was close for a good 45 or 46 minutes. Is the Spurs bench that good? Is Pop an awesome coach and can take any 5 guys to compete against the best team in the NBA? Or did Miami fuck around? I’d say it’s a combo of all 3.

We got screwed because of the end of the game looked more like a college affair with too many fouls in the last 2 minutes (instead of making defensive stops and hitting shots). I thought our 205 UNDER was a lock, but Miami kept hitting FTs and Spurs kept fouling. We were lucky to push when Miami won 105-100.

The hoopla surrounding the game came from lame duck commissioner David Stern. I betcha some suit at TNT heard about Pop’s move and called up Stern to bitch and moan about losing viewers because the Spurs’ big stars were not playing. Hey, TNT’s contract with the NBA is worth a pretty penny and you can’t knock a TV suit for freaking out about a potential non-competitive game going up against Thursday Night Football. TV suits kvetch. It’s what they do. However, Stern’s reaction was abysmal. He sided with the suits instead of defending one of the most respected coaches in the NBA.

An incredulous Stern released a statement before tipoff and said that he was going to get those meddling kids! Actually, he threatened to fine the Spurs because their move threatened the integrity of the game.

That’s when Twitter blew up.

I don’t think a sane person (under 60) agreed with Stern. I think even the old coots were against Stern, becaue they knew what it felt like to wake up in the morning with achy bones. Shit, I’ve survived two car accidents since 2008 and I wake every single day with soreness and stiffness and have to fight pain throughout the day. I can only imagine how much pain professional athletes must endure, especially on the butt-end of a 10-game road trip.

The only folks up in arms were TV execs. Stern defended their opinion, but he sounded like a cranky old man sending back a cold pastrami sandwich Carnegie Deli.

If Stern really wanted to fine someone, he should fine the Miami Heat for playing like crap against a bunch of second stringers. Hey, let’s be honest, the majority of people were tuning into that game to see LeBron James and not Manu Ginobli.

The best response came from @haralabob who said if Stern really cared about the integrity of the game he’d refund ticket fees to everyone who went to see games that ref Tim Donaghy had fixed.

Ouch!

Stern? Old and out of touch defending sleazy TV execs who only care about the bottom line.

Pop? He’s trying to win a championship for the city of San Antonio. He smells blood in the water. He knows that the Lakers are struggling, but they’re still a  dangerous matchup in the playoffs. He knows his vets will have their hands full with Durant-Westbrook and OKC come this Spring. And he knows that even if he gets through all those guys and returns to the NBA Finals, he will not have a cake walk against Miami.

Then again, I can’t think a better psychological edge than Miami freaking out about barely beating second stringers. If the second team only lost by 5, what would a full squad do?

Zach Lowe is the best writer covering the NBA. Check out Zach’s article… San Antonio vs. Stern: Making Sense of the Spurs’ Benching Controversy.

*****

We didn’t want to make a play on the Thursday Night Football game — New Orleans vs. Atlanta — but I couldn’t resist.

The best move of the night was passing on the OVER. I felt it was too high and that New Orleans defense is much better now than in the first half of the season. Our play was NOLA +3.5 only because Atlanta is prone to playing close games. We figured this one would be close… and if Drew Brees did not throw 5 INTs, New Orleans might have won this game.

The way I see it… every time Brees throws an INT, it kills an offensive drive and that turnover takes points off the board. If he threw 2 fewer picks, I’m convinced Brees connects on at least one TD pass to keep his TD streak alive. Alas, one more TD woulda put the game within reach for us.

Kudos to Atlanta’s secondary. They were like swarming yellow jackets. This is the same crew that forced Peyton Manning into throwing 3 picks in a game earlier this year.

Anyway… I didn’t watch the entire game. I got back from Lincoln in the middle of the 1Q and watched most of the Spurs-Heat game. I really wanted Spurs and Pop to win so they could stick it to that blow-hard Strern. He’s got nothing else better to do then pass sanctimonious judgement against a coach (and former military veteran) trying to do his job.

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