But the final (whistle-)blow was the horrific call on Trevor Ariza's drive. Inexcusable. Calling a foul on Ginobili, though the right call, would've been surprising. Pocketing their whistle on a late-game drive with contact would've at least had precedent. But a travel call on what was clearly a two-step drive? And barely even 2 steps? Bad, bad, bad official. And I don't want to hear the explanation that Ariza's two steps were awkward; if driving awkwardly fooled officials into making traveling calls, Manu Ginobili wouldn't have taken an unwhistled layup in 6 years.
In any case, this game featured a pair of normally-unsung players: the Spur's Roger Mason and Josh Powell of the Lakers. Mason looks deadly from beyond the arc, and -- phantom foul notwithstanding -- made a nice play to put in the game-tying shot. That's two late-game clutch plays this season by my woefully-poor count (game-winner vs. Phoenix). Nice start to his new team. And Josh Powell is pretty impressive with his mid-range game. Watching him I kept saying to myself: Ronny Turia-who? Powell isn't quite the rebounder that Ronny is, and doesn't quite have that boundless energy, but he seems to be in the same neighbourhood defensively and has a much better looking shot. Nice off-season pickups for both teams.
The Spurs looked stronger than I'd imagined they would have at this point in the year. Between Mason, George Hill, and Matt Bonner, they've got a few guys to help bring down that gray-beard age average the Spurs have been sporting in the past couple years. Ginobili looks healthy as well. But at the same time, we have to remember that the Lakers are still missing 3 regulars, and don't have a single backup point guard. So naturally we have to hold off on annointing one team fit to compete with another when one is missing 33% of its regular rotation.
But now Brand is back practicing, and could return to game action by this weekend. How is this team going to incorporate Elton's skillset and not lose their identity? I can't say I have an answer. And more importantly, something tells me the Sixers coaching staff doesn't have a clearcut answer either. Poor Phill...wait a second -- Phillies, Eagles, Soul...ok, scratch that "poor Philly talk".
I just checked the schedule; the Celts travel to Orlando next week Thursday. There's another game I'll be circling on my calendar and setting my cellphone on silent for.