“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ... it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair ..." — Charles Dickens
The memorable opening to Dickens’ 1859 novel, A Tale of Two Cities, perfectly captures the mood of the AT&T Center this past weekend that saw the villainous Miami Heat come to town on Friday night, followed by the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday afternoon.
I know Lady Gaga has quite the following, but Friday night’s game proved that LeBron James has his own fair share of “little monsters.” Healthy lines formed in the AT&T Center’s parking lot well before tip-off. Fans attempted to get as close to the court as allowed with outstretched iPhones in hopes of snapping a picture of basketball’s crown-chasing prince. There even appeared to be a spike in season-ticket interest as “prospective” season-ticket holders took a tour of potential seating, feet away from the practicing James. (Maybe two years deems me too far removed from the college scene, but I’m going to assume college students still can’t afford courtside seating.)
For all intents and purposes, the Spurs had sealed a victory against the spiraling Heat by the end of the first quarter, leading 36-12. Food for thought: Matt Bonner had as many first quarter points as the entire Miami Heat roster.
Nonetheless, James’ “little monsters,” decked out in jerseys and my personal favorite — face tees — continued to champion basketball’s most famous lost cause. James wasn’t the only villain in the house; Texas Governor Rick Perry’s appearance on the Taco Cabana “Kiss Me Cam” sparked its own healthy chorus of boos.
The Spurs’ nationally televised, 125-95 dismissal of the Heat marked a season-high in point total and was a franchise-record (22 straight home victories). Moreover, the victory spoke for the league’s other small-market teams who now find themselves at a serious crossroads as the league’s superstars seek to join forces in larger markets.
But, as Spurs swingman Gary Neal would remind us less than 48 hours later — “It’s one game.”
On Sunday, the only thing less funny than onlooking Lakers’ fan George Lopez was the abysmal performance by the Spurs.
The Spurs found themselves on the opposite end of Friday night’s first quarter blitz, trailing the Lakers, 34-13. In short, the Lakers couldn’t miss from anywhere on the court. Meanwhile the Spurs couldn’t connect on anything, as seen in the starters going a combined 12-31, while Kobe Bryant alone shot 12-25.
“They were more physical then we were and very aggressive,” said Coach Pop, following the 99-83 loss. “I thought that we picked up our physicality and defense in the second half but that was way too late — we were down too far.”
It truly was a weekend of obvious juxtaposition.
We had the ring-chasing Floridian boy-band Friday followed by the two-time defending champions on Sunday. The organic “Big Three” in Tim, Tony, and Manu were weighted against the “freeagenetically” modified “Big Three” in LeBron, Wade, and Bosh. Then consider the hey-look-at-me powder toss of LeBron versus Tim Duncan’s temperate embrace of the basketball; the Spurs didn’t antagonize the Heat bench in the midst of their three-point barrage, Kobe Bryant yelled “Yeah!” at the Spurs bench following a three.
I can’t tell you whether or not Charles Dickens, were he alive today, would’ve considered giving sportswriting a try. But I can say that with the playoffs quickly approaching, Spurs fans clearly maintain great expectations. •
Rudy Gayby covers the Spurs along with Manuel Solis at . Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.