Updated: May 25, 2005, 11:05 PM ET

Manu School

Duncan, Parker
Duncan and Parker, two-thirds of the Spurs' terrific trio, were less spectacular than Ginobili (see below), but no less effective.

PHOENIX -- They came to the desert, home of the most fearsome fast break since Showtime, and twice reached the magical Hundred Point Plateau faster than the run-and-gunners did.

They had Manu Ginobili, in the crucible of Game 2 crunch time, deciding that it was a fine time to break out one of his circus-layup specials, maybe the best one he has ever uncorked given the stakes and circumstances.

They even attracted the fan interest of Eva Longoria, who was spotted at this faraway road game hanging on the arm of Tony Parker's father, desperate to be a part of it all.


You still think the San Antonio Spurs are boring?

"I don't know how anyone could call us that," Robert Horry counters.

Horry, as you know, is usually dead-on this time of year, and it's tough to see how anyone could dispute him now. Thanks to Horry and Ginobili and Parker -- and that Tim Duncan fellow -- Team Duncan has just produced two playoff performances that looked pretty enthralling from press row.

They're performances, true, that have probably killed off this promising series far earlier than any neutral fan could have hoped. For that, though, you don't bash the Spurs. You applaud them.

Isn't it time to acknowledge these Spurs' ability to not just win but entertain? All those years of bemoaning their lack of personality or sneering at their small-market, defense-obsessed identity have given way to Ginobili, with a one-point lead and less than two minutes to play, snaking through the paint with a behind-the-back move and reverse lay-in that you can't even try to describe without the benefit of several replays.

Go ahead. Follow the lead of a dejected Steve Nash. After amplifying his MVP worthiness with a playoff-record fourth straight game of at least 25 points and 10 assists -- eclipsing the previous playoff record of three in a row shared by a couple guys named Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson -- Nash did some marveling of his own.

"The last two games they have been phenomenal at making big shots in the fourth quarter," Nash said after his 29 points and 15 assists couldn't dent the Spurs' confidence.

"At some point you've just got to congratulate them."

Said Horry: "How can people say we're boring? We've got one of the fastest guys in the league (Parker) playing point guard. We've got one of the craftiest guys ever (Ginobili). Is it just because nobody's got commercials?"

Horry then took a fun swipe of his own at Duncan, pointing out that "even when Tim does a commercial, all he does is stand there."

You can understand why they're feeling so loose. Capitalizing on the absence of Joe Johnson, San Antonio has turned its considerable experience advantage and a 2-to-1 edge in playmakers -- Parker and Ginobili vs. Nash -- into a 2-zip vise grip on this series. The Spurs' fourth quarters here were almost flawless; Phoenix, meanwhile, didn't even shoot a fourth-quarter free throw on Tuesday.

And with three days of rest before Saturday's Game 3 back in Alamo Country?


It would seem that the only thing that can keep the new, flashy Spurs out of the NBA Finals now is another serious ankle twist or turn for Mr. Just Stands There.

Talk back to the Daily Dime gang

Dimes Past: May 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24

Pic Of The Night
Hangman, executioner: 26 points, 10-for-18 shooting, 3-for-7 on 3s, four assists, four boards, slashing drives and sick dunks. Ginobili did it all in Game 2 on Tuesday.

Ced The Entertainer
Former Sun, Laker, Mav, Piston, Heat and slam-dunk champ Cedric Ceballos has a new gig.

TV viewers have been deprived of seeing and hearing 11-year NBA veteran Cedric Ceballos playing emcee at America West Arena.

You know, like the chubby guy in Sacramento who wears baggy shorts and a Kings jersey over a baggy T-shirt and a hat cocked at a funny angle and roars, "C'mon, Kings fans!" Or the guy in New Jersey who wears plaid shorts and blows a whistle and waves around a bucket hat. Guys who keep the crowd occupied by taking the floor during timeouts with a handheld mike and shout, "Well, we have Larry from Mesa here who is going to attempt to walk the length of the court with a water balloon between his knees for $300 in certificates from Maurice's Autobody Shop. Let's have a big hand for Larry!" Ced is now one of those guys.

The weird part is, he's not bad at it. "This is a perfect time for a defensive stop!" he shouted at the crowd with 11.2 seconds left and the Suns down by three. "We're going to play 5 on 6. Our five, plus you, vs. their five. Now Arizona, let's ... make ... some ... noooiiiisssse!"

Actually, that's not the weird part. It's that he played 11 freakin' years in the league and he's now a kindred spirit to the Bucket Hat guy in New Jersey. It only lessened the weirdness a smidge when Dan Majerle joined him briefly and shouted at the crowd to get loud, capping it with "Holllllla!"

"I've just run with it," Ceballos said. "I never talked trash but I was always running my mouth during games. One of my friends heard about this and said, 'That's a perfect job for Big Mouth there.' When they offered it and said I could keep playing for my ABA team, I took it."

I like Ced. I see Ced appearing to have fun. I think, "Why not?"

And the answer comes: because he played 11 freakin' years in the league. What next, we're going to find Terry Mills inside a mascot's costume?

Ric Bucher, from America West Arena in Phoenix

Voice Of The Nation
SportsNation responds to Game 1 in the East finals:

Who was more responsible for Dwyane Wade's poor shooting in Game 1?
80.7% Detroit's defense
19.2% Dwyane Wade

Did Game 1 against the Pistons do anything to diminish your opinion of Dwyane Wade?
82.5% No
17.4% Yes

Who will win the Eastern Conference finals?
42.5% Pistons in 6 or 7 games
41.3% Miami Heat
16.1% Pistons in 4 or 5 games

SportsNation playoff index

Extreme Behavior

Tuesday's Best
Spurs' fourth quarter: The visitors missed just five of 17 shots in the final period of Game 2, making it the second successive fourth quarter in which San Antonio shot better than 70 percent from the floor. On the road, no less. Free-throw frailties don't matter so much when you can do that.


Tuesday's Worst
Suns' first quarter: Maybe the Suns are having trouble keeping up at the finish because they're starting so poorly and then forced to expend so much energy scrambling. Again San Antonio amassed a double-digit lead on the hosts entering the second quarter: 31-21 in Tuesday's Game 2 after a 30-20 edge in Game 1. Playing catch-up is not what this razor-thin team needs, with its only trusted reserve, Jim Jackson, starting for the injured Joe Johnson.

Play of the Day
Manu Ginobili, San Antonio: Robert Horry's triple with 2:31 to go was undeniably huge, but Ginobili went positively Pistol Pete on us with that sick reverse layup on the next possession. Who does that in the fourth quarter of a playoff game? Going behind the back with the ball on the drive?

Mr. Outspoken
"How are you going to say somebody guards somebody when you don't have any plays? It's easy to say he stopped me if I shot 3-for-20, but the offense doesn't go through me. It's a lot easier to stop somebody when you don't have to play any defense on them."

Suns forward Shawn Marion, dismissing the effectiveness of Spurs counterpart Bruce Bowen after Marion managed just 11 shots and 11 points (and 12 rebounds) in the wake of a three-point showing in Game 1.

Marc Stein, in Phoenix

Still Horry After All These Years

The oldest Spur appeared at times to be the youngest down the stretch in their 111-108 win to take a 2-0 lead over the Suns.

Robert Horry, who will turn 35 in August and has put his body through 13 NBA seasons -- not counting nearly two-and-a-half seasons' worth of playoff games (188) -- contributed an array of clutch plays in the last few of his 28 minutes. When Tim Duncan missed a jump hook, Horry snatched the offensive board and kicked the ball out to Brent Barry for a toe-on-the-line jumper and the Spurs' first lead of the fourth quarter. When Steve Nash took the lead back with a arena-jolting 3 with just under three minutes left, Horry answered 14 seconds later with a crowd-silencing bomb of his own.

And, finally, when the Spurs needed to keep the Suns at bay from the free-throw line in the final seconds, Horry sank the second of two attempts for a four-point bulge with 10.7 seconds left.

The increased youthfulness is no mirage. He credits cutting french fries out of his diet -- "And I lovvvve french fries," he says wistfully -- curbing his consumption of spirits and pizza and working with a personal trainer for his rejuvenation. Playing power forward also isn't nearly as punishing for him these days, when Karl Malone is gone and Tim Duncan is a teammate, leaving the landscape bare of big bodies bent on backing him under the rim.

Playing in San Antonio, he adds, isn't as stressful playing in the L.A. fishbowl inhabited by the Lakers, either. The on-court and off-court drama during the last three of his seasons there, he now realizes, took its toll as well.

"I definitely feel a lot better now than I did then," he says.

Ric Bucher, in Phoenix

Elias Says
With their 111-108 win at Phoenix, the Spurs became only the third team in NBA history to win the first two games in a playoff series on the road after having trailed entering the fourth quarter in each game.

The only other teams that started a playoff series in that manner: the Suns at Houston in the 1994 Western Conference semifinals, and the Nets at Detroit in the 2003 Eastern Conference finals.

While the Nets went on to sweep the Pistons in 2003, the Rockets rebounded to defeat Phoenix in the 1994 West semifinals, and then defeated the Knicks to win the NBA championship.

Elias Sports Bureau

Daily Dime Mailbag

Our Daily Dime mailbag was overflowing after our story about the lack of respect the Pistons say they receive. A sampling:

Doug (Hawthorne, FL): I keep reading that Miami is/was the favorite in the East.

Is there anyone out there that really ever believed that? Of the three games played this year, the Pistons won two and flat-out gave the third away. They showed in all three that Wade is a nice player but not capable at this point in his career of carrying the team when they play defense-minded teams. Shaq is not and has not been able to carry a team even with good players for a whole game or series for years (too heavy, you think?) and they have no one else.

Pistons in six as they give away a game or two every series -- including last year.

Bryan (Detroit): I'm a huge Pistons fan, and I loved their performance in Game 1. I just wish that the guys would stop whining about their "lack of respect."

Every time someone sticks a mike in their faces, they go off on how no one remembers their championship, how they get disrespected here and there and everywhere, how no one picks them to win.

It's getting real old. Suck it up guys, go win the O'Brien again, and you'll get all the respect you ever wanted.

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Arguing Over Arroyo

Barry (New York, NY): How can you say that Carlos Arroyo isn't nearly as good as Mike James? Arroyo could start for more than half the teams in the league, and has been a great spark off the bench now that larry brown has integrated him into the rotation the last couple of games (six assists in nine minutes, are you kidding me?). Oh yeah, and James is a backup for Bobby Sura.

John Hollinger: Try this stat: James averaged 12 points in the first round against Dallas. Arroyo has 12 points the entire postseason. Arroyo couldn't even start for the Jazz, and they had the worst point guard situation in the league.

Full chat transcript

The Seers
It has been a good playoffs so far for ESPN.com's stable of experts.

Either that or it has been a predictable playoffs so far.

Entering the conference finals, Chad Ford has picked the winner correctly in all 12 series played. Ford has also picked the correct series score in six of those 12 series.

Marc Stein and John Hollinger are 11-1 and share the same miss, both having picked Chicago over Washington in the first round.

For the conference finals, all three picked San Antonio to beat Phoenix in the West. In the East, though, Ford and Stein have Detroit beating Miami ... and Hollinger went with the Heat.



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