May 30, 2012, 12:10 AM EDT
The San Antonio Spurs have now played an even ten games in the NBA Playoffs and, amazingly, have won every one of them. The wins haven’t all been dominant — Tuesday night’s 120-111 victory ended up being one of their more difficult challenges this season — but it’s been astounding to watch the old, formerly boring ball players simply click on all cylinders for majority of the past few months.
While we all marvel at what the Spurs have been able to do en route to staying undefeated for 48 consecutive days, the most impressive thing is that the Spurs haven’t been playing any sort of “hero” ball … they’re just playing basketball the way it was meant to be played and, surprise(!), it works. Gregg Popovich has found out a way to put a fine-tuned machine out on the court, allowing the basketball purists among us 48 awesome minutes of watching wings cut to the bucket, guards move the ball around, slashers slash, passers pass and the big men doing what big men have been taught to do since the first time they picked up a basketball and their coach realized they were bigger than anyone else.
The Spurs are winning simply by playing fundamentally-sound basketball, really, so it shouldn’t be any sort of surprise that Mr. Fundamental himself — the ageless Tim Duncan — helped San Antonio earn a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals following Tuesday night’s victory. Duncan wasn’t the most efficient player from the floor as the Thunder got a bit more physical with him than he would have liked, but his double-double while chasing down loose balls and picking up four big blocks were key for the Spurs as Oklahoma City employed the “Hack-A-Player” defense on backup Tiago Splitter (oh, and in case anyone missed it, he also did this to Serge Ibaka).
Most frustrating for the Thunder, though, is likely the fact that San Antonio was able to find another answer on the offensive end. Manu Ginobili was the star in Game 1, but Argentina’s favorite sixth man was bottled up early on Tuesday night and never really found his rhythm … at least not until hitting what might have been a dagger three-pointer late in the fourth quarter. No worries for the Spurs, though — Tony Parker simply decided to show once again why he belongs in the conversation as one of the top point guards in the league by accumulating 32 points, seven assists and turning the ball over a mere two times — all while hitting 15 of his 20 shot attempts in part of a near-perfect performance. The scariest part is that Thursday night’s Game 3 will likely end up belonging to someone entirely different if the Thunder are able to figure out how to stop both of the Spurs perimeter playmakers (here’s hoping for Gary Neal and Matt Bonner three-pointers early and often).
If the fact that San Antonio continues to find contributors on the other end no matter what the Thunder do on defense — Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green combined for 25 points — it probably isn’t making Oklahoma City happy on offense that the Spurs are also quite adept at keeping them from getting into any sort of rhythm. Tuesday night’s game got grimy in the second half when a plethora of free-throws were shot and, even though the Thunder shot more from the charity stripe, it kept them trailing as they were unable to get into a rhythm and barely picked up even a modicum of momentum before San Antonio eventually elicited an answer for each run.
The worst part about Tuesday night’s game might have been that Oklahoma City’s stars all ended up having excellent games. Kevin Durant scored 31 points on 17 shots (though he was limited quite a bit in the fourth quarter), James Harden came off the bench to hit 10 of his 13 shot attempts and free-throw attempts to score an even 30 points while Russell Westbrook scored 27 points and dished eight assists and nary a turnover. Typically when one team’s top three players are able to score 88 points against an opponent that hadn’t given up triple-digit points in their previous nine outings, it’ll lead to a victory. That surprisingly wasn’t the case on Tuesday night, however, because San Antonio held the remaining six Thunder players to a total of just 23 points despite attempting 35 shots.
It’ll be interesting to see what the Thunder decide to change for Game 3 considering they did almost all they can be expected to do on Tuesday night before falling into a two-game deficit in the seven-game series. If they’re unable to win when their top three players combing for nearly 30 points apiece while shutting down the star from their series-opening loss, can there really be much hope left in the Oklahoma City locker room?
Jun 18, 2013, 10:27 PM EDT
It is elimination game time — welcome to the PBT Live Blog for Game 6 of the NBA Finals. San Antonio has the 3-2 series lead now they have a chance to close it out on the road, do that and it builds the legacy of a Spurs team that will challenge the Lakers for…
Jun 18, 2013, 10:26 PM EDT
MIAMI — The Spurs lead the Heat 50-44 at halftime of Game 6 of the Finals, and if Miami is to prevent a championship celebration tonight on its home floor, they must find an answer from what is developing into an all-time great performance from Tim Duncan. Duncan has been unstoppable thus far, and has…
Jun 18, 2013, 9:51 PM EDT
Mike Miller remained in the starting lineup, but that merely made him the guy in the way of Kawhi Leonard. This ferocious dunk gave Leonard eight early points after he made a three-point play and a 3-pointer.
Jun 18, 2013, 8:39 PM EDT
MIAMI — Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra hinted that a lineup change might be possible in advance of Game 6, but wasn’t going to reveal it until absolutely necessary. “I’ll turn in my card at 45 minutes,” he said. There was no lineup change to be found when the time came, however, as three-point specialist…
Jun 18, 2013, 6:44 PM EDT
Miami has gone very small against the Spurs — and it worked at first, the Heat won a game and forced the Spurs to adjust to them. However a consequence of that has been Chris Andersen has slid out of the rotation. The Birdman’s size was key against the large Pacers front line last series,…
Jun 18, 2013, 5:59 PM EDT
Kansas’ Ben McLemore was pretty much a top three pick on everybody’s board a month ago, but he may be sliding down some boards right now. In part that is because the smooth-shooting guard out of Kansas didn’t help his cause in some recent workouts, reports Chad Ford at ESPN.com (Insider). Multiple sources told me…
Jun 18, 2013, 5:40 PM EDT
I know, there’s some irony to Chris Bosh talking about physical play. But the thing is, he’s right — the Miami Heat have to come out with their best defensive effort they are not going on to a Game 7. They need to stick with shooters on the perimeter, make crisp rotations and stop cheating…
Jun 18, 2013, 4:00 PM EDT
No. The Spurs could lose Game 6 and then win Game 7 to win the title. Previously: Is Game 5 a must-win for the Spurs or Heat?
Jun 18, 2013, 3:24 PM EDT
Although the Celtics would be in a tough spot if they don’t trade with the Clippers, Los Angeles doesn’t face the same pressure. Acquiring Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett and maybe Paul Pierce is one option of many. The Clippers will continue interviewing Lionel Hollins, Brian Shaw and Byron Scott, and if they choose the best…
Jun 18, 2013, 3:16 PM EDT
Monta Ellis has told the Milwaukee Bucks he is opting out of the $11 million he is owed next season become a free agent this summer. As noted at the time, it would be interesting to see what teams would go after a volume shooter — he scored 19.2 points a game but shot just…
Jun 18, 2013, 2:28 PM EDT
While the NCAA and its ridiculous rules force American college players to make their draft decisions much earlier, international players and those not in college have longer to make their decision. That deadline was today and 18 players pulled out the league announced. The biggest one we already knew, Dario Saric of Croatia. DraftExpress had…
Jun 18, 2013, 2:07 PM EDT
If the Celtics-Clippers trade is indeed dead – and like Kurt, I have my doubts – the offseason doesn’t get any easier for the Celtics. Boston is obviously ready to move on from Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers, at least if it nets a certain combination of DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe and first-round picks and…
Jun 18, 2013, 1:41 PM EDT
Legacies are always on the line in the NBA Finals. I wrote about that earlier and Kay Adams and I talk about the impact of legacy if the San Antonio Spurs win Game 6 Tuesday night. She also calls me out for that Heat is 6 prediction. As she should.
Jun 18, 2013, 1:24 PM EDT
Danny Green has been on fire, setting a record with 25 three pointers made — he’s passed Ray Allen and has the record for most threes in the NBA Finals. He just doesn’t seem to miss, having shot 65.8 percent from deep this series. What is stunning is the quality of looks he’s getting —…
Jun 18, 2013, 12:45 PM EDT
Trade deals come back to life more often then Freddy Krueger. I’m not willing to believe this deal is dead until I see real evidence. Meaning the Clippers hire another coach (Lionel Hollins, Brian Shaw or Byron Scott) or the Celtics announce they will keep Paul Pierce and not buy him out. Until then, anything…
Jun 18, 2013, 12:00 PM EDT
Only LeBron James could average 21.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 2.2 steals a game through the NBA Finals and look like he is being passive and not doing enough. He has for much of the NBA Finals looked like the physically best player on the floor but one that couldn’t impose his will…
Jun 18, 2013, 11:14 AM EDT
And the people wearing tinfoil hats start screaming, “I told you so, the end of the world is neigh.” The NBA has announced that Joey Crawford will lead the crew of official in Game 6 that also includes Mike Callahan and Ken Mauer. This is the second game this series that Crawford — the most…
Jun 18, 2013, 9:54 AM EDT
As a parent, I read these stories and I cringe for the children. They are being used as pawns in the parents’ fights. Yesterday we told you how Allen Iverson’s ex-wife filed court documents that Iverson had kidnapped his children. Those children are now back with his wife and Iverson told the judge he never…
Jun 18, 2013, 8:45 AM EDT
There is no doubt — Danny Green has been fantastic in the NBA Finals Look at his shooting chart, it is ridiculous from three. Green has knocked down 25 threes through five games, the NBA record, shooting 65.8 percent from beyond the arc. He has averaged 18 points a game. He has been key to…
Jun 18, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra asked the most pertinent question about Game 6 just after the end of Game 5: “Can we put together our best game on both sides of the floor in Game 6?” Over the course of a long NBA season the San Antonio Spurs built very good habits as a team —…
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