Skip to content

Spurs coach Popovich went to the ‘Hack-a-JaVale’ strategy just to get his team some rest

Dec 19, 2012, 12:16 PM EST

Oklahoma City Thunder v San Antonio Spurs - Game Two Getty Images

If there’s a team in the league that makes a bigger deal of playing a game on the second night of a back-to-back than the Spurs, feel free to point me in that direction.

It just doesn’t seem possible, especially considering what we’ve seen and heard from Gregg Popovich about it so far this season.

Popovich famously sent four of his starters home to rest, instead of having them play in a nationally televised contest against the defending champion Miami Heat. The fact that his bench players competed and nearly won the game wasn’t the point, and the league agreed, fining the Spurs $250,000 for gaming the system in this way.

In their loss in Denver on Tuesday after getting blown out in Oklahoma City the night before, the Spurs again were very aware of the potential fatigue factor late in the third quarter when trailing the Nuggets.

Popovich went to the “Hack-a-[blank]” strategy of intentionally fouling a poor free throw shooter on the opposing team, stopping the clock in hopes that this player would miss the foul shots, thus giving the Spurs a strategic chance of cutting into the lead.

Denver was up by 13 points at 82-69 when the Spurs began intentionally fouling JaVale McGee — a career 57.8 percent free throw shooter. But the reasons for implementing this strategy were different than the usual ones on this night.

From Nate Timmons of DenverStiffs.com:

“They [Nuggets] were scoring every time. And were were running out of gas, running out of energy. So we figured if we could go up-and-down a few times and not even have to play any defense it might put some fuel back in the tank and it did,” Popovich said. “During that period we couldn’t knock down a couple of threes and it [the lead] stayed 9, 10, or 11 or whatever. We couldn’t get below it [double digit lead] because we couldn’t make a shot, but it gave us a little bit of rest and helped us stay in it.”

McGee hit just two of his eight free throw attempts during the stretch that Pop intentionally sent him to the line, but as he noted afterward, his team simply couldn’t make a shot, so Denver actually extended the lead to 90-75 at the end of three quarters.

It was interesting to hear Popovich say that his reasoning for going to the strategy was to get his team some rest; playing Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili 40 and 30 minutes respectively in the twilight of their careers certainly warrants that, at least to a certain extent.

But beyond Duncan and Ginobili, the Spurs aren’t an old team at all. The rest of the key players are 30 years of age or younger, and while back-to-backs are tough for every team, it seems that Popovich’s consternation surrounding them is something that’s needlessly being emphasized.

Latest Posts
  1. Rumor: Heat, Clippers, Cavaliers interested in Mo Williams

    Jan 30, 2015, 5:59 PM EST

    Mo Williams AP

    All of those teams could use point guard depth.

  2. Jimmy Butler even plans to play defense in the All-Star Game

    Jan 30, 2015, 4:29 PM EST

    BKN-NBA-BULLS-LAKERS Getty Images

    “So if you see me diving on the floor and people say ‘what is he doing?’ I can’t help but be the player that I am.” —Jimmy Butler on playing in the All-Star Game

  3. LeBron James reportedly asked Adam Silver for longer All-Star break, fewer back-to-backs

    Jan 30, 2015, 2:09 PM EST

    2012 Sports Illustrated Sportsman Of The Year Award Presentation - Arrivals Getty Images

    NBA Commissioner has delivered on All-Star Break. Back-to-backs next?

  4. Tyson Chandler, better than ever, thinking legacy

    Jan 30, 2015, 12:49 PM EST

    Dallas Mavericks v New Orleans Pelicans Getty Images

    Will center stick with Mavericks this time?

  5. Mike Dunleavy is smooooth

    Jan 30, 2015, 12:11 PM EST

    Chicago Bulls v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Sliding into your DMs like…

  6. DeMarcus Cousins wins.

    Jan 30, 2015, 11:33 AM EST

    Kings center waits five years, burns Clay Travis for tweet

  7. Kobe Bryant on if he returns next season: “Yeah, that’s the plan”

    Jan 30, 2015, 9:34 AM EST

    Chicago Bulls v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Did anyone think he would get injured and say, “nah, I don’t want to fight through this” and walk away?

  8. Report: Magic close to firing Jacque Vaughn

    Jan 30, 2015, 8:37 AM EST

    Orlando Magic v Denver Nuggets Getty Images

    Already facing scrutiny, Vaughn oversaw 15-point loss to Bucks last night

  9. One day after having surgery, Kobe Bryant came to see Pau Gasol

    Jan 30, 2015, 2:48 AM EST

    BKN-NBA-BULLS-LAKERS Getty Images

    “I really appreciate him coming, I didn’t expect it at all.” —Pau Gasol

  10. Report: Magic haven’t ruled out firing Jacque Vaughn in-season

    Jan 29, 2015, 10:45 PM EST

    Jacque Vaughn Jacque Vaughn

    Management is displeased with their underperformance.

Featured video

Who should be All-Star Game reserves?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. C. Anthony (7934)
  2. D. Howard (7577)
  3. R. Rubio (7113)
  4. K. Bryant (7012)
  5. K. Walker (6655)
  1. K. Martin (6594)
  2. H. Whiteside (6516)
  3. N. Batum (6449)
  4. K. Durant (6372)
  5. L. James (6171)