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 EDT

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. Knicks guard Iman Shumpert wears clock hat

    Oct 21, 2014, 1:35 PM EDT

    Toronto Raptors v New York Knicks Toronto Raptors v New York Knicks

    Iman Shumpert is wearing a hat with a clock on it. That is all.

  2. Entire Bulls bench runs to help up Derrick Rose (video)

    Oct 21, 2014, 12:22 PM EDT

    Derrick Rose Derrick Rose

    Chicago point guard still clearly has respect of teammates

  3. 67RIEFNS No. 25: Synergy of the Pelicans’ lineup

    Oct 21, 2014, 11:45 AM EDT

    Omer Asik,Anthony Davis Omer Asik,Anthony Davis

    New Orleans adds its missing link in Omer Asik

  4. ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 preview: Dallas Mavericks

    Oct 21, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT

    'Nowitzki. Der Perfekte Wurf' Premiere In Cologne Getty Images

    They’re not as good as Mark Cuban thinks they are, but they are improved.

  5. What did Cavaliers’ rotation against Chicago tell us about their regular season?

    Oct 21, 2014, 9:44 AM EDT

    Chicago Bulls v Cleveland Cavaliers Getty Images

    Projecting Cleveland’s win total based on its minute distribution against the Bulls

  6. Report: Wizards close to signing John Lucas III

    Oct 21, 2014, 9:16 AM EDT

    Washington Wizards v Toronto Raptors Washington Wizards v Toronto Raptors

    Celtics waived Lucas during offseason that saw him traded twice

  7. Rajon Rondo could return from injury by regular-season opener

    Oct 21, 2014, 8:36 AM EDT

    Boston Celtics v New York Knicks Boston Celtics v New York Knicks

    Celtics point guard, coach Brad Stevens leave open possibility of Rondo not missing any games after breaking hand

  8. 67RIEFNS No. 24: Chris Paul, NBA’s most underrated point guard

    Oct 21, 2014, 12:05 AM EDT

    Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Clippers Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Clippers

    Clippers point guard on his own level in post-Magic Johnson NBA

  9. Rajon Rondo says the Celtics will “surprise a lot of people”

    Oct 20, 2014, 10:15 PM EDT

    Rajon Rondo Rajon Rondo

    Rondo praises head coach Brad Stevens’ success on the college level.

  10. Donald Sterling drops suit against NBA, Shelly Sterling

    Oct 20, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT

    Donald Sterling Donald Sterling

    He still has an antitrust suit pending against the NBA.

  11. Derrick Rose blows past Dion Waiters for the finish, and one (VIDEO)

    Oct 20, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT

    Derrick Rose Derrick Rose

    It’s only preseason, but the 2011 league MVP looks like his old self.

  12. Report: Board of Governors expected to pass draft lottery reform, Sixers and Thunder opposed

    Oct 20, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    2013 NBA Draft Lottery 2013 NBA Draft Lottery

    The proposed changes would give the four worst teams the same odds of winning the No. 1 pick in the draft.

  13. Pacers’ Paul George on court taking shots after practice (VIDEO)

    Oct 20, 2014, 6:59 PM EDT

    Indiana Pacers Media Day 2014 Indiana Pacers Media Day 2014

    He’s moving well considered what happened to his leg just back in July.

  14. Hawks CEO induces certain gesture from T.I., redeems himself with a “for shizzle” (video)

    Oct 20, 2014, 4:52 PM EDT

    Chicago Bulls v Atlanta Hawks Getty Images

    Steve Koonin promoting Hawks’ season opener, which includes T.I. performances

Featured video

What are impacts of NBA's new TV deal?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. B. Beal (3947)
  2. D. Rose (3784)
  3. J. Lin (3660)
  4. L. James (3513)
  5. V. Oladipo (3488)