Skip to content

Game 6 was not Gregg Popovich’s best night

Jun 19, 2013, 11:21 AM EDT

BKN-NBA-FINALS-SPURS-HEAT-GAME 6 Getty Images

Gregg Popovich is the best coach in basketball right now. One of the best of all time. He has four rings and built a culture in San Antonio that has them in NBA Finals 14 years apart and with consistent 50+ win seasons in between.

But he is not perfect.

He made a couple decisions down the stretch of Game 6 that were head scratchers and now he will be coaching a Game 7 in part because of them.

One was sitting Tim Duncan on some plays late — Boris Diaw was in to provide size with mobility to switch pick-and-rolls on the perimeter. Duncan at his age plays back on those more and Popovich wants to press the shooters.

With the Spurs up 3 and: 19 seconds left Popovich made that trade and while Diaw chased LeBron to challenge a three nobody was in the paint to try and keep Chris Bosh off the offensive glass. Bosh grabbed the rebound, found Ray Allen who drained a three that sent the game to overtime.

It’s easy to say this in hindsight, but if you’re not going to foul there before the shot to give up two free throws but protect the lead — Popovich said after the game “we don’t” do that, and statistically it’s pretty much a toss up with letting them shoot — then you have to have some rebounders on the floor. Such as Duncan. Miami is smart and well coached — they will take their first shot with time on the clock to allow for a rebound and a second chance in case of a miss, which is what happened.

Duncan sat a couple late plays late, both times Bosh got key offensive rebounds. Manu Ginobili defended Popovich in his post-game press conference.

“It’s one of the many things I’ll be thinking (about),” Ginobili said postgame. “We got a great coaching staff, great coach. If he did those subs, I’m very sure he thought about it and had many great reasons to do it. He wanted size on the defensive end.”

The other question was with Ginobili himself — after a brilliant Game 5 Ginobili was a mess again in Game 6 — he had 8 turnovers (almost as many turnovers as points, 9) and was a -21. He was struggling. But Popovich stuck with him for nearly 35 minutes. Earlier in the series when Ginobili struggled Popovich limited his minutes, but not Tuesday night.

With 8.8 seconds left in overtime Ginobili was in and the Spurs were down 1 point — score and they can win the title. Miami missed, Kawhi Leonard grabbed the rebound and Ginobili pushed the ball up — Popovich didn’t call timeout to get Parker in there for one last offensive play, he let Ginobili try to go coast to coast. What you got were a couple no-calls — Ginobili traveled but then was fouled by Ray Allen, both the kinds of plays where refs swallow their whistles late. Parker, the Spurs offensive catalyst, watched from the bench as the Spurs missed a great shot at a ring.

Popovich is still the best coach in basketball. Without question. And it’s not his fault Tim Duncan went 0-for-5 in the fourth quarter and overtime or that Danny Green went cold or a host of other things. This loss certainly isn’t all on him.

But Tuesday night was not his best night.

  1. taintedlombardis - Jun 19, 2013 at 11:33 AM

    Blame goes to Poppovich first and foremost. Leaving Mr.-21 and 8 turnovers in the game?

    Playing the bench too much in the 4th.

    Not having the best defender and rebounder out there in the game’s waning seconds.

    Not fouling and letting the Heat jack up 3’s.

    It’s all on Pop. Never thought I would say that…

    • fpstratton - Jun 19, 2013 at 12:11 PM

      Duncan was gassed by the end of the game. His productivity was low in the second half. As far as not fouling, that, as we have all seen, can work for or against you. It depends on whether or not the other team makes its free throws. Also, it isn’t good to stop the clock when you have a lead. As far as playing the bench in the 4th quarter, the Spurs have a rotation. It worked well enough to give them three wins in this series. I don’t think you can throw it out because of a bad 4th quarter. No, it’s not all on Pop. It’s on missed free throws, an abysmal game by Ginobli, but most of all, some fantastic play by the Heat when it mattered most.

    • fanofevilempire - Jun 19, 2013 at 1:18 PM

      Pop knows his team, Duncan was tired and Tony had a bad hamstring.
      He should have pulled Manu and his eight turnovers.
      Pop will get the blame but to his credit he knows his players.

      • leeeroooyjeeenkiiins - Jun 19, 2013 at 2:25 PM

        The problem with this logic is that in the 3rd quarter, Duncan and Parker scored very little…and yet the Spurs still outscored the Heat in the quarter. Why? Because Duncan was so dominant in the first half that they were forced to double him every time he touched it in the second half, and they still had to account for Parker and chase him around everywhere. It was the those 2 players on the court that allowed the other guys to score.

        Taking both of them out was a horrendous mistake, basically the equivalent of saying “here Miami, take some free momentum”. It would be one thing to sit one of them and see if you can get away with it, then bring him back and sit the other guy. But both at the same time? That left them with no one who could create their own shot, Ginobili essentially running point, and no one that the Heat had to worry about in the paint when they drove the lane. It was an incredibly awful move, and seeing it come from Popovich is still blowing my mind even today.

  2. loungefly74 - Jun 19, 2013 at 11:39 AM

    eh…I’m not going to go too hard on Pop. IF…IF…one of the sequences at the end (FT, Allen’s 3, James’ 3, Manu’s TO) went their way…he would be hoisting the trophy. but that is sports…easy for us to play MondayMorning QB. Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda….

    • spthegr8 - Jun 19, 2013 at 12:12 PM

      @lounge
      I agree. Buuuuuuut if you do wanna play the ” blame game “?? Then look @ Manewwwww!! outside of game 5. He has been STINKING the joint up!! He fell off a cliff this post season and it hasn’t been pretty!!

      • loungefly74 - Jun 19, 2013 at 12:26 PM

        oh…absolutely, gr8. Manu is stinking up the place. yeah, he would be the goat if they end up losing. maybe the “mileage” is suddenly catching up to him.

      • nard100 - Jun 19, 2013 at 12:35 PM

        Manu is doing nothing differently in any of the games. It’s just the refs gave him a reprieve in game 5 and let him shove defenders around and decided not to do it again in game 6. Period. This the way he’s played his whole career.

      • loungefly74 - Jun 19, 2013 at 1:09 PM

        @nard100

        yikes! give the guy some credit. i’m not one to point fingers at the refs. do they make bad calls every now and then? of course. they do in all sports…but i don’t think they are the “Illuminati”… point is, Manu is a solid player…he has just been playing like crap in this series which may be the ultimate reason they may not win…that’s it.

    • fanofevilempire - Jun 19, 2013 at 3:31 PM

      Leeroy, how about this logic, Spurs lost!

  3. azarkhan - Jun 19, 2013 at 11:39 AM

    The only criticism I have of Pop is his giving Ginobli so many minutes (35), because I think Ginobli’s 8 turnovers are what cost the Spurs the game. However, hindsight is 20/20, and HOF Coach Popovich knows his players and system better than any of us who “chirp” on the sidelines.

    What I do know is that the Spurs believe in themselves, their coach and their system, and they will be ready to play on Thursday.

    • fpstratton - Jun 19, 2013 at 12:01 PM

      Your comment is the most accurate one by far. Popovich has a system. It doesn’t always work, but it has gotten him 4 titles and countless deep playoff runs. I think Ginobli was given too much responsibility, given the poor night he was having. Gregg thought he could play through it. He has before, but not on this night. Popovich doesn’t shoot free throws or commit turnovers. The Heat just upped their game in the fourth quarter and played extremely well. Let’s leave it at that.

    • realfootballfan - Jun 19, 2013 at 1:16 PM

      Agree, the people writing off the Spurs are making a huge mistake. I wouldn’t give any other team a chance on the road after what happened last night, except the spurs.

      I knew the Spurs would go all out last night while the Heat seemed to be baffled and expected the script of alternating wins to continue, and almost got their season ended last night as a result. They better wake up because the Spurs have the hearts of champions and will give it all they got tomorrow, can’t wait.

      If the Heat think they’re going to walk to a championship because that’s usually how it goes with the home team winning game sevens, they’re going to be even more let down when they still lose tomorrow night.

  4. timb12 - Jun 19, 2013 at 11:41 AM

    The Ginobili travel is a moot point. If you watch the games and watch replays, there’s traveling on at least 30% of drives. I clearly made that number up, but everyone and their momma travels in the NBA. They should just give them that 3rd step already.

    • bucrightoff - Jun 19, 2013 at 11:43 AM

      If they called all the travelling, palming and carrying violations that actually occurred in the average NBA game, the average NBA game would be 3 hours and thus no one would watch. I agree either change the rule or call it properly, but its annoying when they throw in a random travel call now and then when they could call it frequently.

  5. 2late2matter - Jun 19, 2013 at 11:45 AM

    Over the years I have won so many games while sitting on the other side of my television screen. Heck, I didn’t even have to pay for an event ticket.

    @taintedlombardis summarizes how he won the game last night. Glad he was on the floor playing it under pressure there in Miami.

    Coach Popovich knows his Spurs needed fewer turnovers, more put-backs, better foul shooting, a few more rebounds and a hot three-point shooter. He knows Manu played with the heart of a champion but fell short. Tony and Tim were great in a losing effort.

    Now his Spurs need to Ex-Lax Game 6 and prepare for their Thursday contest with a Heat-ed crowd in Miami.

  6. pebes21 - Jun 19, 2013 at 11:53 AM

    I think the biggest blunder was Pops decision not calling timeout with 8 secs left in OT only needing a 2 pointer to win. Especially stupid considering Parker + Duncan were on the bench. It was clear since mid 4th quarter the refs werent calling much so I am not shocked there was no fouls in the Spurs favor in final 8 secs

  7. Great Caesar's Ghost - Jun 19, 2013 at 11:54 AM

    Sorry Spurs fans but when it’s all said and done SPOELSTRA will have more rings than Popp. BOOK IT. Your little team of veterans is going down Thursday, the Heat are just better. They turn it on when they want to . DEAL WITH IT. #HeatDynasty

    • fpstratton - Jun 19, 2013 at 12:08 PM

      A classless comment, but I agree that Spoelstra is a way better coach than people think.

    • wkb2texans - Jun 19, 2013 at 1:20 PM

      LOL … better tell mom you’re on the computer.

    • bougin89 - Jun 19, 2013 at 2:26 PM

      #fail

  8. bougin89 - Jun 19, 2013 at 11:55 AM

    I mean it is easy to say Pop didn’t have his “A” game in hindsight but it wasn’t his fault the game was lost. The missed free throws, manu’s turnovers, the offensive rebounds late that the Heat got…those aren’t Pop’s fault.

    I still have a hard time believing the Spurs lost that game. They completely had it and let it slip away.

    • fpstratton - Jun 19, 2013 at 12:05 PM

      I, as a Spurs rooter, feel the same, but the Heat did play very well in quarter 4. I am actually really impressed that the Spurs have led for as much of the series as they have. This speaks to Popovich’s coaching as well, so those who are critical of him are losing sight of the fact that the Spurs have been the better team for very large stretches of this series so far. What other coach could have done this to the 27-game winning streak Miami Heat of 2013?

    • realfootballfan - Jun 19, 2013 at 1:26 PM

      I think both sets of fans can feel that way. I literally went to the other room to pick up one of my twins from his crib and came back after the Heat were leading late in regulation and suddenly it was a Spur 3 point lead, then a 5 point lead. Crazy sequence of events.

  9. dolphindubs - Jun 19, 2013 at 11:57 AM

    In the post-game interview, Popovich looked completely flabbergasted (thats right, flabbergasted). I dont think I have ever seen that from him.

    • fpstratton - Jun 19, 2013 at 12:03 PM

      More like annoyed at the inane questions from an increasingly embarassing and inane press. This media has got to go. They just plain stink.

    • 2late2matter - Jun 19, 2013 at 12:04 PM

      Agree. I’ve seen some deer in headlights that looked less stunned than he did.

    • realfootballfan - Jun 19, 2013 at 1:29 PM

      I think he was planning to win it last night and understands how difficult tomorrow will be, even though it is very possible for that group he has to pull it off. He was going for the jugular last night.

  10. iowahbr - Jun 19, 2013 at 11:58 AM

    Between traveling, (called the Euro step), palming, the continuation play, and the offensive bull move in the paint, if the NBA was called like college or HS every NBA game would have 40 TOs and 60 foul shots. I do think Manu was fouled on his last drive to the basket but such are the issues of letting the refs decide a series ending issue.

    • 2late2matter - Jun 19, 2013 at 12:05 PM

      Or did you mean to suggest Joey Crawford?

  11. shockexchange - Jun 19, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    Pop’s best night was when he let the Spurs “tank” in order to draft Tim Duncan.

  12. jzone954 - Jun 19, 2013 at 12:09 PM

    Spurs missed critical free throws. And ray Allen hit a shot that his kids, kids,kids,kids,kids will be talking about over Christmas and thanksgiving dinner for years.

  13. yousuxxors - Jun 19, 2013 at 12:18 PM

    I was surprised he didn’t call a timeout on the manu play but it isn’t pops fault everyone was missing free throws.

  14. klownboy - Jun 19, 2013 at 12:34 PM

    I still think that Popovich is the NBA’s best coach outside of Doc Rivers. He did coach a terrible 4th quarter and overtime.

  15. canehouse - Jun 19, 2013 at 12:39 PM

    How about Pop sneaking Duncan back into the game during the review of the ALLEN 3… you know what that usually warrants. A big Technical, A Tech, T’d up. Big miss by the refs on that one.

  16. lemfaxx - Jun 19, 2013 at 1:03 PM

    Ginobili is great but not in game 6. Pop mislook that. Good thing thr’s a game 7 – TD still the MVP for me

  17. heavychevy15 - Jun 19, 2013 at 1:09 PM

    @caneshouse that’s been rarely talked about. It’s a great point though. NBA needs to fix that free timeout for a team that’s out of time outs. Granted it doesn’t happen a lot but still needs to be addressed.

  18. realfootballfan - Jun 19, 2013 at 1:22 PM

    The only criticism i had was not calling a timeout down one and re-substituting Parker who has hit all the late big shots for the Spurs.

    I get the concept, just run it and not let the Heat’s defense get set; however, Manu going coast to coast was not a high percentage alternative to having parker on the floor, especially how he’s played this postseason. Otherwise, people are just Monday morning quarterbacking.

  19. teambringitstrong - Jun 19, 2013 at 1:43 PM

    This was the article that addressed the elephant in the room. Glad PBT brought it up b/c all the stupid people were too busy high fiving and chest bumping giving Miami all the credit when it was the Spurs who coughed it up.
    The reasoning that Duncan was tired, posted by another reader is absolutely BS. Minutes away from a ring and you’re tired? No, you should go into a bunker and never come out again with a post like that.
    Duncan is in, he grabs those rebounds, or frees up another body to grab the rebound and then there are no 2nd chance 3 pointers by Geechee and Michaela Miller.

  20. 1rawdawg - Jun 19, 2013 at 2:10 PM

    All blame goes to Pop for these reasons:
    1) Up by 10 at the start of the 4th quarter
    you don’t leave Duncan and Parker out
    for 4 1/2 minutes and watch your lead
    dwindle to the point that once they
    come back in now the game is close.

    2) You don’t leave Ginobili in that long
    when he is obviously struggling.

    3) You don’t take Duncan out at that
    crucial point in the game. If I am
    going to lose I am going to lose with
    my best players on the floor, then no
    One will question your decisions.
    Duncan had handled Bosh all game.

    4). You definitely foul and prevent the
    three pointer, and make Miami
    settle for two free throws. I’ve seen
    Pop do the hack a Howard, and hack a
    Shaq before. So for him to say we
    don’t do those things is crazy. Your
    goals is to win by any means
    necessary.

    5) Not to call time out on that next to last
    offensive play where Ginobili went
    coast to coast to get Parker back in
    the game and set up a play is mind-
    boggling.

    While Pop is one of the greatest all time coaches, when he makes bad decisions like this call a spade a spade. The reporters in the post game conference tip-toed around the issues and were scared to put the tough questions to Pop like they should have done. Don’t be scared to question his obvious bad decisions in this game. Pop blew the game and possibly the series because of these mistakes.

    • fpstratton - Jun 19, 2013 at 3:02 PM

      I don’t think Popovich blew the game.

      1. Popovich was aware of how little gas those two players had in the tank (Parker and Duncan). He knows them better than anyone.

      2. There is no doubt Ginobli was left in too long. Popovich takes a hit for this one.

      3. Popovich knows Tim Duncan. I give him the benefit of the doubt on that one.

      4. What you say here is logical, but the sequence of events happened so fast that I don’t think the Spurs had time to think about it. Before you know it, Ray Allen was taking an acrobatic off-balance three-point shot. If I had to do it over again, I would have taken my chances that he wouldn’t hit it, as great a shooter as he is.

      5. I didn’t think the Spurs had any time outs left at that point. I could be wrong.

      Summary: this was a game of a lot of missed chances by both sides and some unbelievable play by both sides. It was not a must game for the Spurs, but it was for the Heat, and they responded by playing extremely well. They weren’t given anything and earned the victory.

  21. dlucia51 - Jun 19, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    Agree with you, 1rawdawg. But I believe the Ginobili factor overshadows all of the others. EIGHT turnovers by a player who wasn’t contributing much to defense or scoring. Popovich erred big time in leaving in a player whose pendulum was very clearly swinging bad after a good Game 5 performance.

    In an interview, Ginobili said he was devastated. Well gee, Manu, how about admitting that you are responsible for the loss? And Mr. Popovich, what could you possibly be thinking by leaving a clearly out of sync player in?

    • fpstratton - Jun 19, 2013 at 2:56 PM

      Yes, this is a fair criticism of Popovich. It reminds me a bit of Grady Little sticking with Pedro Martinez in that ill-fated game 7 loss by Boston to the Yankees in 2003. You want to be loyal to players that have come through so often for you that you sometimes, as a coach, lose objectivity. Ginobli was awful last night.

  22. jacksonkane - Jun 19, 2013 at 3:02 PM

    My only complaint was not pulling Ginobili. He lost the game for them. They have some other guys that can step up – rely on them.

  23. 1rawdawg - Jun 19, 2013 at 5:11 PM

    fpstratton your first 3 words of your comment sum up your knowledge on the matter: ” I don’t think”. Clearly with your comments that statement is never more true.

    • fpstratton - Jun 19, 2013 at 5:50 PM

      Why do you have to get insulting? We’re just conversing here.

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Featured video

Why can't Lakers have a player-coach?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. T. Warren (4624)
  2. K. Love (4548)
  3. L. James (4523)
  4. J. Nelson (3775)
  5. R. Allen (3704)
  1. D. Rose (3213)
  2. C. Anthony (3140)
  3. K. Bryant (3046)
  4. A. Wiggins (2731)
  5. D. Wade (2276)