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Execution, Execution, Execution

By Jeff Koch on March 25, 2011.

San Antonio 96, Portland 98  //  57-15  //  1st in the West

Second verse, same as the first, only a whole lot louder and a whole lot worse.

With 1:20 remaining in the game, we had a 6 point lead (after a Ginobili made 3) and seeming control of the contest. Short of some horrible blunders, we should have wound down the win. Let the horrible blunders commence.

Andre Miller drives to the hoop unabated for an easy lay-up; Blazers 92, Spurs 96.

After dribbling down most of the shot clock, Ginobili comes off of a screen and shoots a wild 3 over LaMarcus Aldridge (all 7 feet of him) that air balls.

The Blazers come down and get a missed 3 of their own. The rebound ends up in Parker’s hands, who gets the ball stolen from him near mid-court by Andre Miller who races for another lay-up. Blazers 94, Spurs 96.

Coming out of a time-out, Ginobili again winds down the clock, only to have the ball stolen from him at the top of the 3-point arc by Wesley Matthews. In the ensuing scrum at the hoop, the Blazers miss a lay-up, get the offensive rebound, and then get fouled. With 0.9 seconds left in the game.

Nicolas Batum calmly sinks both free throws to tie the game at 96-96.

Coming out of the ensuing time-out, the Spurs almost put 6 players on the floor. After seeing the set-up, the Blazers call their own time-out. Coming back into the playing action, the Spurs replace Hill with Steve Novak (who has played all of 2 minutes in this game up until now) as the inbounder. Novak throws a wild “pass” over Ginobili’s head out of bounds. No one touches the ball, no time comes off the clock; the Blazers call a time-out and advance the ball to midcourt.

On the final play of the game, the Blazers throw a beautiful lob to the backside of the rim to Batum who lays it in for the win, 98-96.

In the final 1:20, the Spurs committed 3 TOs, only got off one shot (an airball), had an offensive breakdown out of a time-out, and had a defensive breakdown out of a time-out (the Blazers had been killing us all game with alley-oops at the rim, and the Blazers announcers called the play before it even happened; surely the Spurs should have been waiting for it). Parker got the ball stolen from him; Ginobili shot an airball, got the ball stolen from him, and blew his defensive assignment on Batum on the final play (from my perspective; Ginobili gets caught moving in towards the inbounder at the exact moment that Batum makes his move to the backside of the rim which, because of Ginobili’s move in, is unabated). It’s hard to put too much blame on Ginobili, because his play in the first 10:40 of the quarter is what gave us the lead. But he made some costly errors down the stretch, errors that turned an almost assured win into a heartbreaking loss.

There were also some questionable coaching decisions here. The biggest one was putting Steve Novak in as the inbounder. I understand the decision as Pop wanted height to counteract Marcus Camby as the player guarding the inbounds pass, but I’d much rather have McDyess or Bonner making that pass, not an ice cold Novak who is still learning the team and the system. I’m also surprised that McDyess barely played down the stretch of the game. Blair got most of the run, and he played well. But he also made some costly errors in the final minutes on both ends of the court that McDyess would have been less prone to make.

Again, the game illustrated exactly what we miss with Duncan out: execution down the stretch and an overall calming influence and leadership. That’s 2 losses that could have (should have) been wins.

The schedule doesn’t get any easier, as we go into Memphis Sunday afternoon to play another surging team fighting for the playoffs. Then we’re back home again Monday to play these Blazers again.

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