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Will Not Be Denied

By Jeff Koch on April 12, 2012.

I know it’s typical reactionary blogger/non-player reaction, but I thought tonight’s game was a damn-near must win. After last night’s stink bomb and with a surging Memphis team coming in that offers many of the same problems that the Lakers do, it was imperative that the team bounce back, play with more energy and focus, and get a win. Losing 3 games in a row (2 at home) is a good way to kick-off a downward trend that can slowly and silently unravel a season.

And while the game was tough and still not executed to my liking, the team played much better. And harder. And when it mattered, they got it done. The game did feel a lot like a playoff game in intensity, physicality, and in that neither team could really pull away, and it was always going to come down to end of 4th-qaurter execution.

I felt like the game really turned in the 4th quarter. It was a see-saw battle, as Bill Land pointed out, as we’d draw even, the Grizzlies would go back up by 4, we’d score 4, they’d score 4, and so forth and so on. On the back of Tim Duncan, we were able to keep it close for the first 9 minutes of the quarter. But it was at the end of the quarter, with Ginobili and Splitter running the high screen and roll, when the game turned.

Ironically, I was reading an article by Beckley Mason of hoopspeak the other day, and it had this paragraph:

Instead of the customary side or high ball screen that is initiated from the wing or top of the key, but generally near the 3-point line, the Spurs will pull the pick-and-roll way out away from the hoop, nearly midway between the 3-point line and half court.  San Antonio employs a flat screen (screeners shoulders parallel to the baseline) that most defenses counter by sending the guard under the screen to give Ginobili and Parker a running start at the help defense. Big men can be capable help defenders heding on pick and rolls, but virtually none are equipped to manage Parker’s speed or Ginobili’s shifty maneuvering in top gear.

After reading that passage, I knew exactly what he was talking about, and was excited to have a better understanding of what I was seeing on the floor. And wouldn’t you know it, that is precisely what Ginobili and Splitter did. And Ginobili abused Gasol, getting to the rim at will and making lay-up after lay-up. It was in this stretch that we seized control of the game and held on for the victory.

This game also made clear the importance of Ginobili and Duncan. While Parker is surely the most talented of the Big 3 in terms of athleticism and being in his prime, it’s clear that Ginobili is still our closer and Duncan is still our rock. At the end of close games, we still trust Ginobili more, and Parker still has the tendency to shrink a bit or get too frustrated with himself.

Ultimately we’ll need all 3 to have any shot in the post-season. But as every Spurs fan has known for years, Ginobili is still (secretly) the most important.

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