In honor of the victory on Tony Parker’s 30th birthday on May 17th, 17 thoughts on the game, the series, and the playoffs.
- Let’s start with the birthday boy. Tony Parker had a nice bounce back game, throwing in a game high 22 points. More impressive to me, though, was the toughness and the defense. When the game got ugly and physical in the 2nd quarter, Parker put his head down, went to the basket, and took a ton of contact. And it fueled him.
- Speaking of which, it was beginning to feel like the playoffs had officially begun in that second quarter, as the offenses (on both sides) got completely mucked up, and it turned into a dogfight. A few quick adjustments at halftime and the Spurs offense was back on track.
- Back to the defense…I know that Chris Paul is hurting, probably more than he is letting on. But still, the team defense on him has been superb. I’ve never seen this poor of consecutive games for one of the greatest pure PGs ever. I thought the Spurs would single cover him and try to make him beat us with scoring. Instead, they are forcing him to make correct basketball decisions (which he will always do) and give the ball to players in positions that they can do nothing with it.
- Is Boris Diaw the best thing to happen to Duncan in years? Diaw seems to get him 2-3 easy lay-ins a game. Even Duncan seems surprised sometimes when the ball ends up in his hands, at the rim, with no defenders nearby. They’ve been playing together for 8 weeks, but it looks like 8 years.
- More on Diaw: what a revelation he has been. He has almost single-handedly made both Blair and Bonner obsolete. He defends, passes, and rebounds better than both; with his size, he is rarely a liability on the court; he can handle the ball; Bonner is probably a better shooter overall, but right now I trust Diaw shooting more, even from 3. I think we’ll continue to see Bonner in this series, though with curtailed minutes. However, I don’t think we’ll see a meaningful minute from Blair. This is the same Blair that started over 90% of our games in the regular season.
- Interestingly, Diaw did not start in the second half. Pop said it was due to Diaw’s foul trouble. That’s most likely not true. Most think it was to set up the big man rotation better, giving Diaw time against the Clippers’ second unit. I also think giving Splitter some time (and confidence building) with the starters was also a component of it. And he responded with some fantastic work on both sides, including a beautiful finish at the rim on the secondary fast break off a feed from Parker.
- Who knows what more little wrinkles we’ll see with the rotation–and match-ups will always dictate new things game to game–but it seems pretty set at the moment, with Bonner and Neal the two players getting the most cut in their regular season minutes. Still, even with the reduced work, Neal is proving to be very valuable, hitting key jumpers at key moments.
- In Game 2, the Clippers gave their best reasonable shot on the road, shooting lights out from 3, from 2, and from the FT line. And they still lost by 17. They made some absurdly contested shots in the face of very good defense, many at the end of the shot clock. It happens. It didn’t help.
- One of the problems of being a great passing team is that more passes leads to the possibility of more TOs and steals. That’s why you see so much “hero ball” in the playoffs. This likelihood increases as teams play each other 4, 5, and 6 games in a row. The Clippers have several smart players that jump passing lanes well. I’d like to see the Spurs be a bit more careful with the passing, and to also employ more give and go and backdoor cutting, the best way to beat a defender that is overplaying.
- One of the big themes of this series has been just how badly the starters for the Spurs are whooping the starters for the Clippers. It’s a stark turn for the Spurs, who usually use the bench to pull away from teams. But if the Clippers want to continue starting 2 or 3 players that aren’t the best option at their position, so be it. We’ll gladly take a 15 point lead into the second quarter.
- That being said, with the adjustment of moving Diaw to the bench for the 2nd half, our bench in the 2nd half was much better, much crisper, and didn’t relinquish any lead.
- Danny Green, anyone? His 3-point shooting opened up the game in the 3rd quarter. His defense kept the Clippers from getting back on track. He is playing with poise and confidence. I love it.
- Great cover story feature on Tim Duncan in the latest SI. Must-read for any Spurs fan. It’s nice to know that my hatred of KG is justified.
- With the playoff back-to-back looming, I think that favors the Spurs. The Clippers are clearly hurting, the Spurs are not (and are still well-rested), and to ask a home team to win two games in two days seems pretty daunting. Plus, the Spurs are really good playing on no days rest this year.
- Game 3 will be the Clippers best shot. I’m very interested to see how the Spurs respond, how focused they are. Splitting the games in LA would be a win, as we could close-out in Game 5 at home. But going into LA and winning Game 3 would be a ruthless, Championship-level move.
- I’d love to see the Spurs close out in 4 or 5, and the Lakers to push the Thunder to 6 or 7.
- Loved this line from John Hollinger, in his chat from yesterday, in response to this question: Why does VDN has a completely different set of players playing crunch time from game to game? Is he determining a rotation at random or is there some reason to this?
Not sure if you’ve noticed, but Gregg Popovich and Rick Carlisle do the same thing. It’s called reading the game and adjusting to situations, and while Pop reads it at a Ph.D. level and Vinny from Dr. Seuss, every coach in the league has to juggle crunch time lineups to some extent on every night.
Good times in Spurs country; good times indeed.
Game 3 is Saturday afternoon on ABC. Here’s hoping the win streak extends to 17.
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