The Adjustment Bureau: Game 6 of the WCF
Got ‘em right where we want them.
The rush to crown the Spurs champs after 10 playoff wins was premature; the rush to bury them and claim the Thunder as the Western powerhouse for the next decade is probably likewise premature. The truth is, 5 games have been played between these two teams, 3 have been insanely close and contested, 1 has been kind of close but mostly controlled by one team, and 1 has been dominated by one of the teams. These are two great teams playing great basketball, and Game 6 is not a foregone conclusion.
Adjustments at this point aren’t really the answer. In many ways, coaching adjustments only mean as much as the players executing them. Coach Brooks made some great adjustments, but they were able to be made because Thabo is 6’7″ with a huge wingspan and great quickness and athleticism; and because Ibaka is equally athletic and even taller. And because Westbrook is an athletic freak. So the adjustments were good, but the players are better. Pop seems to be taking some heat for not finding a suitable counter. But it’s not like he hasn’t tried things. He can’t make Bonner shoot with the same confidence when a player is 2 feet away from him as he does when a player is 4 feet away from him; he can’t force Danny Green to make corner jump shots; he can’t resurrect Parker’s confidence; he can’t make Duncan 5 years younger; nor Blair 5″ taller. He can put players in a position to succeed, but he can’t make the decisions and execution of said decisions for them. Coaches coach, but players play.
So the biggest adjustment we can make going into Game 6 is which players do indeed play. If the second half of Game 5 is any indication, it will be a short rotation. With the end of the season on the line, you go with your guys, who you trust, rotations and rest and match-ups be damned. If depth provides you anything (even as many of your reliable players fall away), it’s the ability to mix and match successfully.
Duncan and Ginobili will be there, and should be trusted completely. Parker will be there, and he has a lot to prove in Game 6. In many ways, this game (and series) could help tip the scale of the narrative of his career, good or bad. Jackson is Mr. Nasty, and this is why we got him. He’ll be there. Leonard is Mr. Cool, and while his offense is what you might expect from a rookie playing on the biggest stage in the world, his overall court game and calmness has been sneakily good. Pop trusts him, and so do I; he’ll be there. Boris can play with anybody and provides much needed playmaking and size; he’ll be there. Tiago is our only reliable back-up to give Duncan blow, and I think we need him to have a Collison-like game for any chance of success; he’ll be there. Neal believes he is the best shooter on the floor at any time, and we need that confidence; he’ll be there (but probably only when Fisher is on the floor).
That’s all I expect. Perhaps a cameo from Bonner or Blair, maybe some Green if fouls become an issue. But I only expect to see one of those three situationally, like a last second possession when we need 3-point shooting, or 5 seconds of defense to end a quarter. Other than that, we roll with 8, with big minutes for Duncan, Manu, Tony, Jackson, and Leonard. That’s a good mixture of leadership, veteran savvy, athleticism, calmness, passion, and will. I’ll roll with those 5 any time.
Execution always matters; but Game 6 is about will. It’s about heart.
And heart is why we love sports so much, and why we devotedly follow teams and players in completely illogical ways.
I love the Spurs. Win or lose, I can’t wait to see the pride and passion they bring to Game 6.
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