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Manu Taketh Away, and Manu Giveth Back

By Jeff Koch on May 6, 2013.

San Antonio 129, Golden State 127 (2 OT)
San Antonio leads series 1-0

Wow. Need to catch my breath after that game.

That’s why you play all four five six quarters of a basketball game. After Curry had his ho-hum 22 point 3rd quarter and the Warriors pushed the lead as high as 18 in the 4th, the Spurs were still able to do what the Nuggets came close to doing in Game 6 yet were unable to complete. Curry and his teammates got up big, played fearless and loose, and seemed to be making all the right plays, all the right decisions, and just making every shot. But in the last six minutes, as Pop likes to say, the worm finally turned.

More to the point, the Spurs started playing like the Spurs. Parker was finally a reasonable facsimile of the Parker we all know and expect, Leonard seemed to awaken from a deep slumber, Danny Green started making shot after shot, and Diaw of all people provided the defensive (and offensive) spark the team was missing. Oddly, the turning point of the game coincided with Duncan leaving (still suffering from the remnants of the flu) and Thompson fouling out. Perhaps Duncan just didn’t have it, but the emergence of Diaw really sparked the defense. With Leonard finally getting switched on to Curry, the Warrior sharp shooter went a little flat in the 4th, and Leonard and Diaw did a good job of corralling him on high pick and rolls. He also just seemed to get tired, playing all but 4 seconds of the game. Many of his shots were right on line, but hit off the front of the rim, a sure sign of a tired shooter.

After leading 3-2 early, the Spurs next lead actually didn’t come until the first OT. I thought we had a few opportunities to put the game away in the first OT, but missed on a couple of chances to get a two possession lead. Tied with the ball and the last shot, Manu was only able to muster up an air ball.

In the second OT, we finally got a two possession lead off another Green 3-pointer. Up 5, the Spurs gave up a 6-0 run, with arguably the worst shot of Manu’s career, a 30+-foot 3-pointer for no reason whatsoever. Dear God it was a horrible shot.

But then that last play. The culmination of the full Manu experience. Horrible decisions, costly TOs, amazing play making, game-winning shots, heart, passion. I wanted him off the floor; I knew we needed him to have any chance of winning.

This game felt a lot like the 2008 first-round series against the Suns, when it took double-OT (and that Duncan 3 we all remember and love) to close out Game 1, and the Suns never seemed to recover. The Warriors played possibly the best they could play against a Spurs team that played flat and mediocre; they had the game in hand, and gave it away as much as the Spurs took it. I think the Warriors are a smart and passionate team that will fight hard, but some losses sting a bit more, and this might have been there best chance to steal a game and gain some control of the series. I’ll be very interested to see how each team responds for Wednesday night’s game. The Spurs know they got one they probably shouldn’t have, and know they can play much better. I’m not sure if the Warriors can play much better, and they know the let one slip away.

Then again, tonight’s game could just go to show that whatever you think to expect from this series, don’t. Anything is possible.

A few more notes from tonight’s game:

–I stand by my assessment that you need to guard Curry one-on-one, let him shoot (and score), but don’t let him get the rest of the team involved. For the first 3 quarters, Curry was fantastic, but it seemed like the ‘other’ Warriors hit every open shot available. I’d prefer to see those shots NOT be open. If we’re going to trap him, do it late as a wrinkle, much like we did tonight.

I think Leonard played the best individual D on him, but I almost think Parker might be the best match-up. Curry can abuse him, but it leaves Green and Leonard free to shut down Barnes and Thompson, the other shooters who really hurt us. I’d rather one player score 30 than 3 players combine for 70. Plus, that would force the Warriors to cross-match (they want Thompson on Parker as much as possible), which could cause confusion in transition, allowing the Spurs to perhaps get some easier scores.

Late in the game, though, I want to see Leonard on Curry.

–That being said: Curry is insanely good. I’m terrified of him.

–Don’t be fooled by the late game heroics: Parker played like garbage more than he didn’t. He was totally passive on offense, not even trying to penetrate or get the rest of the team involved. And the Warriors were successfully attacking him on D, isolating whoever he was guarding. It was shameful. Sometimes Parker is really tentative to start games, and he just seems absent. One thing that I think he’s really improved on is his mental toughness, having the ability to fight through whatever slog he is in and still finish strong. As shitty as he was for the first 3 1/2 quarters, it was his play that sparked the comeback and won the game for us.

–I was shocked at how easily the Warriors attacked us in the paint offensively and shut us out of it defensively. I wasn’t sure if Splitter had much of a role in this series, but now I think playing big can be a huge advantage for us.

–Duncan played well and put up good numbers, but was visibly off. Hopefully he’ll be much better by Game 2.

–I thought it was a mistake putting Duncan back in for the final play of OT1, as he isn’t a range shooter and seemed to be mostly a decoy. I did think it was smart to bring him back in for the end of OT2, as he is very long and provided a difficult ‘wall’ for the in-bounder.

–Ginobili. Sweet, crazy Ginobili. He really seemed off and frenetic tonight, pressing and just taking bad shots. And yet, outside of the game winner, he also had 11 assists, 7 rebounds, and a team high +17. Sometimes it feels like we’d get over the hump if Pop would only just take him out, and yet we don’t win these games without some crazy magic play that only he could see or pull off. This is why we love him.

It’ll be interesting to see the quotes and reactions from both sides in the wake of this instant classic. And Game 2 on Wednesday will be gripping theater. Both teams have a lot they did right, and a lot they did wrong. The adjustments will be fascinating, but perhaps the changes that aren’t made will be even more intriguing.

Either way, I’m already eager for Game 2 to get here. Though, like most everybody who played in the game, I could probably use a day off myself.

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