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Morning Shootaround: Chasing Ghosts

By Jeff Koch on May 10, 2013.

Game 3 of the series is tonight. I’m equal parts amped up and totally confused.

I really can’t get a handle on this series. We’re being totally outplayed, yet we’ve been close in each game, and the Warriors, as spectacular as they’re playing, just can’t put us away. While we fell short in a comeback in Game 2, the game was really a story of two halves; the Warriors just “won” the first half by a bigger margin than we “won” the second half. Which half is more true moving forward? Honestly, I don’t know.

There’s reason for optimism, and reason for doubt. What scares me most about what I’ve seen from these two games is that they remind me of our last two playoff exits, courtesy of Memphis and OKC. In both of those series, the Spurs were not able to dictate the terms of the fight. We were the more experienced team going in, yet we got ouplayed at almost every position. The opposing teams had younger, more inexperienced bench players stepping up in huge and meaningful ways, while our role players wilted under the big lights. By the end of each series, the other teams seemed to be rolling about 8 or 9 deep, while Pop was down to about 6 players he was willing to play, 4 of which he trusted. Our biggest regular season advantages had turned against us.

Likewise, we stopped playing the crisp, team basketball that had become our hallmark in the regular season. We lost hope, we lost trust, and too many players tried to do too much on their own. The Spurs win by being smarter, more efficient, and more trusting, not by being the bigger, faster, stronger team. By the end of the Memphis and OKC series, we were just a shadow of the teams we’d grown to love in the regular season.

And I see the same thing happening in this Golden State series. Setting aside what Curry and Thompson are doing, our offense is totally out of whack. We had only 4 assists at halftime of Game 2. 4. From the team that led the league in assists and who demoralize teams by totally breaking down their defenses with ball movement.

Win of lose, I want to watch a game of Spurs basketball tonight.

A few more thoughts heading into tonight’s critical match-up:

–For the Spurs to win, Duncan needs to be the most dominant player on the court. This seems odd to say, because he’s had two solid games, but he seems almost like a non-factor out there. We need something like a 20-20-8-5 kind of night from him, where he completely changes the game on both sides.

–In the second half of Game 2 we seemed to find something that worked by going very small with Kawhi at the 4 and just one traditional big. This seems to play into Golden State’s favor, but also might allow us to keep more of our best players on the floor more minutes. (Kawhi essentially needs to play all 48 from here on out.) I think Bonner and Blair are done for this series, leaving us just Duncan, Splitter, and Diaw.

–Conversely, I’d also like to see us return to our traditional starting line-up, going real big, and seeing if completely clogging the paint and owning the boards can do be effective. The Warriors are winning the rebounding battles, and that is a place where we should and need to have the edge. Basically, I see no in between. Traditional line-ups with 2 bigs, or real small, 4-out 1-in line-ups.

–Now that the narrative has flipped on its head, the Warriors are the media’s darlings (and rightfully so, they’re a blast of a team), and most people are picking them to win, it’ll be interesting to see how they play under the weight of expectation at home. It’s easy to play fast and free as a plucky underdog; but once you’re expected to win games in the playoffs, things get really different.

–Likewise, I’d like to see the Spurs play freer.

–While Parker played with more energy in Game 2 than Game 1, I’d like to see him play smarter and with more vision in Game 3. We still need his scoring, but more than ever, we need his playmaking and ability to break down the defense to really open up our offense.

I have no idea how Game 3 will play out, but this has the feeling of a lynch-pin game, that whichever team wins tonight will most likely go on to win the series.

The game tips at 930 central time (730 pacific time) on ESPN.

Go Spurs Go.

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