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Morning Shootaround: The Pivot

By Jeff Koch on May 13, 2013.

(Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle)

It’s season making time.

Game 4 was a blown opportunity. Despite putting up the worst shooting performance ever in the Tim Duncan era, the team still held the slimmest of leads in the final minute. But historically bad shooting will always catch up to you, and it slipped away.

But we’re still in a good position, regaining home court advantage, just needing two more wins to advance to the Western Conference Finals. And while the offense sputtered in Game 4, the defense over the last 2 games has been very good. There’s no way to deny a team everything, but if you’re making Jarrett Jack and Harrison Barnes shoot 42 of your 92 shots (46%), while limiting Curry and Thompson to just 28 shots, you’re doing something right. And if Jack and Barnes score just 50 points on those 42 shots, you’ll live with that.

The real problem to me is a theory I first heard put forth by Bill Simmons a few years ago in the playoffs: the 5 feet. The playoffs comes down to protecting the 5 feet in front of your rim, and gaining the advantage in the 5 feet in front of the other team’s rim. This is why the Grizzlies are such a dangerous playoff team with Randolph and Gasol. While Duncan is usually reliable in this area, so far in this series, the Warriors are controlling that 5 feet on both ends of the court, limiting the Spurs to just one shot per possession, preventing them from getting to the rim (and settling for mid-range jumpers) and getting foul shots, and also getting too many offensive rebounds and spoiling our overall good defense. A lot of this is Bogut, but their guards are also doing a good job on both ends of the court in these 5 feet. In Game 5, we need those 5 feet. This should be a challenge to the whole team.

And in particular, Splitter. He is having a bad series. He can contribute a lot without putting up numbers, but we need him to be engaged and also to be confident. For a two minute stretch to start the 4th quarter in Game 4, we suddenly had him on the move again, in the pick and roll, and he was dominating. I’d like to see more of that, and also see him play big on defense.

Game 5 is the pivot game. Playing at home, the pressure falls squarely on this Spurs team. Lose this game, and they suddenly face the daunting task of having to win two in a row, starting with a road game. I don’t want to face the Warriors in Oakland with the crowd smelling blood. Win Game 5, and that pressure falls back squarely on Golden State.

This is what true competitors and champions live for, a chance at greatness. The Spurs will rise, or the Spurs will fall. And either way, that’s exactly who they always were.

Go Spurs Go.

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