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Road Warriors

By Jeff Koch on May 16, 2013.

San Antonio 94, Golden State 82
San Antonio wins series 4-2

The Spurs had controlled the game almost the entire way, but it was slowly slipping away in the 4th quarter, agonizing point by agonizing point. Our Big 3 were all struggling, our offense had completely stalled out, and our defense, while still solid, could not be expected to allow zero points over the final 5 minutes. Fickle momentum was making her inevitable swing to the home team, and a Game 7 on Sunday seemed inevitable.

From my comfy chair in my living room, I was screaming for Parker to come out, who was just murdering our offense with missed shots, TOs, and the most careless of mental mistakes you almost never see from him. Cory Joseph was set to check in for him, but Parker waived him off, and Pop acquiesced. Instead, Splitter came in for Duncan, who was clearly tired (short on several jumpers), and closed out the game, in which the Spurs extended a 2-point lead to a 12-point victory.

This is why he is one of the greatest coaches of all time, and I sit on my chair in Portland, OR screaming at the television like a child or a fool.

Don’t misunderstand: Parker was killing us. And so was Duncan. Had we lost, we could be talking about the decision to not pull Parker. But Pop saw something to leave Tony in and take Tim out, and it worked perfectly. (To Splitter’s credit, he had a wonderful second half, the best he has looked in the entire playoffs, and something we’ll need to see from him in the next round.) Splitter’s activity on the pick and roll put just enough spring back in the offense, Parker moved off the ball, ceding most ball handling duties to Ginobili, who, instead of forcing the action, became “good” Ginobili for 4 minutes. And, perhaps most improbably, Parker hit the two biggest shots of the game: 2 corner 3s that stemmed the time, and then brought on the tidal wave. All of this, after being something like 1 for 14 up until that point.

Anyone who watches basketball knows that Parker is not a 3-point shooter. But close Spurs’ observers know that over the last 3 seasons he has slowly worked it into his game, particularly from the corners. While still judicious in his selection, he has become proficient enough at the shot to not make every fan cringe as soon as the shot goes up. But here’s the thing: it can be assumed that Parker has probably put over 5000 hours of practice into that shot. When a player adds a new dimension to his game, it’s most likely after about 2 to 3 years of perfecting it in the offseason and in practice and in quiet moments of games. So Parker has been in that gym, hour after hour, month after month, season after season, putting up hundreds, thousands, of corner 3s. Building repetition and confidence.

For a moment just like tonight.

So when that ball finds him in the corner off of great action from Ginobili and Splitter, and he must take the shot, his body and his mind have been ready for that shot for years. And despite the struggles up until that point, he calmly steps into the shot and swish. Spurs win.

Basketball is a game of inches. On the other end, both Curry and Thompson had big 3s that were halfway down and rimmed out. Between Parker’s two threes and those two threes, that’s a 12-point swing. Ball game. Sometimes it just comes down to a few shots, a few makes or misses. You play 82 games, 1 round of playoffs, and get to a Game 6 in the second round, 44 minutes in, and it just comes down to a few makes or misses. For almost 15 years, the Spurs have been better at winning those inches than almost any other team.

This is why we love basketball. This is why we love the Spurs.

Game 6 was really the culmination of a trend that started in the second half of Game 2. The Spurs kind of figured out the Warriors on both ends of the court, and just needed to stay the course and trust the system, and they would have an excellent shot at winning. They did, and they did

Before we move on, all credit to the Warriors. They were a bigger, stronger, tougher, and more well-prepared team that I initially thought, and they made it a genuine series. Far from being a one-man show, they were an ensemble act, and I was consistently impressed and surprised by everyone’s contributions. I don’t know if I’ve ever been more frightened by an opposing player’s shot than Curry’s. The whole organization is classy, and it was a treat to watch a hard-fought and competitive series that still maintained a firm level of respect and honor between the opponents. My favorite part of most any series is the team hugs and handshakes after it’s over, and tonight’s did not disappoint. I look forward to many great battles with this team.

For tonight, let’s savor another Western Conference Finals for a team that seemed completely washed up not 3 years ago. We’ll have plenty of time to preview the Memphis series this weekend.

Game 1 tips on Sunday afternoon on ABC.

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