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The Finals Preview Nobody Wants

By Jeff Koch on December 7, 2013.

Indiana 111, San Antonio 100

But man, wouldn’t this be a good series? I’ll take this Finals happily: two well-coached teams that play as a team, lock down on defense, and execute on offense? Yes, please.

There was a lot of buzz coming into this game, both teams looking to make early statements this NBA season after both being a hair away from beating Miami in the playoffs last season. The Spurs have started strong, for sure, but Indiana has started the season like a team possessed, on a mission for home court in that decisive Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, should it come to that. (And the way the East is disintegrating, a Miami-Indiana ECF is about as close to a lock as you can get in early December.)

And the Spurs looked good for a quarter and a half, running their offense without impediment, locking in on D, even getting offensive rebounds and generally outplaying the Pacers. The lead built to 13 with the second units coming in, which is usually where the Spurs pad the lead. The Spurs had 37 points, and they missed an easy lay-up…then a wide-open 3…then another shot, and still they had 37…and another miss…still at 37…and before you knew it, Indiana had gotten themselves back into the game.

And from there they blew it wide open, destroying the Spurs 67-37 over the 2nd and 3rd quarters.

Yet I still go back to those early 2nd quarter possessions, when the second unit was executing but just missing the shots. Sometimes basketball is weird like that, and the entire game hinges on a few moments, a few possessions, a few bounces of the ball, even that early in the game. The Spurs played like crap for too long and deserved to lose; but suppose Boris hits another shot or two, and the team keeps that lead in double digits for 4 minutes longer? Does that stem the tide and stop the Pacers’ avalanche long enough to keep the game competitive in the 4th? It seems absurd to even ask, but every game has a million little turning points, and I see most of them before the Pacers’ run truly began, rather than during it.

Still, it’s only a theoretical exercise, and this game was lost on the Spurs’ poor defense for the middle of the game coupled with Indiana’s absurdly hot shooting. David West has always been a nightmare match-up for the Spurs. Seeing Matt Bonner guard him gave me nightmares of that 7-game series against New Orleans in 2008. Big Power Forwards with 18-foot range have always been a weakness for us. Apparently Hibbert can hit that shot, too, which is crazy. And Paul George can’t miss from 3, oh, and he’s made the leap and might be the 3rd best player in the entire league right now. Yeah, you play even average defense against that, and you’re losing.

Sadly, the Spurs best defense came late in the game when they played a college press, got some careless TOs in garbage time, and actually made the score interesting with some wild 3s. Of course they start falling then.

It’s a shame, really: this truly could have been a great game. As it was, Indiana whooped the Spurs something good and earned a great win.

As a reward, the Spurs get 4 games in 5 nights in 4 different cities and two different countries. Toronto on Tuesday, Milwaukee on Wednesday, home against Minnesota Friday, in Utah on Saturday. And in LA against the Clippers on Monday for good measure.

You must have a short memory in the NBA. Should these two teams meet in June, there’s probably not much either team will draw from this game, save for perhaps home court advantage…which just might be the most important thing.

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