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Corner 3-Pointers At the End of Playoff Games Are Scary

By Jeff Koch on April 26, 2014.

San Antonio 108, Dallas 109
Dallas leads series 2-1

Man, was that a hell of a game.

As heartbreaking as the loss is, it’s hard to be too upset about it. It was an insanely good and well played game. It was basically a coin flip. With another possession, the Spurs probably would have won. Had Manu’s shot spun around that rim one more time, the Mavs might not have enough time to get the shot off. If Carter puts his back heel down, he’s out of bounds. If, if, if. It’s always ‘if’s. Both teams had their chances, and the Mavs got the last one and won the game.

I’m also not too upset because it really feels like San Antonio figured some things out in that second half. On both sides of the ball they slowly took control of the game. Splitter continues to play great D on Dirk. Manu started running the offense and the movement and flow came back, the open shots came back, and some of our role players started to actually fill a role besides disappearing.

Pop had a great game. There were so many great calls out of the timeout for big buckets, and he pushed all the right rotational buttons. I mean, down 5 midway through the 4th, he put Mills and Bonner out there…and it worked. Splitter and Manu were dominating the pick and roll to get us back into the game. He then subbed Boris in for Tiago, and that led to some huge baskets by Boris (and some boneheaded fouls, but I’m not sure any player wouldn’t have been called for those). I also love that both Carlisle and Pop don’t overmanage their teams by calling a lot of timeouts in late game situations, they just keep the action going, knowing that offenses have advantages against defenses that aren’t given time to set up.

Pop’s biggest decision, though, was going away from Parker in the second half, sitting him for large stretches and then taking the ball out of his hands down the stretch. Parker has been dynamite in the first halves of these games, but pretty bad in the second halves. He looks tired and gassed. In the second half of this game, Manu started running the O and it suddenly looked like the Spurs again, with that pick and roll action, shots at the rim, wide open 3s, etc. It was a sight to see. With Parker sitting, Mills got some more playing time and started to ease his way into the series. His shot is still off, but it’s close. More importantly, he didn’t force any shots (at least by his standards; he is expected to take those pull up 3s), he pushed the action off misses, and he returned to playing his usual pesky defense. The Mavs are winning this series in large part because of how hard they are pushing their offense at our defense–on makes and misses–and getting so many easy baskets early. Mills and Manu seem the most eager to do the same in return, something we should be doing.

Which brings us back to Parker. He looks really off of his game. In the second half, he passed up a lay-up in transition to pull the basket out, then he kind of attacked again, pulled back, and then threw up a crappy floater. Now, the initial layup would have been contested, but that’s Parker’s game! He goes aggressively at shot blockers and at 1-on-2 fast breaks and usually comes out the victor. In the 4th quarter, on more than one occasion he passed up the right shot because he looked tentative and indecisive.

I also think his hot starts is a bit of fool’s gold. The Mavs are daring Parker to beat them, and he’s happy to oblige by taking a bunch of jump shots off of switches. He made pretty much all of them in the first half, but it did more harm than good in the long run. The Mavs are essentially baiting him to completely shut down our offense, and that’s what’s happening. Tony is playing with tunnel vision, and the offense is breaking down into isolation, one-on-one, pounding the ball for 10 seconds without any passing or player movement, and things are getting all clogged up. He’s hitting some shots because he’s a great basketball player; but the team isn’t working to get to that ‘great’ shot. And, by playing this way, he is freezing out the rest of the team, those role players who contributions are vital to the success of the team. Danny, Marco, Patty, Tiago–they all need their opportunities off of the work of Tim and Tony and Manu. Kawhi can get his own, but he needs the chances.

The Mavs, on the other hand, are getting major contributions from everywhere. This is becoming a disturbing playoff trend where the Spurs role players one by one lose their efficacy, and the opposing team gets contributions from everybody. If the Mavs get more all around, and Monta Ellis is the best PG in the series, and the Spurs can’t slow them from running so much, and they keep scorching on jump shots, the Spurs are doomed.

Yet I’m still hopeful. Because I really do think the Spurs figured some things out. And if they can take Game 4, it’s all tied up with 2 games left at home. I like those odds.

The real question: does Pop make any huge changes going into Game 4? Does he go back to his old trick and put Manu in the starting line-up? Does he bring Tony off the bench (this would be insane, but could be effective), starting Mills, and letting Tony run that second unit?

Whatever happens, we’re in for a fantastic game on Monday. The season is on the line.

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