Detroit Pistons 109, San Antonio Spurs 101
TheÂ Spurs and Pistons wereÂ tied at the half.
Detroit controlled the game for most of the second half, commanding an 11 point lead at the 4:54 mark, before the game took an entertaining turn. Gregg Popovich decided to intentionally foul Ben Wallace, who has a .438 FT%.Â
The coaching maneuver worked, and the crowd at the Palace wanted blood. There was a shrill group of women immediately behind the Spurs benchÂ that would make Susie Essman blush. They were in full command of their adjectives. And their suggestions had all the nuance of a rip saw.
The message was simple enough: Gregg Popovich was, putting it less colorfully, less than a man for straying from honest defensive schemes. Where was San Antonio’s championship defense? Where was Pop’s pride? All this, and a handful ofÂ insulting remarksÂ about Kwame Brown aside. Poor Kwame didn’t even play.
But back to the Susie Essmans. Here’s where Popovich almost had the last laugh.Â Hack-a-Wallace was as clutch coaching decision. Almost as clutch as Manu Ginobili, but more on that in a moment. Popovich had watched San Antonio’s lackluster defense give the game away in the fourth, and his hack-a-Wallace tactics were a noble, but ultimately, failed attempt at a “not on my watch!” It was the first time I’ve watched anÂ intentional-foul routine and respected it.
Ben Wallace was 4-10 from the line over a two minute stretch, maintaining his season average.Â The Spurs reduced Detroit’s lead from 11 to 6 in the hack-a-Wallace span, and then Manu Ginobili happened.
|2:38||Antonio McDyess makes dunk (Manu Ginobili assists) (82-89)|
|2:19||Manu Ginobili makes 25-foot three point jumper (85-90)|
|2:04||Manu Ginobili makes two free throws (87-91)|
|1:23||Manu Ginobili makes 26-foot three point jumper (90-91)|
|0:44||Manu Ginobili makes free throw (91-93)|
|0:27||Manu Ginobili makes driving layup (Tim Duncan assists) (93-93, OT)|
|0:00||Manu Ginobili Cures Cancer|
Most of those things actually happened.
After the game I asked Ginobili if he was aware of is own “clutchness”? Was there a certain feeling that came over him when he went deadly sharp daggers on the opposition?
“No, I don’t think about it,” he replied. “I just wanted to win. We’re not making shots. We’re not getting stops. We’re very inconsistent. I just wanted to win.”
Fair enough, Manu.
But don’t miss Pop’s hand in this. Aside from his team winningÂ theÂ exchange of pointsÂ with Ben Wallace, he also fouled very early in the shot clock. The seconds–maybe more than aÂ minute–saved in the exchangeÂ set the stage forÂ Ginobili;Â Pop bought his team time for the Manu magic.
And then theÂ Spurs reverted back to form. OvertimeÂ was a simple story of missed opportunities.Â Despite the late-game heroics,Â Detroit came off with a comfortable victory.
This year’s teamÂ has morphed Bizarro.Â Â The superhero version ofÂ the Spurs is marked byÂ a dogged consistency and peerless execution,Â on offense and defense. The duplicating-ray-gone-wrong versionÂ is inconsistent and sloppy, rarely piecing together a satisfyinglyÂ complete 48 minutes. Â
In the past the Spurs’ kryptonite was the occasional offensive drought. They’ve struggled making shots this season, but still have enough offensive firepower to avoid the offensive droughts of years past.Â But here’s howÂ the Bizarro thing plays–the Spurs’ new kryptonite is the heretofore unknown defensive drought. Five or six bad defensive possessions in a row, two or three times a contest,Â and theÂ game is lost.
I boiled all of that offensive/defensive drought stuff down into a simple question, and posed it to Popovich.
“That’s quite accurate,” Pop confirmed, before issuing a soft disclaimer. “I don’t tryÂ to blame individuals, team defense is team defense. It is what it is. [It's]Â about trust, consistency and discipline. We just haven’t had all that on a consistent basis.”