Detroit Pistons 109, San Antonio Spurs 101


The Spurs and Pistons were 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%. 

The coaching maneuver worked, and the crowd at the Palace wanted blood. There was a shrill group of women immediately behind the Spurs bench 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 of insulting remarks 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.  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 an intentional-foul routine and respected it.

Ben Wallace was 4-10 from the line over a two minute stretch, maintaining his season average. The Spurs reduced Detroit’s lead from 11 to 6 in the hack-a-Wallace span, and then Manu Ginobili happened.

Ginobili Play-by-Play

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 winning the exchange of points with Ben Wallace, he also fouled very early in the shot clock. The seconds–maybe more than a minute–saved in the exchange set the stage for Ginobili; Pop bought his team time for the Manu magic.

And then the Spurs reverted back to form. Overtime was a simple story of missed opportunities. Despite the late-game heroics, Detroit came off with a comfortable victory.

This year’s team has morphed Bizarro.  The superhero version of the Spurs is marked by a dogged consistency and peerless execution, on offense and defense. The duplicating-ray-gone-wrong version is inconsistent and sloppy, rarely piecing together a satisfyingly complete 48 minutes.  

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. But here’s how 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, and the  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 try to blame individuals, team defense is team defense. It is what it is. [It’s] about trust, consistency and discipline. We just haven’t had all that on a consistent basis.”

  • Jim Henderson


    Thank you!

  • David

    I think continuity is important, thats the reason why I have been so upset with the many different line up changes, stick to what is providing the best results and try to improve on that.

    Same reason why I’m not a big fan of the get pop out mentality, I have always wondered how the mavs would have faired had they not been in such a rush to get avery out, they went from monsters to mediocre.

    I guess the point Im trying to make is that while I dislike many of the moves pop is making I think not having him could be even worst.

    It is also a pleasure to see Ginobili playing like that, truly a pleasure.

  • ThatBigGuy

    Dear Jim Henderson,

    No one commented on the substance of your post because no one read that far! I’ve written some long posts, but all of it was new material focusing on new topics, not copy and pasted from other threads. All I’m saying is bring something new. Don’t make me scroll through 100 lines of old material, then make me cross reference old threads to determine what is old, and then have me sort through the new post to filter and process your new ideas. Eventually everyone will scan over your posts.


    Moving on…

    Pop is not the problem. Ultimately, the players determine the outcome of the game. Concerning small ball, I’d be willing to bet that the players are on board. If you think the players don’t have a say in this, you’re dead wrong. A team consists of the waterboy, AT, 12th man, HOF’er, assistant and head coach. A true team is a democracy, not a tyranny. The Spurs are a true team, so game plans are discussed during film sessions, in practice, and in shoot-arounds. This happens on the collegiate level, and it damn sure happens on the NBA level. The players just aren’t converting the game plan into success.

    It’s the players, guys, the players.

  • Hobson13

    @ Agutierrez, yeah, I quit believing that bullshit about not “gelling” around 25 games into the season. RJ, McDyess, and the gang have been playing basketball for most of their lives. No matter how difficult the Spurs system is, it’s not brain surgery and Pop didn’t reinvent the game of basketball. Not “gelling” is a bunch of excuse making nonsense. New players come and go all the time in this league and I’ve never heard this excuse used as much as the Spurs did for the first 40 games.

  • SilverAndBlack

    Wow. It’s past the trade deadline, there are still folks talking about the “woulda, coulda”s of what the spurs should’ve done…people just deal with it…sure the Mavs look better with Haywood in the lineup, but then again a team like the Cavs who are a superior team, don’t look as gelled with Jamison~as it a slow progress. This FO did not make a move for one simple reason: The puzzle they currently have isn’t solved just yet, and by adding in more pieces would just create that much more of a mess. Management is confident with the players they have. They feel they can still win with this team. I, for one, am in complete support here…not just as a blind-spurs fan, but b/c if you really see the talent we have on this team, we should definitely be among the elite in the league—esp. since we run a system that’s been proven to be successful for many years.

    This is not Pop’s fault, nor the FO. We can’t really point the finger at anyone until the season’s over. And, I really can’t stand ‘fans’ who think it’s all about a one shot, quick remedy cure for all. It’s exactly like jumping out the window as soon as you smell smoke. C’mon folks, let’s be real here. We have talent and experience, there’s no question about that. It’s just about finding that right mixture that’ll be the potion to our success. Maybe it’s the lack of trust players have for one another, or maybe it’s a dealing of confidence issues, who knows. But, the team’s gonna figure it out for themselves b/c if they don’t, then they’ll be at home watching the playoffs. The season’s far from over, for us to even be think’n about the next one. This team was constructed to win NOW. And, it’s definitely there. People just need to have faith in the organization, that’s been one of the best in league history.

  • Tyler

    “If your a real Spurs fan you cheer for your team every night, and quit criticizing every single thing they do.”

    Araz – with all due respect, just because you criticize the team, doesn’t mean you aren’t a true fan.

    Jim Henderson – I don’t think they were necessarily disagreeing with your post, just pointing out that it was pretty long winded….

  • SpurredOn

    @ agutierrez – are you seriously using a one game sample size to compliment Dallas? They were at home, vs Indiana without Granger.

    If one game is evidence, how do you explain the Spurs without TD or TP beating Dallas? RJ had a +9 that game. So much good that proved to be.

  • Jim Henderson

    Hey, I know I’m getting ahead of myself here, but looking to next year, what do you think of the following trade proposals for during the off-season:

    By the way, have you seen the numbers Collison’s been putting up with the Hornets? Wow, this kid’s got a future, but the fact is, he’s behind CP3.

    Disregard that trade machine says failed.

    New York will have HUGE cap relief by season end. Lee, House, Duhon, Hill & Mason (all expiring contracts) would have to be sign & trade parts of the deal.


    New York blows everyone away in cap space (they would still have almost 50 mil. in expiring contracts after this proposed trade). They should have a good shot at signing the Hawks Joe Johnson (who Dantoni loves – Johnson used to play for him) & the Raptors Chris Bosh.

    With the addition of Parker & Mason, the Knicks would have Parker & Rodriguez at the point, Johnson & Mason at SG, Bosh at PF, the two young studs of Chandler & Gallinari at SF, and they would either resign PF Harrington or get someone else for his 10 mil. expiring contract. They would still need some depth on the front line, including a decent starting center that’s more of a defender than a scorer. Maybe they can steal Haywood from Dallas. All in all, NY could make a solid run in the playoffs in the East with these basic parts in place.

    Hornets would have Paul & Hill at the point (Hill would get some time at SG), Thorton & Peterson at SG, Jefferson & Posey at SF, West, Okafor, McDyess, & Songalia at PF/C. That’s a pretty damn good team as well.

    The Spurs would have Collison (I like Parker & Hill but this guy is really good) & Duhon at the point, Ginobli (resign!), House (great shooter – probably start Ginobli), & Hairston at SG, Stojakovic (veteran that can spread the floor – seems to have turned the corner on injury issues) & Wright (athletic young talent) at SF, Duncan, Lee (young, double-double machine), Blair (should get more minutes next year), (& sign a relatively cheap but solid, tall defender in the paint). Do not resign Bonner & Bogans (a little over 4 mil. in cap space).

    I know it requires a lot of speculation, and remakes our team considerably (building around the young talent of Collison, Lee, Blair, & Wright), but it seems that we’re going to have to head in this direction to give Duncan & Ginobli another shot at a title. So, just for fun, what do you guys think of these proposed deals?

  • Trade TP

    The article was crappy writing but made valid points. Pop is overrated. You have a bunch of homers on here giving him credit when we win titles, but blaming players when we get the Ls?

    Pop chooses his team, his strategy, who plays, etc. If he is dumb enough to see that what he’s doing isnt working and he keeps doing it then its on him.

    Anyone could have won rings with the teams he won with.

    McD was a horrible pickup.

    Ive been a fan for 25+ years just because I dont buy into some dumbass coach doesnt make me less of a fan.

    The players we have now arent suited for his system. Get new players or a new system. He’s the teacher and shouldnt be making excuses for not being able to teach basketball.

    If I teach reading, and Ive got kids in my class who cant read, I dont continually try to make them learn the same way hen they obviously dont understand. That would make me a shitty teacher.

    Same principles apply.

  • Easy B

    Since we are all going back to past comments…how much better would we be doing right now if we had a 3rd point guard who can distribute and hit the odd 3 pointer?

  • Araz


    I realize that, but demanding trades and attacking the coach, F.O. and at every opportunity seems a little “unfanlike”… Don’t you think?

  • Trade TP

    If Pop was so great why didnt we play Gooden? Hes having a better year than McDyess….. And I think he has better career numbers.

  • Tyler

    Araz –

    Uncalled for? Maybe. “Unfanlike?” Not necessarily. Imagine if you had been a fan of the NY Knicks the past decade…..

    Trade TP – McDyess used to be a beast when he was younger. Before he had knee problems, he was one of the best athletes in the league. From 96-97 to 00-01 he was pretty good. Career #’s are in McDyess’ favor but yes, Gooden is having a better year it appears (although McDyess has come on lately).

  • Vaughn Grisham

    Pop needs to fire himself as coach and bring in someone who can take a fresh look at this. Pop truly doesn’t seem to have a clue how to integrate the new pieces. It sucks to see solid efforts by Tim and Manu flushed down the commode for lack of team defensive chemistry.

  • agutierrez

    Spurred On: actually I’m using a four game sample. The Mavs are undefeated with their new lineup.

  • Araz


    If I was a loyal Knick fan, I would support every thing they do because they run the team. As I said before, none of you are in the coaching or FO situation, so how could you know what’s best? Being a fan is about supporting your team through the ups and downs, not abanding in ship by attacking the coach and FO at first sign of hardship.

  • Tyler

    Araz –

    Make no mistake – Even though I disagree with some, I, along with majority of people on this board support the guys who wear the silver and black thru thick and thin. We want nothing more than for them to succeed. I cannot even fathom the thought of jumping ship. But blindly accepting the decisions of anyone in the organization does no one any good, the organization included. I’d say one of the worst thing for the Spurs would be to have a bunch of yes-men for fans. If that were the case, we’d accept the status quo, be content with a so-so season. Fortunately, that’s not the case – we expect more (as we should). And if we don’t get it, it’s fans’ job to pressure the organization into action. Where in there did I stop becoming a Spurs’ fan?

    Turn the situation around – If you worked for a company, would you blindly support a CEO/board who makes terrible decisions and drives the co. into the ground just because “they run the team?” Of course not! But that’s essentially what you’re saying when you said you would support everything the Knicks do simply because they run the team.

  • td4life

    @Jim Henderson–
    I was looking for reactions for the proposed swapping of Parker and RJ for Collison and Peja (and getting Ty Thomas in a 3 team deal) before the trade deadline. So, obviously I am in support of getting Collison if at all possible as our pointguard of the future even if it means we have to take Peja (which isn’t all bad)– I know the Hornets aren’t gonna be able to keep Collison as their back up PG, but his trade value is continuing to grow… If they think that RJ might be a better fit with Chris Paul, they might try it as his contact is essentially the same as Peja’s, but they also want to get out form under David West’s 3 years… I was considering that they might like Parker backing up CP3, and next to him in a 2 guard attack. Hill instead? I can buy that. 3 years of McD? Maybe. Collison is better than all those guys though, so if they can get an premier big for him, I think they’d prefer it. David Lee plays GREAT off of CP, as we saw in their sophomore game, but next to Emeka, they’d probably like a better defender.

    As for the SAS side of your ideas. I have been critical of Parker, because he’s such a one dimensional scorer. Collison is an earnest defender. I like Duhon alot as a backup PG, but I wouldn’t be suprised if D’Antoni keeps him as his backup. A strong defender as the backup in SA would be good, too, such as Earl Watson. Jarrett Jack and Delonte West bring a lot more than their stats suggest. Ideally, a bigger ball-handling guard creates alot of potential mismatches — I think any coach who would make Manu the pointman would be well-rewarded with wins. So there are alot of options, including surrounding Tony with smart playmakers at other positions. Although, as TP’s speed diminishes so will his value.
    I’m not thrilled by the wing players on your roster, other than Manu. I don’t believe in Hairston, and if you are gonna go with the likes of Peja, you better have great overall defense… this is my main knock on David Lee; Lee and Blair gives us a combo that is extremely vulnerable to post-play and slashing guards. For my part, I’m hoping instead for defensive Bigs. Haywood is major improvement to the Mavs roster. Likewise Camby (who can’t do much against the Pick and Roll, but is one of the better shotblockers and rebounders, and still a very, very good help defender) for the Blazers… I’m watching Tyrus Thomas with keen interest.

    I’m still thinking trades, because the Spurs still have the potential to contend. Tim, Manu, and Pop are among the best in the game. They definitely need to improve through some pretty major changes, though. Meanwhile, Splitter may never be a Spur, not to mention a great one.

  • Araz


    I’m not saying to blindly accept decisions, I’m speaking to those who want to make dramatic changes just because we are struggling a little. Sometimes you have to trust your team to do what’s right, and seeing the spurs success…. They atleast desrve that. Fans have their voice and that’s fine but if something has already been done that you don’t agree with, just move on, and root for your team.

  • Jim Henderson

    Trade TP:

    If you haven’t already, read my comment on this post – February 22nd, 2010 at 2:11 pm.

    Some of your points in your – February 23rd, 2010 at 4:37 am – comment are nonsensical.

    For example, you say,

    “Anyone could have won rings with the teams he won with.”

    Oh, and Phil Jackson’s not a great coach because he won with Michael, Scotty, Shaq, Kobe, etc.? Red Auerbach’s not a great coach because he won with Russell, Cousy, Sam Jones, John Havlicek, etc.? You’re joking me, right?! ALL of the “great” coaches won titles with their fair share of great players!

    “McD was a horrible pickup.”

    I hate to tell you, but a lot of valuable opinions are consulted within the organization before a trade is made, and management/owners make the final decision on whether to acquire a player based on a whole host of issues, not just on the player’s ability. Pop’s input is far from decisive on these matters.

    “If I teach reading, and Ive got kids in my class who cant read, I dont continually try to make them learn the same way hen they obviously dont understand. That would make me a shitty teacher. Same principles apply.”

    You do realize this is a terrible analogy, don’t you?! With KIDS one needs to provide constant reinforcement and employ creative strategies to help DEVELOP THEIR BRAINS to effectively process learning. The SPURS PLAYERS are grown adults, with MATURE BRAINS (with varying degrees of “intelligence”) and most of them are experienced veteran players. And let’s face it, one doesn’t have to be a “rocket scientist” to play effectively within any system in the NBA. Further, the PLAYERS are being paid huge salaries to maximize their god-given skills, play as a team, and trust & respect their coach’s leadership & decision-making. If they’re not learning from Pop it’s not because of his teaching, it’s because they are being selfish, stubborn, or lazy. The PLAYERS cannot be compared to KIDS!!

    Please start putting the primary responsibility where it belongs: ON THE PLAYERS!

    Thank you.

  • john

    lets all understand one thing the spurs suck. they have done very little to improve their team over the last 4 yrs they keep signing guys that are way pass their prime. the RJ signing was a huge joke all my spur buddies were talking about how RJ was a HUGE move for the spurs.
    I told them all RJ sucks! he did nothing in the olympics, he was slightly above avg w/the nets because of one reason KIDD 7 w/the bucks well that team is actually worst then the spurs & if you shoot 30 times a game your going to be the leading scorer on that team. put on a team w/my 7,5 and 3 yr old grandkids guess what I will be the leading scorer.
    Another thing I have never like pop he’s not a good coach he happen to coach a team that got the big 3. barry switzer wasnt a good coach he happen to get a great cowboy team that he ran into the ground. spurs suck!

  • Trade TP

    Jim Henderson =

    1. Yes, Im saying that with the players we had there are more people than Greg who could have won 4 titles.

    2. McDyess- So you want to give pop credit for drafting players, but when we make a horrible pickup its the rest of the FO. Great job.

    3. Analogy- You keep contradicting yourself which is even more humorous than your last post. If the players are this smart then why does pop continue to make the new players excuse? Why does pop get credit for being a great coach if it is simply the players?

    Jim your mancrush on POP is amusing. But this is where you get into trouble. “players win and lose games” then follow with “pop is the greatest coach because he WINS championships”

  • Jim Henderson

    @ Trade TP

    First of all, let’s stop making ASSUMPTIONS about what I think, and stop putting words in my mouth. That’s a good place to start.

    In reference to your points 1, 2 & 3 above:

    1.) This statement calls for complete and utter speculation, with no substance to back it up. It is a statement that is impossible to prove or disprove. Yeah, and a handful of coaches in the league could have won as much with Jordan, Bryant, & Shaq as Jackson. I doubt it, but hell, nobody can disprove it so it’s effective to take Jackson down a peg. And …. it’s ridiculous.

    2.) No I’ve NEVER given Pop credit for drafting players. Others may have; I haven’t. He get’s some credit, but I don’t emphasize his role in bad or good player acquisitions because it’s clearly a collaborative effort. I focus on how Pop performs is main role — coaching. And that he does with the best of them, even in the midst of a very disappointing season thus far.

    3.) First, your analogy was comparing Pops teaching of highly paid, fully developed ADULTS with a teacher helping a KID learn in school. IT IS A FAULTY ANALOGY (as explained above), and you’ve provided no evidence to suggest otherwise. Second, I have not contradicted myself. Pop has not abused the “new players” excuse (unless you care to show me evidence to the contrary). When questioned earlier in the season by the media, he simply offered it as an honest explanation for the Spurs struggles early on. If this “excuse” appears to linger, fault the media, who simply don’t want to be honest about the travails of a revered franchise & perennial contender: THE PLAYERS ARE BEING BABIES ABOUT THEIR OWN PERFORMANCE & LOOKING FOR A SCAPEGOAT, just like many people on this blog.

    Finally, yours and others’ scapegoating of Pop for your own frustrations is getting nauseating. And, you’re making up quotes purportedly by me in your final paragraph; “players win & lose games”, and “pop is the greatest coach because he WINS championships”. I NEVER said these words. However, YOU CAN QUOTE ME ON THIS, players & coaches & the entire organization are, in total, responsible for sustaining a winning franchise (by the way, Spurs selected “franchise” of the decade by the NBA this year), but it is unequivocally the PLAYERS themselves that are by far the MOST responsible for success or failure in a given year. That said, some coaches WITH THE SAME ORGANIZATION & PLAYERS would not win a championship, while a MINORITY of other coaches would. And vice-versa, in a given year, THE SAME COACH could very well win a championship with one set of PLAYERS, but not with another. It’s just that the PLAYERS are MORE (not completely!) RESPONSIBLE for winning championships than the COACH. Pop is one of the greatest coaches of all-time for a variety of reasons (not just for winning championships) that I won’t bother to enumerate at this time.

  • Trade TP

    jim – you’re whole argument is faulty. You claim that players are the key to success then you conclude with pop is a great coach. Doesnt work. If the players are the means of success then a coach has absolutely nothing to do with their winning or losing.

    what is pop supposed to do? Teach. What are players supposed to do? Learn. If the students or players arent getting it, what do great teachers/coaches do? Reteach and find a new path for success. For someone who “understands” what a great coach is or does, this should be easy for you to grasp. If a kid doesnt understand 2
    +2 = 4 then you dont just keep asking him what 2
    +2 is and expect a different answer.

    Next, I agree with you about the players being adults and further professionals. What I disagreed with was Pop claiming his “over 50%” new roster was the problem early on. Just stating that multiple times in PCs made me realize that he has no idea how to work these players and that his system was basically the TD show.

    Again if these were grown adults who need no guidance then why have coaches? And how would any coach be considered “great?” Pop positioned himself in a great place at a great time. Awesome businessman, sure. Great coach? Not really. To be great you dont just win with the best. But you find ways to win with what youve got. Pop has been able to win with the best, but in no way have I seen him turn any teams around, or get more from an average team than expected.

  • Jim Henderson

    Trade TP:

    Things in life are often not “black & white”, “completely this” or “completely that”. I’m sure you recognize that. Yet, you have a tendency to make your argument in “absolutes”.

    For example, you say “jim – you’re whole argument is faulty ……. If the players are the means of success then a coach has ‘absolutely nothing’ to do with their winning or losing.” Did I ever say the players are THE means of success? NO. I said they are simply and INHERENTLY MORE RESPONSIBLE for the team’s success than the coach. That does NOT mean that the coach has NOTHING to do with their winning or losing. Apparently you don’t understand logic. ALL coaches have less influence over their teams success then their players. THAT DOES NOT MEAN THE COACH IS NOT IMPORTANT. Compared to other coaches, each of whom have less influence on success than their players do, Popovich is one of the most successful for maximizing the opportunities that a coach can have to influence the outcome, and ultimately win championships.

    I’ll give a brief example for you that’s more concrete. My contention (which virtually any paid analyst, coach, or player would agree with) is that players have a LARGER influence on a teams ultimate success than their coach. No one knows what the exact figure is, but for example, to make it concrete for you, let’s guesstimate that the PLAYERS are ultimately 80% responsible for winning a championship, the coach 15%, and other management & staff 5%. Now, one cannot discount that 15% that the coaches have (it is important), it just does not have the WEIGHT or influence that the players’ 80% has. Now, WE MAY DISAGREE on how effectively Pop uses that theoretical 15% compared to other coaches in the ultimate goal of winning championships, but my argument is NOT FAULTY in the way you describe in your first paragraph above.

    You say:

    “What I disagreed with was Pop claiming his “over 50%” new roster was the problem early on.”

    I disagree. There’s nothing wrong with Pop offering that as a possible explanation early on when probed by the media. In fact, this may have indeed been a problem early on. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging it. I’m sure it was meant simply to give his players confidence that we’ll work through our chemistry issues before long and start playing better. That’s all.

    In your final paragraph again you’re inaccurately using “absolutes” to characterize my position and make your argument:

    “Again if these were grown adults who need no guidance then why have coaches? And how would any coach be considered “great?”

    I didn’t say the adult players needed NO guidance. However, they do need a lot LESS than KIDS. That was my point in critiquing your analogy.

    You say:

    “To be great you dont just win with the best. But you find ways to win with what youve got.”

    I hate to clue you in, but there’s been more talented teams than some of the Spurs title teams that did NOT win a championship. There’s NO question about that. Your assessment is incorrect here.

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