How quickly the winds can change
We are a people focused on immediacy and a “what have you done for me lately” attitude. Attention spans are short and instant gratification is required. Yesterday, Gary Neal was caught in the middle of that.
The box score reads fantastic for a backup shooting guard. 17 points in 27 minutes and 5-8 from 3-point range. The Spurs will take those numbers any day against any opponent, especially one of the better teams in the Western Conference. The 0-6 from inside the arc isn’t so great, but Gregg Popovich and his squad can deal with it.
But the individual plays colored the highs and lows of Neal’s roller coaster ride yesterday. The Spurs held a 65-50 lead mid-way through the third quarter when the Clippers came back. So much so, in fact, the the Spurs found themselves down two points just six minutes later. Worse yet, they hadn’t added a single point to their total in that time. Neal did his part to end the 17-0 run, receiving a pass at the top of the arc that normally would’ve been swung to the other side of the floor and launching a 3. Neal was about a half-step further than he normally shoots it, but it didn’t matter. Splash.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Spurs faced a three point deficit with 12.6 seconds left. On the sideline out of bounds play, Neal caught the pass near the top of the arc again, in a spot not too different from the one where he buried the Grizzlies in Game 5 of last year’s first round. Instead of getting the shot, Neal fumbled it, and the Spurs hopes to win the game, away.
Then, you know what happened by now.
In overtime, the Clippers’ affinity for switching pick-and-rolls got them in trouble, as Kevin Arnovitz detailed over at TrueHoop, and Tim Duncan ended up with Chris Paul defending him in the post. When the inevitable help defenders came, Duncan found Neal open in the opposite corner for the go-ahead 3.
Seconds later, Neal heads to the free throw line to create greater separation than the 103-100 score line. Ice water clearly pumping through his veins after two dagger 3s, Neal clanks both free throws. The temperature of Neal’s bodily fluids drops to lukewarm. Well, it’s hard to get off the roller coaster when it’s at the top.
Please exit the ride to your right. Souvenir pictures can be found near the exit. Thanks for coming, we hope to see you again soon.