How the Spurs nearly gave everything away

by

It’s difficult to imagine anyone demurring the game you just watched — the Spurs’ 110-103 OT defeat of the Memphis Grizzlies — as anything less than spectacular. The game, quite literally, pitted the San Antonio Spurs against history. And not simply the history that is this season, that was merely a subplot in the foreground, but against the big backdrop of history that began in 1999 and continues to the present. The 2011 playoffs are no longer about the San Antonio Spurs’ season. That would be too easy. The Spurs’ postseason play is now, perhaps inescapably, measured against an era. All eras must end.

But the Spurs nearly gave it away tonight; the Spurs flirted with that final jot of punctuation that will, eventually, close the book on something we’ve yet to fully appreciate. But we’re not there yet. And the Spurs narrowly escaped the undoing of themselves.

The Spurs, as you know, jumped out to an early lead. In the first half they were up as many as 16 points, but left for halftime with a meager 8 point advantage. The Grizzlies played a much better second half, and it seems the Spurs’ season would come to an end on the strength of Memphis’ third quarter, which they won 26-15. When the game shifted during the third, San Antonio’s postseason hopes appeared doomed. The end was near.

The Spurs’ once unshakable ability to execute gave way to their recently discovered failures in execution. Credit Memphis. This is what they do; the Grizzlies force turnovers. They’ve done so all season, and they do it well. But long before Manu Ginobili and Gary Neal saved San Antonio’s season with two improbable late game shots, the Spurs squandered opportunities to tie, pull ahead, or secure the game. The Spurs wasted no fewer than 5 possessions when the game’s outcome hung in the balance. With all that was on the line, San Antonio added to the drama with a string of careless plays.

Score TO Pts off TO Score
7:05/4th 78-80 Ginobili bad pass Mayo layup 78-82
6:36/4th 78-82 Duncan bad pass Missed Shot 78-82
5:18/4th 80-84 Ginobili bad pass Young FTs 80-86
1:06/4th 88-91 Ginobili loses ball No score 88-91
1:55/OT 103-101 McDyess Bad Pass Randolph Layup 103-103

In this series’ most closely contested games, the Spurs’ inability to take care of the basketball has nearly cost them their basketball lives. This is absolutely a series where every possession counts. And, at least in terms of turnovers, the Spurs aren’t helping themselves. It’s hard to watch San Antonio’s sloppy handle on the basketball after so many years of flawless late game execution. It feels a little like talking with an Alzheimer’s patient who can’t remember your name. But tonight the Spurs not only pulled something true from memory, they gave us something more to add to ours.

  • http://profiles.google.com/nadeemmoulvi Nadeem Moulvi

    It will be all for naught if he lose on Friday. Time we correct our act and destroy them on their home floor.

  • Buckets

    Still not a convincing win. All I hope is that the Grizzlies will be a little rattled from this experience and the Spurs take advantage. However, I really dought that will happen especially in Memphis against a team that rides confidence more than enything.

    Hopefully the tide may turn and the Spurs will play with confidence and start hitting their shot for the fist time in the series like they’ve been doing all season long.

  • Bruno

    Yeah, that turnovers were horrible, but he had 33 pts, 6 rbds, 6 asts, 4 steals +10 with one healthy arm.
    Can u imagine how great would be he had 2 healthy arms? Thanks to Pop.

  • TD BestEVER

    He wouldn’t play much better with a healthy right arm because in 10 years Manu still hardly ever goes right or finishes with his right……….The arm isn’t effecting his jumper so he is fine……..But we do need to chill on the TO’s……..Manu, TP, Hill, and TD are the people who have to really be careful………Especially during the crucial moments during a game…..

  • Bruno

    Interesting fact: Spurs is 2-0 when Manu have 5 or more turnovers

  • Dman

    Mad props to our role players for keeping us in the game, despite our stars getting sloppy. Neal for the longshot 3, Splitter for steady play and Dice for tough D on Zbo.

    Don’t lose faith in big 3. Hopefully, they’ll sharpen up on the execution on the next game!

  • Lvmainman

    When will the Spurs stop throwing the ball to Duncan in the post?? He CAN’T score on Gasol there. He can only score facing him, like the 3 bank shots. Duncan missed a dunk in the 1st half and a layup in the 4th qtr!!

    I still can’t figure out how the Spurs won.

    If the referees let them bang down low and call the mugging by the guards up top, I’ll give the Spurs a 50/50 chance. But if they call those lame, cheap fouls on McDyess again, the Spurs are toast.

    Go Spurs Go!

  • TD BestEVER

    WHY Does POP keep playing Matt(Zero returns) Bonner……How many games do you have to see him play to understand that he plays extended minutes and never scores…….Also he gets scored on A LOT and rebounds the ball very poorly………..Now if the games are gonna be this close, Those 20minutes should go to someone who can at least play better D or get some rebounds to help us out……

    Memphis had 5 more rebounds than we did as well as shot 2 more FG’s……….these will all add up if Game 6 is as close as Game 5 was down the stretch………..

  • etomai

    Not that I disagree with you, but this X-and-O breakdown gives an interesting insight into Bonner’s not-always-obvious floor spacing value. When Manu scores, Gasol is late, and Bonner gets solid credit for that. Splitter and Blair both clog the lane.

    http://nbaplaybook.com/2011/04/28/the-quick-two-that-kicked-off-the-madness-in-san-antonio/

    That said, I agree that for all his hustle lately, what Bonner gives up defensively seems to outweigh what he brings.

  • Dman

    Totally feeling you man! I agree with a commentator that its easier to hit the 3s when the team is up, less pressure. Bonner’s so far 4-15 from downtown, a subpar 26.7%.

    Besides spacing, Bonner don’t seem to be contributing much. Yet, Grizzlies athleticism lessens the advantage of spacing. Bonner’s defence is really porous…

    Hope Pop spread Bonner’s minutes to Splitter or Blair for some much needed rebounds on both ends!

  • grego

    It’s less the confidence of Memphis and more the Spurs (who have been lacking it) that would make the difference. Aside from game 4, the other games were all very close. Heck, game 1 might have been won by SA with Manu in the lineup.

  • grego

    What else are you going to use? RJ as a 4 isn’t going to cut it against the big lines of the Grizz. Splitter is already playing. Dyess needs rest and he’s been hit with the most foul trouble for most games.

    Blair is the only other one and his game just doesn’t work well against the Grizz. Defensively, or offensively. Pop sees that and that’s why he hasn’t seen a minute of real time since game 3.

  • TD BestEVER

    ya but this was a special circumstance………Where you sub a player in just for the 1 play……If Bonner led to us getting these kind of looks throughout the game then ya he would have more value, he just doesn’t………..

  • TD BestEVER

    ya but this was a special circumstance………Where you sub a player in just for the 1 play……If Bonner led to us getting these kind of looks throughout the game then ya he would have more value, he just doesn’t………..

  • TD BestEVER

    But Blair works better than Bonner………especially with consistent minutes……Give Splitter Bonner’s 20min and Blair 15minutes and you wold see our rebounding and overall D go up……..Because it’s Impossible to play worse D than Bonner……….just impossible……….

  • etomai

    I think I’d like to see Splitter used more to take more pressure off Dyess and Duncan defensively and eat up some rebounds. This game Bonner was in for 20 and Splitter for 15. But then I just like defense better than offense.

  • etomai

    True, and I wouldn’t be against Bonner being used situationally like that.

    Buuuut, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if we saw a significant negative impact on Parker’s effectiveness if Bonner’s minutes went down. Crazy as it sounds, if Bonner standing there gets Tony going, it’s probably worth it…

  • Junierizzle

    “He wouldn’t play much better with a healthy right arm”

    Seriously?

  • Rob

    My belief is yes…the Grizzlies are good at forcing turn overs…but what we are seeing is just careless execution on behalf of Spurs players trying to force something that is not there to begin with.

    I can’t understand the why…but the outcome is almost certain in those situations when the Spurs are creating a lead or forming a come back that all of a sudden they play with a mind set that blinds them from intelligent decisions and play like nobody else is on the court but them.

    The best way to not let this Grizzly team have confidence is to not give them opportunity. If they earn a turn over that’s one thing….to just give them an opportunity is another.

    Heroics aside…and what happened in last night’s game was nothing short of heroic…this team needs to come to an understanding that they can match heart and desire with any team yet have to fundamentally play the game for 48 minutes.

  • Colin Rigney

    The turnovers in the 4th by Manu especially had me pulling my hair. I hate when he dribbles right and jumps to pass left……….over and over. I think he did that at least 3-4 times tonight and got it stolen just as many.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Yeah I get scared when Timmy handles the ball now.

  • All We Do Is Win

    You sound like a bunch of old men focusing on the negative- even with a win…”In my day the Spurs would never have given up that lead.” This ain’t your daddy’s NBA! (They even lift weights more than 3 days a week now-crazy!) ;)

  • Titletown99030507d

    Of course it wasn’t but like you said I’d like a nice mind game going through their heads right about now.

  • Titletown99030507d

    True the confidence and little to no turn overs will get them wins against this team. They always had the ability to beat this team but if they can go in there and just take care of the two most important things mentioned above they win no question about it.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Yeah, In 2.2 seconds they scored 5 points.

  • Titletown99030507d

    It’s time to split some of those minutes up between himself, Blair, and Splitter. I think we still need some more rebounds where Bonner can’t get them.
    How about:

    Bonner:5-7 minutes just to shoot till it hurts without thinking.

    Blair: 8-10 minutes for some serious rebounding not to worry about scoring although he could get some points. anything helps.

    Splitter:10-15 minutes some from Bonner’s and some from Timmy or Dyess.

    What do you think based on what Pop is doing now?

  • Titletown99030507d

    It’s time to split some of those minutes up between himself, Blair, and Splitter. I think we still need some more rebounds where Bonner can’t get them.
    How about:

    Bonner:5-7 minutes just to shoot till it hurts without thinking.

    Blair: 8-10 minutes for some serious rebounding not to worry about scoring although he could get some points. anything helps.

    Splitter:10-15 minutes some from Bonner’s and some from Timmy or Dyess.

    What do you think based on what Pop is doing now?

  • Titletown99030507d

    It’s time to split some of those minutes up between himself, Blair, and Splitter. I think we still need some more rebounds where Bonner can’t get them.
    How about:

    Bonner:5-7 minutes just to shoot till it hurts without thinking.

    Blair: 8-10 minutes for some serious rebounding not to worry about scoring although he could get some points. anything helps.

    Splitter:10-15 minutes some from Bonner’s and some from Timmy or Dyess.

    What do you think based on what Pop is doing now?

  • Titletown99030507d

    Yeah that can work. That’s the next rotation Pop has to work on now. Splitter with Blair that’s tons of rebounds and control of the game I’ve always said if you can control the boards decisively you can control the game and that gives the offense less pressure to score and tend to do better.

  • WH Silver

    I’ll be looking to see who’s got the laser eyes when they step between the lines tomorrow night. Anything less than Terminator-mode won’t get it done.

  • Warren

    Popovich needs to reinsert Dejuan Blair in the starting lineup. Spurs were 51-12 with him starting until early March. Since he replaced Blair with the 40-year old McDyess, Spurs sagged to 12-12 and are clearly inferior to a flawed Memphis team. Pops must discern the obvious and re-embrace Blair if the Spurs are to have any hope of competing.

  • judd

    so many of our turnovers come from trying to force inside passes to cutters when there simply isn’t room. tony MUST use his floater and stop trying to give up the ball in the paint. when we play team defense and actually run a play where we get a planned shot up, we look like we can win this thing.

  • http://twitter.com/bballiguide basketballiguide.com

    No kidding – its been painful to watch – its seems the NBA is in transition… my musings on what it all means are here http://basketballiguide.com/Article/4624/2011_NBA_Playoff_-_Round_1_Thoughts.aspx

  • DorieStreet

    What’s flawed about Memphis? A team emerging after 4 seasons of sub .500 records (3 of them less than 25 wins each); that struggled 2/3 of the season then finished up 22-12 (compared to Spur’s 21-13); a team that does not depend on 3pt makes to get points; had 5 players averaging between 11-20 ppg and 2 more @ 9ppg; a team with a very good defender at 2 positions (SG & SF). They’ re an up-and-coming team–not complete-yes, but flawed–no.

  • Colin Rigney

    Agreed. I think the banged up R elbow actually helps his jumper. If he’s not going to the hole, he needs to find a way to do something other than pass left when he does dribble right. He is very predictable with that phase of his game.

  • Betsy Duncan

    Maybe it was desperation, but I thought we played with more force and purpose last night. And like somehow we had finally ‘cracked the code’. Maybe we can carry some of that self-confidence over to tomorrow’s game? Having planted some seeds of doubt (in the Grizz’ minds) may work in our favor. Sure hope so, at least.

  • Doggydogworld

    His right arm is healthy. It’s the brace, which is purely a protective measure, that annoys him. My guess is he’s used to it now and might actually have some trouble adjusting the first game without it.