On the death of stops

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Spurs fans live a different life than most franchise devotees. But after games, and especially after losses, the Spurs faithful still participate in the typical knee-jerk reactions that characterize most fan bases. Those moments usually involve one of four things: 1) a pronouncement that the Spurs are unbeatable (after an impressive win), 2) a call to trade Tony Parker, 3) a snarky determination that Gregg Popovich is old and in the way and 4) a soapbox commentary on the playing time allotted to Matt Bonner and Tiago Splitter.

And it doesn’t just happen here at 48MoH. These conversations happen wherever Spurs fans are found. We have it too good. This is what we yap about.

Late in the regular season, Gregg Popovich made a comment that the Spurs’ defense is what it is. He didn’t have great hopes of improving on the season’s high watermark performances — when the Spurs played well this season, they played about as well as this group of Spurs can play. Popovich is a realist. You don’t get to the end of the regular season and suddenly become what you’re not.

The Spurs, although sturdy defensively, were not capable of getting stops on command. This was true all season, and it was true in San Antonio’s Game 1 loss against Memphis. The Grizzlies finished the game — the final 56 seconds, to be precise — with a 7-0 run. One stop, the Spurs may have forced overtime. Two stops, they win.

This raises an interesting question: are “stops on demand” a necessary characteristic of championship teams or simply a luxury?

We’ll find out.

But this has certainly been a surprising Achilles Heel for the Spurs. One of the Spurs’ hallmark virtues is late game execution, at least until this season. This year, not so much.

When one attempts to account for the Spurs’ late game failures, a combination of maladies comes to mind: personnel deficiencies, late game decision-making, older players giving way to age, a shift in San Antonio’s central identity. Some of those things are correctable yet this season, others are not.

But if San Antonio wins a fifth championship, they’ll have done so in a fashion that is markedly different than the previous four. This, to me, is the most intriguing storyline of the postseason. Can the Spurs clear a different path to a ring?

  • Junierizzle

    Don’t laugh but I thought the SPURS were playing good D. For a moment it looked like they were going to hold the Grizz to 85-90 points. But because there offense was out of whack eventually it brought down their D. If your shot is falling then you feel energized on the defensive end. If you are struggling then you’re not as energized on D.

  • Len

    If the Spurs can win a 5th championship this season, it would be remarkable. A defining championship that would put this Spurs dynasty among the greatest of all time. Seriously, it’s that big of a deal. First off, it would signify a longevity that few (none?) other players would accomplish with one franchise. Timmy would be the only player to win a championship in three different decades. Granted it’s a bit skewed because of the timing (Duncan comes into the league at the end of a decade) but still a remarkable task.

    Second and most importantly, it would showcase a willingness to do whatever it takes to win. Some players are what they are, period. They do not possess the inherent ability to change their game and do it well enough to win a championship. Other players might have the mental capacity to know what they need to do to play at an elite level but physically can’t. The body betrays the mind.

    Third, the Spurs will have done it in a small market. The Spurs don’t win because they spend loads of dough and attract the flashiest free agents As we all know, they win because they draft and scout better than any other franchise. They win because they know how to maximize their talent.

    Pop, Timmy & the Spurs will have reached legendary status if they can win one for the thumb.

  • andy

    can we really say that we’re not a team that executes now?

    it seems to me that the troubles we’ve had with closing out games is particularly recent. i mean, we were 13-2 in games decided by 5 or less (with many more wins by 6-8 points) until mid-march when tim went down, and then a spate of losses since (0-4 with a couple more close losses) that could be chalked up to execution failure down the stretch. call it luck, call it regression to the mean.

    i think we can still get stops on command, whether it’s from manu taking a charge on melo, or from a block from tim.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joseph-Dooley/9203055 Joseph Dooley

    “Stops on demand” more accurately describe the Spurs’ 4 title runs than any run we put together this year. We are middle of the pack defensively, top 5 offensively.

  • Edward Rutkoski

    I think that the new rules of the NBA have finally caught up with the Spurs. They are not an athletic team, and that is what the new rules reward. They can’t stop the guys who jump high and run fast like they used to — because they are not allowed. Even the Lakers (who play smart) can’t guard on will, and guile anymore. Too much advantage goes to the Offense (ours included) … So name me a team that gets stops: Chicago? Oh, one of the youngest more athletic teams that play hard? You can’t just “D-Up” these days. You have to block the shot, be quick to the loose ball, Jump over the player with inside position to get the rebound. I repeat: The Spurs are not an athletic team. But maybe it won’t matter … If they go back to scoring 105pts a game! Go Spurs Go!!!

  • Funkyspur

    Yes, delivering “stops on demand” is a necessary trait of championship teams. This is what it boils down to when people say defense wins championships.

    In the playoffs, offensive prowess is pretty much the same across teams. The lowest scoring average team in playoffs is New Orleans (at 94 points per game) and highest scoring team is New York (at 106). Of the top 10 scoring teams in the regular season, 4 are not in the playoffs –Houston (#3), Phoenix (#4), Golden State (#7), and Minnesota (#10). The first and second highest scoring teams in the league (Denver and New York, respectively) are both down 0-2 in the playoffs.Only solid defense assures that scoring is not in vain.

    No team can literally do it on demand every time, but champions get more stops than everyone else.

    Lloyd

  • Funkyspur

    Yes, delivering “stops on demand” is a necessary trait of championship teams. This is what it boils down to when people say defense wins championships.

    In the playoffs, offensive prowess is pretty much the same across teams. The lowest scoring average team in playoffs is New Orleans (at 94 points per game) and highest scoring team is New York (at 106). Of the top 10 scoring teams in the regular season, 4 are not in the playoffs –Houston (#3), Phoenix (#4), Golden State (#7), and Minnesota (#10). The first and second highest scoring teams in the league (Denver and New York, respectively) are both down 0-2 in the playoffs.Only solid defense assures that scoring is not in vain.

    No team can literally do it on demand every time, but champions get more stops than everyone else.

    Lloyd

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