On the death of stops
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?