That one play
Watch the play over and over, it doesn’t change. Manu Ginobili still gets sucked in towards the lane. Conley still kicks the ball out to Shane Battier in the corner. Ginobili still doesn’t close out. Battier still drains the shot.
The worst part about it? It wasn’t an elaborate, confusing play. The Grizzlies simply executed better than the Spurs, and were more disciplined, things you could say about this entire series at this point.
Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley runs a pick-and-roll with center Marc Gasol. Again, nothing fancy, and Gasol doesn’t set much of a pick on George Hill.
Tim Duncan occupies the middle ground between preventing Conley from getting to the basket and keeping an eye on Gasol. Hill, who hasn’t had a good series and, again, wasn’t actually picked by Gasol, doesn’t defend Conley aggressively.
So Conley goes right to the basket. Manu Ginobili, marking Battier in the corner, gets sucked inside to prevent Conley from finding Gasol on the opposite block for a close-range attempt. Conley, recognizing this, fires a pass out to Battier in the corner.
At this point, it’s all somewhat acceptable. You’d like Hill’s effort to be greater in getting back in front of Conley and prevent the drive, what with Gasol not making any contact with Hill on the pick and all, but maybe you can justify Hill being out of position.
Same with Manu, he’s making a smart basketball play in a sense. If Gasol gets that ball on the block, with Duncan not in position to defend, it’s two points for Memphis. Simple as that.
But then it all comes crashing down. All the reasoning is out the window. Conley’s pass goes out to Battier in the corner, the sweet spot for Shane and the majority of the NBA. The pass is off target and Battier has to pick it up off his left foot. No worries, there’s still time. He makes sure the seams are comfortable in his hand and fires away.
Manu Ginobili, the fire that the Spurs’ engine burns from, didn’t close out. When the pass when out to Battier he stopped. I doubt he would’ve had much of an effect on the shot if he had, Battier is money from the corner and Ginobili had a ways to go, but it’s not about that. It’s about the effort. Unfortunately, it wasn’t there on that play, and that play just happens to be one big, glaring example.
Popovich calls a timeout and Memphis goes nuts. When we come back from the timeout, Steve Novak and Danny Green are in the game for the Spurs. That’s the ballgame. As Graydon said in his recap, if the key cogs aren’t going to close out in the fourth quarter, there’s no reason for them to be out there.
If this is the end of the Spurs’ run as championship contenders — you know, once and for all — you’d hope they would leave fans with a better lasting image. One of Manu Ginobili barely getting out of the paint to run down a 3-point shooter is not a memory reflective of the Tim Duncan Dynasty.