Green and Splitter to prove this Game 2 not like last year’s

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The San Antonio Spurs have been a model of consistency since Gregg Popovich took over as head coach and the franchise drafted Tim Duncan. Duncan’s entire career can be defined by consistency. Just take a look the per-36 minute numbers of the newly-minted First Team All-NBA center from his rookie year and compare them with this past regular season. Even their playoff series show remarkable consistency.

Just like last season, the Spurs won the first two games of the Western Conference Finals. Both at home and the second game featured a near-collapse that left fans wondering if the Spurs had been figured out.

That’s what everybody was thinking after the Spurs blew an 18-point lead in Game 2 and hung on to win in overtime, right? Spurs fans got that old familiar feeling? After dropping four straight to the Oklahoma City Thunder last year, are the Spurs primed to do the same in 2013?

Well, no. While the Spurs’ second half performance on Tuesday night was disappointing, where they were outscored 31-13 after holding an 18-point lead late in the third quarter, it’s a completely different animal from what happened in Game 2 of the 2012 Conference Finals.

With about five minutes left in the second quarter of last season’s WCF Game 2, Manu Ginobili found Tony Parker with a beauty of a behind-the-back pass in transition for a corner 3-pointer. Parker sunk the shot, giving the Spurs a 78-58 lead and prompting a timeout from the Thunder. At that moment, the Spurs looked as unbeatable as a professional basketball team could look.

From that moment on, it was a slow, painful downhill trek for the Spurs as they struggled to close out Oklahoma City in that game and lost the next four.

Shortly after falling behind by 20 points, the Thunder employed some of the dark arts that Popovich has been known to practice, unleashing the hack-a-whoever on Tiago Splitter. Oklahoma City sent Splitter to the line five times at the end of the third quarter, breaking the flow of San Antonio’s offense and draining the Brazilian, who finished 5-for-10 from the line, of any confidence and aggressiveness he had at the time. Splitter was visibly shaken at the time and never recovered during that series.

In Game 2 against the Grizzlies, Splitter hit his only two free throws and scored 14 total points on 6-for-8 shooting. Splitter was ultra-aggressive around the basket, almost daring the Grizzlies to send him to the line. Memphis didn’t and Splitter even eschewed his typical finish-on-the-other-side-of-the-rim reverse layups for a couple of dunks.

San Antonio needs Splitter to continue to play well down low, both on offense and defense, in order to beat the Grizzlies. Nothing from Game 2 this week indicates that Splitter will have a fall from grace like the one he had in 2012, when he averaged just 1.5 points and 1.3 rebounds per game in Games 3-6 against the Thunder.

Like Splitter, Danny Green’s confidence took a hit in that Game 2. Averaging 45.7 percent shooting from 3-point range on almost five attempts per game in those playoffs leading up to the Conference Finals, some predicted Green was due for a bit of a shooting slump.

Green hit that slump, and he hit it hard. After that 20-point advantage the Spurs enjoyed against the Thunder, Green missed all four of his 3-pointers in Game 2. He went on to shoot just 18 percent from beyond the arc in Games 3-6, losing his spot in the starting lineup to Ginobili along the way.

Against the Grizzlies on Tuesday night, Green didn’t make any 3s during the late run Memphis made to force overtime. That’s not entirely his fault, however, as Green didn’t actually attempt a single 3. His lack of points from behind the arc at the end of Game 2 came as a result of the Spurs’ offense collapsing under the weight of Parker’s shaky legs. San Antonio’s offense goes as Parker goes, and with fatigue setting in on the All-NBA Second Team point guard, those open looks from the perimeter that Green thrives on were nowhere to be had.

“I think we learned a lot, especially our young guys,” Parker said on Tuesday night about last year’s collapse. “We can see the benefit this year. Guys like Danny and Kawhi [Leonard]. They’re playing a lot better and with a lot more confidence.”

Green should continue to play with confidence heading into Saturday night’s Game 3. He’s hitting almost 45 percent of his 3s again in this year’s playoffs and has yet to show the inconsistency from game to game that prompted some smartass to nickname him Icy Hot earlier in the season.

After the Spurs struggled to finish off the Thunder in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals last year, two of San Antonio’s key role players lost seemingly every bit of confidence they had and the following four games and made the Spurs’ fabled depth look like the shallow end of a kiddie pool. Splitter and Green were maligned over the summer for their performances in Games 3-6 of those Western Conference Finals and some still considered them questions entering this year’s playoffs.

After a showing in Game 2 of this year’s Western Conference Finals that superficially looked like a similar fall-back-to-Earth moment for the Spurs, some have wondered if San Antonio is primed to suffer a similar fate to 2012. Luckily for the Spurs, Parker’s fatigue and Tim Duncan’s foul trouble (Duncan played just 8:44 in the third and fourth quarters) were the culprits for the team’s close call. It also helps that the Grizzlies lack the game-changing star power that those Thunder did. The confidence and ability of San Antonio’s role players appears unshaken and they head to Memphis with a head of steam needed to erase last year’s disappointing finish.

Statistics provided by NBA.com/Stats

  • Andrew G

    I just realized… Danny might be the Spurs’ new Manu. Every other player (mostly Tim, as stated) is a model of consistency. What player frustrates us more with inconsistent play (throughout his entire career) than Manu Ginobili?

    He’ll make you jump up and down in rage with timely bricks, and then rip your heart out with his three point daggers. If anything, Danny is Icy Hot 2.0.

  • neverthehero

    Definitely agree with all the points this article made. And maybe, it’s not valuable to play the what should have happened in the game because it isn’t like an article is going to influence the game, but eh what the heck….. IF I’m a coach and they are employing the hack a whoever, I call a timeout and put in my five best free-throw shooters to finish off the quarter. If that means no real center on the floor then so be it, I make the last 3 minutes of the quarter into wind sprints. The fact that he wasn’t taken out of the game was ridiculous. Turn the tables on the coach………. Fast forward to game 2 of the Grizz, the Spurs are up by 18, even if that lead gets cut in half, sit Parker for almost all the third quarter….. I seen that Green only had 27 minutes of play time and I don’t remember him being on the floor much of the third or early fourth so maybe that’s why he didn’t have the chance to shoot the ball.

  • idahospur

    As worried as I am that Memphis can make some comeback similar to last year, I can’t see it in the same fashion. OKC had a lot of talent that can score at will while Memphis doesn’t have the same resources. The Game 2 result (this year) was because Duncan was in foul trouble and the Spurs shut down. As long as we avoid this freakish 3 fouls in limited time nonsense. We should be in good shape for the rest of the series.

  • neverthehero

    having those 2 extra days off really will help as well. If all else fails we can put in Baynes to at least get physical with Z-BO

  • rudy tesoro

    It’s really hard to forget 2011 and 2012. Let’s hope that Green, Splitter and Bonner will not fade away this time. But my greater concern is Ginobili. He plays too inconsistent, makes crazy passes and shoots the ball too often.

  • Len

    In regards to consistency there’s some similarity but Danny doesn’t have Manu’s playmaking at all. IMO, Danny is more like Mario Elie. Let’s hope that Danny becomes as clutch as Mario was.

    Nando is the guy I can see on the Spurs roster than could be Manu-esque.

  • Len

    He almost lost game 2. All the Spurs had to do was get a shot off and the Grizz would’ve been down 4 with the ball with 30 seconds left, assuming they would’ve missed.

  • STIJL

    It’s always been about the consistency of Spur’s role players these past few years. As it is with any team. Most of the time a team’s star player(s) perform their averages (if not a little above) during the playoffs. While it’s usually an unsung role player or two from another team that plays above their norm that helps that team advance and win.

    Here’s to hoping Splitter and Green remain consistent and not fall off. Same can be said for Corey Joseph. His consistency has helped in these playoff games. Hope he can maintain as well.

  • Andrew G

    “He plays too inconsistent, makes crazy passes and shoots the ball too often.”

    I guess you missed the past 10 years. Welcome to Manu Ginobili.

  • TheFG21

    If the Big 3 were to retire this season, what players would you like to see in San Antonio?

    This are my replacements:

    Tony Parker –> JJ Redick

    Manu Ginobili —> James Harden

    Tim Duncan —> Tim Duncan

    Ok…

    Ok…

    Tim Duncan –> LaMarcus Aldridge

  • YO

    JJ Redick is not a point guard, and nothing like TP

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=796715392 Phillip Mabry

    Welcome indeed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=796715392 Phillip Mabry

    Jarrett Jack for TP and Anthony Davis for TD.

    As for Manu? Not sure.

  • Len

    There is nobody like Manu, the good Lord broke the mold after making him. But Harden is the closest.

  • TheRed&Black

    TP—> Kyrie Irving

    Manu—> Paul George

    Kawhi—> Kawhi

    TD—> Anthony Davis

    Tiago—> Joakim Noah

    It’s fun to live in a fantasy world!

  • td4life

    I’m a guy who fretted as Paul George climbed the mock drafts from the second round to the lottery. I don’t know if we trade Hill for Kawhi if we had P George, but those two guys on the same team would be a great way to contend for the next 13 years.

  • Bart Prince

    Dwight Howard, Tim Tebow, and Justin Bieber

  • td4life

    Even though this is an impossible scenario, that won’t get you a championship, you’ve downgraded at every position except SG. Reddick is particularly a headscratcher.. he’s only 2 years younger than TP and is a role-playing wing. He’s available this summer if you want to add him to or replace Green/Neal.

  • td4life

    Concerning Danny Green and slumps, I have sincere request and am going all caps with it: CAN YOU PLEASE STOP REFERRING TO DANNY GREEN AS ICY-HOT? PLEASE!!! It’s begging fate, just waiting for the other shoe to drop, so you can say I told you so. Even on a good night, when he’s hot, you’re saying: “he’s gonna go cold and break your heart, it’s coming, it’s coming.” I HATE it. We don’t need this.

  • Last Spur Standing

    i would never ever want that bearded douchebag on the Spurs team.

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    Nope.

  • SpurredOn

    Though I understand the painful memory of last year’s blown 2-0 series lead, I’ve thought it a misguided narrative to compare the current team and series to 2012. Those Spurs played better in gm2 than gm1. OKC made a nice run but still lost by 9. What changed was the Spurs’ offense, as everyone went into a scoring slump of some sort, not a huge shock after a 20-game win streak. Still, games 4-6 were all up for grabs in the final minutes. Those Spurs had to win with offense and failed in three consecutive games (better officiating in any of those three assures that at least a game 7 would’ve been played).

    These Spurs can win with defense, as evidenced by their controlling all three road games in Oakland last series. These Spurs got tired late, played poorly, yet never gave up the lead. Three days of rest, memories of last season, more mature role players, and three days off should propel them to at least one win in Memphis.

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