What’s in a dunk? A lot, it seems
They were just two measly points (three if you count the ensuing free throw) in a game that had long been decided, scored by a player who has logged just a total of 42 minutes in the Western Conference Finals. On a micro level, they were pointless. In the grand scheme of things, it was a big moment for the San Antonio Spurs.
Four and a half minutes into the fourth quarter, with the Spurs trailing by 18 points, third string point guard Cory Joseph received the sideline out of bounds pass from Matt Bonner, split the double team on a pick-and-roll and laid the ever-loving smackdown on Oklahoma City Thunder rim protector Serge Ibaka.
This was the same Ibaka who had been terrorizing the poor Spurs souls who had dared enter his airspace above the painted area since his return for Game 3. Ibaka turned a Spurs offensive machine that was firing on all cylinders and scoring with relative ease into a group of middle schoolers showing up for open gym at the high school.
It was like some of the Spurs realized, you can do that? Just look at Ginobili’s face. Combining the results of that dunk with the energy and effort level that Joseph and the rest of the Cube Steaks displayed during their second half surge in Game 4 and it had to light something of a fire under the Spurs starters.
“I was trying to lift the team, give them a little energy,” Joseph said of his dunk after the Spurs’ Game 5 win on Thursday night.
It appears to have had its desired effect. The Spurs showed no hesitation in Game 5 at going to the basket and mixing it up inside with Ibaka and the rest of the Thunder. It was like your mom turning on the light in your closet and showing you there were no monsters actually lurking there. You could be told so until the cows come home, but seeing is believing.
The big bad Serge Ibaka isn’t a figment of the Spurs’ collective imagination, but Joseph’s dunk took away a little of the fear of the unknown. That creaking sound was just the house settling.
“This may sound corny, but it was kind of inspirational,” Matt Bonner said after Game 5. “Just to see someone go at Ibaka and dunk it on him like that with the foul.
“He changed so many shots and blocked so many of our shots, to see someone go right at him like that was pretty incredible.”
The second dunk of Joseph’s career couldn’t have come at a better time for the Spurs; the team couldn’t afford to wait another game before gathering the spunk to go at Ibaka and the Thunder interior defense with a little determination. For Joseph and the Spurs, there was nothing to lose at that point.
As you can imagine, Joseph said he received a number of calls and texts from friends and family following the dunk, and you all haven’t stopped blowing up his @replies on Twitter. Surely, a dunk that big, he had to have been watching it nonstop since it went down.
“A couple of times,” Joseph conceded, cautioning that he doesn’t want to lose focus on more important things while the playoffs are still going on.
“After the season, though…”