Game 3: A Star is Born

Stephen Jackson was a fan favorite. He was tough. He had length and could shoot. Going into last year’s postseason, although he wasn’t playing well, he presumably would be a big part of the Spurs’ run. He’d probably match up against KD or LeBron (if it came to that).

He got cut.

Essentially, the argument was that Stephen Jackson didn’t think he should have taken a back seat to Kawhi Leonard, whom the Spurs were very high on. Although KL had shown some really nice signs of his future potential, it was only evident to the coaches, apparently.

He had his breakout moment(s) in the Finals, where he showed he could guard LeBron, and had some offense. Tonight, however, we are seeing the things Pop saw in his Pop Crystal Ball last year. Leonard’s freakish length shortens the gap (somewhat) between LeBron’s otherworldly athleticism and the Spurs’ solid defense. His shooting, and ever-expanding offense were the difference tonight.

But you knew that.

Everyone wants the guy to take the next step and take over. He is doing it at his own pace. The fact that he breaks out the new stuff1 in the Finals is fine by me. The fact that he does it against the best player in the world is also perfectly okay. Lots of old-time Spurs fans remember teams that did the opposite2. His shooting and aggressiveness underpinned the Spurs unreal ball movement and overall incredible effort in that ridiculous first half3.

Normally, we’d all sit here and say “well, the Spurs can’t play like that every game.” But they can. They ripped off a 35-9 run in the fourth quarter in game one. They ripped off a quarter or three like this – though not at NBA-record setting level – throughout this playoff run. The scary thing is that LeBron can drop 35 points on his own like he did in Game 2.

And that’s the matchup. LeBron vs Spurs. It’s a rematch of 2007 again, with a significant upgrade in the cast of characters on the King’s side. The difference this game was that Miami’s best player was also their most turnover prone. If Mario Chalmer’s wasn’t busy locking up the LVP award, you could make the argument that LBJ was one of the biggest reasons that Miami lost4.

Still, this win was about desperation and returning to moving the ball. As good as the Kawhi’s game was, he isn’t a guy Pop can toss the ball to and let go to work. Tony still has a little bit of that ability, Manu in ever-decreasing-in-frequency spurts. Pop says they must move the ball or they die. That death-avoiding desperation was evident. Now it is Miami’s turn to dance with desperation.

Random Thoughts

  1. If it weren’t for Rashad Lewis, Miami might be down 3-0. That said, if not for Diaw, the Spurs might have been out in the first round.
  2. Timmy got stripped in the lane a ton. Seems like Miami was looking for a way to defend TD down low after getting pwned by him on rolls and post-ups.
  3. WTF Bobby Ramos? You won (by losing) the press conference.
  4. Tim Duncan in the press conference on Kawhi Leonard: “I thought he had a lot of work to do. But Pop and the guys saw something in him.” I like the idea of asshole Tim Duncan. Call it Ultra Focused On Winning Tim if you want. It’s great either way.
  5. That was the most tense 25 point lead I’ve watched. Damn. Early leads are scary leads.
  6. I fully expect a regression to the mean and all, but I’m hoping against a terrible shooting performance to balance that out.
  7. Gah. Third Quarters and Free Throw shooting. The worst. The WORST.

Notes

* * *

1. His point total (29 points) was a career high for an NBA game – regular season or playoffs. [↩](#fnref:p88449115197-1)

2. Ask my mom about Rod Strickland [↩](#fnref:p88449115197-2)

3. 75.8%!!! 71 Points!!! [↩](#fnref:p88449115197-3)

4. Aside from ridiculous shooting by the Spurs, of course. Also, Gawd. I’m sure we’ll hear a never-ending stream of LBJ hate that will be terrible to endure. Can’t wait for the next game already. [↩](#fnref:p88449115197-4)