I don’t like wasting great nights from role players. Marco Belinelli had an incredible game last night (23 points on 7-11 from three) much like Doc’s kid had in game four. The Clippers didn’t waste his out-of-nowhere performance, but the Spurs wasted the Italian Bomber’s.
This was partly because in Game 4 LA big guns went off. Chris Paul had 34. The Spurs’ big three didn’t perform. Kawhi and Tim had 12 each. Tony had eight. Manu had only three points on 1 of 6 shooting.
Popovich called the team ‘soft’ and while I’ll defer to him, it was mostly about effort. The Spurs didn’t play like they cared as much as LA. To be fair, no one plays as hard as a team that is going to be eliminated. The Clippers pulled out all the stops. The Spurs played like they were shocked (shocked!) to be going against such a committed team.
I don’t belive in jinxes. That isn’t to say that there might not be something we can’t put our scientific fingers on that makes us feel like we jinxed things. I don’t know. You don’t know. I never had the feeling like SA was going to completly shut down the Clippers last night. This Spurs team is good, but it isn’t the same one from the last two years. Manu is a shell of himself. Sure, Kawhi has taken a leap in ability and consistency, but he isn’t getting Chuck Barkley to shout his name. Danny Green, for one, isn’t playing at the same level that made San Antonio embrace him. That thing that SAS had the last couple of years has been gone all season. They didn’t get right until late in the season, and while we all figured it was just a bit delayed, the things that made them lose early on are the same things that are making them lose now. Timmy is consistently ballin’ like he was early, but he’s being left out to dry by an inconsistent supporting cast. Which makes this whole thing feel like 2002 in more ways than one.
I say these things because I know the Spurs better than I do the Clips. LA has been fantastic in spots, and certainly look like they have a Hall of Fame point guard passing to a dynamic, athletic inside combination, all coached by a championship-winning guy. This series could easily have been over were it not for a fortunate bounce the Spurs way in a couple of games. Games One and Three were one-sided, Two and Five were toss-ups. Four and Six were solid wins by good teams on the road. Surprise: Those wins were by LA in SA. That is scary, as I’m realizing slowly the fact that this means the Spurs have been outplayed this series.
Right now the Spurs will be the desperate team staving off elimination on the road against a Chris Paul-led team in which he likes to throw lobs to athletic big men. Lets hope we get a flashback to 2008.