Patty called it ‘grandpa juice.’ Pop smirked when Manu got up from his face-scuffing tackle with fellow old man Vince Carter. Everyone was pleased to see Manu be Manu again, even for only a short while, and even only to the point of producing 10 points.
The time has long past where Manu was relied upon heavily, but he is still important to this team. The problems with his age is the consistency. It is hard and unpredictable to bounce back and get out of funks. Manu said that age makes it difficult to get by people, and that takes away most of his game.
Speaking of Classic Manu:
— Manuel Baraniak (@manuel_baraniak) April 27, 2017
In the end, Manu’s burst was all of a handful of minutes and only tangibly worth eight early points. If it really did inspire Patty’s 20-point burst — that was reminiscent of his output way back in 2014 against Miami in Game 5 — then it was all the more useful.
If we are being realistic, it was more of a return to form than anything. While the Grizzlies did figure some things out about the Spurs — that no one not named Kawhi could guard Mike Conley and that they could tire Aldridge by having two big guys battle him all night — the Spurs were still getting the looks they wanted. In Game 4, SA missed all the wide-open shots. Was it really a surprise that the league’s best three point shooting team (by percentage) started hitting more?
Sitting here a day removed from the clincher, three things stand out:
1) The Spurs were down 81-88 and Kawhi went on a one-man run that is the stuff of NBA Legends. The jumper + the foul and the step-back three point shot got the Spurs back into the game making it 87-88. He created two great looks for himself and converted, turning the game into a one-possession situation with just over 5 minutes to play, shifting the pressure to Memphis.
2) Kawhi dishing and Tony stepping up. Kawhi dished to Tony and David Lee down the stretch. Kawhi dished to Lee for a dunk, stole the ball from Ennis, then dished to Parker for a jumper. The game went from 92-92 to 96-92 with 1:41 left. Tony had this catch-and-shoot jumper but also assisted Patty and hit another clutch jumper to make it 98-94.
3) David Lee. He had the aforementioned dunk, but also the tip-out for a rebound after Vince Carter’s two free throws to make it 96-94. He had two offensive rebounds and four points in the final three minutes (one off Aldridge’s jumper and the tip-out to Leonard)
At halftime, Charles Barkley was repeating the line about the Spurs not having any help for Kawhi. While it is generally true — Tony isn’t what he was, and Aldridge is below his average — the team was not playing poorly.
These last couple of games the Spurs found themselves a counter to Zach Randolph in the starting lineup — TP roasting him from fifteen feet. He called it being aggressive.
Tony, Tony, Tony has done it again! pic.twitter.com/yTFVW5ZX24
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) April 28, 2017
Throughout the season, Parker has said on multiple occasions that his job these days is to get Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge involved early. But the point guard talked with Popovich throughout this series, and the Spurs gradually devised a different plan of attack. Parker and Popovich discussed how Memphis showed a tendency to run under several of San Antonio’s pick-and-rolls, and the Grizzlies were also denying Aldridge the types of shots he likes to take.
Where the team usually likes the LMA matchup inside against most teams, he had a difficult time scoring regularly against Z-Bo. Was he tired from defending Marc Gasol? The drop off was similar to the one he faced against OKC last year. One theory goes that his pick-and-pop game is limited and is easily figured out after a few looks and film session.
That does not bode well for the potential WCF matchup against Draymond inside. That’s for then, though.
Right now the physical challenges shift from strength to endurance. Tony Parker has previously mentioned the mental challenge inherent in defending a team that likes frequent deep threes.
Tony is going to have a tougher time against Patrick Beverley than he did on Conley, who is not known for defense and who also had to carry a scoring load. Trevor Ariza is a good defender, but did not do much against Kawhi in the regular season. He probably will make things tougher than Ennis and Green did, but Kawhi is at the top of his game right now. As we saw over six games, the key to stopping Pop’s squad is stopping the other guys.
It should be fun.