Kawhi Goes Off; Spurs Lose Anyway

Kawhi made seven of the Spurs’ nine made threes. Danny Green six (of six) of the twenty-one misses. Patti Mills went 1/4, Manu 0/4. Memphis made twelve of twenty-seven spread out over a handful o players.

The running subplot for the Spurs has been: Who will help Kawhi? Tonight Tony Parker was that guy, helping with 22 points on a series of nostalgic drives to the cup. Manu had his fourth straight blanking and Danny Green’s jumper was dry.

LaMarcus put up only 13, but had an efficient night and looked aggressive. He even had some highlight dunks.

So how did the Spurs lose this thing even though Kawhi nearly did everything in his power to try to steal it? Well, they had no answer for Conley that doesn’t involve putting the Klaw on him (which means Parker has Carter 🙃). That’s not a game-ending proposition, but not hitting open jumpers is. Mills missed the open looks that keep the offense humming and Danny Green couldn’t buy a bucket.

When Kawhi is more human, the Spurs are set up to get blown off the court. The Grizz former D-leaguers are getting buckets and making plays, while the Spurs are missing jumpers. Manu missed a rhythm three, and on the following defensive possession lost his man for a corner three. That’s how you lose.

After all that, we have to acknowledge the tough-as-hell Grizz squad that would otherwise be fun to root for. That old-school bully ball is what the Spurs have recently adopted to much success, but as Bane said “Ah you think darkness is your ally? You merely adopted the dark. I was born in it, molded by it.”

LMA and Pau are getting bullied — not into submission — but to the point where they don’t have an obvious advantage. Without the inside-out threat, the offense is a little out of rhythm. That’s the only explanation I can muster for Manu’s disappearance.

Mills had a chance to push the lead to four in OT but was blocked and Gasol got a three-point play the other way. That’s good hustle basketball on their end, and the type of play that it seems only Kawhi is making the Spurs’ way right now.

Before the series I called a tough six-gamer but was swayed a bit by the easy first two games. The silver lining is that this reminds me of the Mavs series from 2014. Yes, that was the year that the same Vince Carter hit a three that put Dallas up 2-1.. That tough series propelled the Spurs on to the best basketball seen until the Warriors copied it.

Spurs Show Mercy; Beat Grizz 116-96

The only thing that delayed the inevitable was , it turns out, a power surge. The Spurs handled a feisty Memphis Grizzlies squad for the fourth straight time in these playoffs this afternoon, putting the finishing touches on the mercy killing of their horrible season.

The basketball gods were much more kind to the Spurs this season, after a very tough first round matchup last year the Spurs got the worst 7th seed in the history of the league. Memphis was all all heart and injury. They played a record 28 guys this season and never once looked as checked-out as the uninjured, very talented Rockets do. 

Its funny that the conference with the best 1-2 seed combo (a combined 140 wins) might not be as strong as last year’s West lineup. Houston doesn’t play defense anymore and is imploding even while the best player in the league is out and the Grizzlies are injured. Meanwhile, the Clippers are still getting Blake Griffin back into form. 

Barring a ridiculous change in the Dallas Mavericks’ fortunes, next up will be the OKC Thunder who still possess the most athletic 1-2 punch in the league.  They are scary, but maybe not enough for us to worry about. As Mike Erler puts it

> Popovich has been resistant to use Duncan much against small-ball lineups all year, but not everyone is the Warriors. A lot of teams just don’t shoot very well from outside, especially this time of year when everyone’s dog tired and the pressure is so ratcheted up. The Thunder, for example, don’t have many shooters. There’s a legitimate concern that having Duncan play clogs up the offense too much and that he can’t chase around smalls on the other end, but as we saw against Memphis, there are plenty of non-shooters to hide him on, even on switches. I’d rather have him play, because his rebounding and rim-protection is much needed. The Spurs have two very good centers in Duncan and Boban Marjanovic and I wish they’d play to their strengths more often rather than trying to match their opponent’s smaller lineups.

Thats good blogging. The only way to counter the perfect realization of something is not to compete with it but to be its counter. Be the paper to its rock. Be the scissors to its paper. The only time the Warriors looked any kind of beatable was when the Spurs outsized them with Boris and Aldridge. Against the Rockets, Houston looked competitive with an engaged Dwight Howard. Against less than perfect realizations of small-ball, this is even easier and more effective. Look at Charlotte successfully posting Frank Kaminsky this weekend

I’m not advocating for always favoring the Charlotte Hornets basketball strategies over the 67-win Gregg Popovich ones, but I do like Timmy out there a bit more, especially with all this playoff rest.