Hubie Brown talked about Kawhi’s jump stop to get a shot off in the last minute.
That the Klaw managed to get a shot off is unremarkable in and of itself, what made it worthwhile was that it was a good shot, a fadeaway jumper that he makes with regularity. It missed — but the carom wasn’t wild or unpredictable to his teammates. LMA grabbed the board, was fouled and took the lead from OKC and the Spurs stole it. That is the difference from say, Danny Green taking a shot at that moment, and Kawhi Leonard. It is also what makes a contested midrange jumper valuable.
In any comeback there are big moments that are seemingly memorable, but get lost. A hustle play, a big rebound, a turnover. This one had plenty and Manu was a part of a good chunk of them. Floating jumpers, falling down assists, huge buckets, great passes — Ginobili had a great game that I honestly will forget come late May. So it goes.
Also remarkable? The recent defensive prowess of LaMarcus Aldridge. He has quietly become a force inside against even the Warriors and Thunder. He managed to get a couple of huge blocks in this one, including the one below. He had a sequence against GSW yesterday where he challenged a shot and got a block to save a fast break situation.
Meanwhile Pau was huge offensively, which is what he was signed to do. Whereas we all were thinking the big man that would expand his range would be Aldridge, continuing the trend from last season, it has actually been Pau. It has been more than fantastic, as Pau has hit the kinds of shots and made the kinds of plays that change games. They also are a part of the comebacks that are oh so necessary to pull off. He had a stationary give-go with Manu that got himself a three and later forced a foul on Kanter that resulted in a couple of freebies. Those are winning plays that make up for his lack of footwork. Interestingly, the way that Russ Westbrook plays means that Gasol is not so vulnerable at the basket. He is good at challenging vertically and so the Thunder roster does not do much to pull him into vulnerable PNR situations where he struggles.
Watch LMA be a Classic Defensive Center
Insane sequence. Aldridge has been low key very good defensively all year. And then Kawhi with the 💪 pic.twitter.com/8UMZetsvrd
— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) April 1, 2017
I bet you feel a little bit better about blowing a 20+ point lead against GSW after overcoming an even bigger 20+ (because it was later) against OKC. The Thunder are not as good a team as Golden State, but the Spurs got beat down last time they went to Oklahoma City and this served as some measure of a psychological win.
The Spurs do not need a psychological win you say? Well witness Kawhi viciously attacking the basket to seal the game. That kind of passion is at least something. Is it just straight competitiveness? Sure, and that kind of competition loving makes a player want to avenge a previous loss. I think the Spurs were a bit hungover from the loss and also were angry. It was an ugly win and these are my favorite kind because everyone has to dig deep and learn a little more about themselves.
Still, the Spurs beat a one-man team and had to scrape and scratch to do so. These last two games had about 3 periods of solid, good, Spurs basketball. That’s out of eight, mind you. There is room for improvement as the team heads toward the postseason. While the Warriors all but sealed first place, there is always a sliver of hope for the top seed, if not the desire to have a good run of form going in to the next phase. These two things should hopefully give the team some incentive to pick up the pace a bit.