We all know it is a little strange being a San Antonio Spurs fan. They haven’t won titles the conventional way. No back-to-backs, no media darlings, no pretty basketball (for the first three titles).
The Spurs have been counted out a few times in the course of the Duncan reign. Hell, they were done after getting dumped by the Mavericks in the first round in 2009, and swept by the suns in 2010. They were too old to hang with teams like the Grizz in 2011. Then not ready for the new breed OKC in 2012. Then missed their window in game 6 in 2013.
The Spurs have won one title in the last seven years. So has Boston. The two franchises are in vastly different spots. The Heat won two titles, same with the Lakers. Where are they now? Garbage squads.
The above is a long way around of saying that I still believe the Spurs have enough to oust the Clippers. Their athleticism was always going to give the Spurs trouble, because it is in the right spots. The Heat had athleticism, but it was on the outside where we could mitigate that. One reason SA struggled so much with OKC the last three years was Serge Ibaka dominating inside. The Spurs offense creates shots at the rim and from three. But when teams have a guy like Deandre Jordan and Blake Griffin that can recover from mistakes with such ferocity, that creates a problem.
On the other end, Chris Paul is playing like he did in 2009 when he destroyed the Spurs in three games. Yeah, he’s been on bad teams for his nine years, but he’s still very good.
It would be nice if Tony Parker was keeping pace with him but instead he was missing clutch free throws in game 4. The hope was that the game three blowout would have given Tony and Manu (and Tim, to a lesser extent) the rest they needed to essentially close this thing out in Game 4.
Instead, Tony was still laboring to score1, and Manu was giving away the ball and three-point plays. 2 While I don’t see that changing dramatically in the next few games I don’t see Austin Rivers balling out nor Danny Green continuing to struggle.
Manu called Austin Rivers’ big game a “surprise” but owned up to the mistakes. I still believe. Doc Rivers said he loves the ebb and flow of a playoff series. I don’t. I hate it. It really does feel like your team will never win again after a playoff loss. And losing two games in a row is the difference between a 3-2 advantage going home and a 2-3 deficit must-win.
The biggest concern wasn’t necessarily the defense allowing 34 points from Chris Paul. Nor was it the surprise from Austin Rivers, as he got some good looks against Patty Mills, who despite his contributions, isn’t going to win that 1v1 battle.
No, the biggest concern was the 24% from three. Danny Green 0-fered. He wasn’t really doing much defensively, either. With Kawhi shouldering the scoring, the Spurs will need Danny to defend better, and be the guy that tore up the Finals two years ago. Else, what is he doing that Marco can’t?
Speaking of Kawhi Leonard, he is awesome. He was torched tonight by the combination of Chris Paul and JJ Redick but he was also 10-19 for 26 points. Again, he can’t be expected to pick up the offensive slack while still locking down the other team’s perimeter guys. Danny Green and company need to hit shots.
If we want KL to be LBJ, he can’t be guarding the best player the entire night. Simple as that.
See you again on Tues night.