This is going to be brief, almost a drive by, as have to run. As I was working away surfing the web while taking short breaks to do productive work I noticed many many comments here suggesting that the Patron God of PtR should be benched, or have his minutes reduced, or at least have his options limited. Blasphemy.
We need Manu to win this series. If he cannot produce more, he cannot produce more. We lose. C'est la vie. But we bench him, we also lose. And that is not OK. We win or we go down guns blazing. No benching one of our big three.
I hate to say it, but the Heat are better than they showed games one through three, though not as good as they seemed game four. Even in the Pacers series, I thought they won without ever playing up to their potential. If they really have stepped it up then we have to as well.
Not saying that they are clearly better than the Spurs - far from it. The Spurs are the best they have been in years. A well oiled machine with the best point guard in the universe for the Spurs system, a rejuvenated Tim Duncan, and a rested Gin... um. Wait. Did I mention a rejuvenated Tim Duncan?
The Spurs win because they have a great system. I know many fans hate to hear that the Spurs are a system team, but they are. Notice how many great quick passes are made even by role players. More than an average number of those are no look passes. That happens because everyone knows where the other player is supposed to be and trusts him to be there without even looking. Watch them on offense. Everyone runs back to exactly the spot they should be in. One to the far left corner, one to the far right, the rest depending on what is going on, but always in particular spots or near enough to catch and shoot from there. Players don't have to waste time being indecisive, they just know what to do. We don't do much ad-hoc hero ball stuff.
The downside? When you play a team with great defensive players multiple times they will eventually guess what you are going to do next. Tony had several stupid looking turnovers against the Grizzlies. Why? Tony Allen instinctively figured out where and when Tony was going to pass and picked them off. Looked like luck or supreme skill, but it was simply a good defender learning the plays. Likewise, Miami picked off or deflected a bunch of passes in game four. No magic, just experience.
Miami is good enough to start disrupting our plays. Not consistently, this is not football where you spent a week between games watching film and learning tendencies, but enough to make a difference. But even if they learned our system really well, we have a wild card. Manu.
Manu exists outside of the Matrix. He is the one that plays purely with instinct and court vision, and nobody, not even Manu, can guess what he is going to do next. That is a big part of why he has been so important to this team for so long. If Miami keeps up their defense and either shuts us down or confuses us, Manu is the answer. They cannot just play defense to shut down the system as you always have to account for Manu. Normally.
Who knows exactly why he is struggling. Maybe rust, fatigue, maybe some Argentinian thing. My personal theory is that he was handled a little too carefully this year and never got into a great rhythm, but who knows. Almost every game this postseason Tony has been forcing the ball to Duncan early and often to get him going, maybe we should have done the same for Manu. Hindsight and all that.
But whatever happens, we depend on him and need him to play. He gets it together and we win with him or he does not and we go down with him.