By whatever rhyme or reason, I spent a lot of time last night perusing through all the articles and similar content of the Spurs' game 3 win over the Portland Trailblazers. Each thing I read seemed to have the consensus of the Spurs looking every bit of a championship level team and, on the flip side, what everyone still agrees is a very good, but young and inexperienced Blazer team receiving the lesson of their basketball lives.
The bit of writing that struck me most, however, was the Media Row Report over on the Blazer's Edge blog which you can see here. Specifically, the part that stood out to me most was where Ben Golliver talks about the question Pop was asked over being "happy" about the great free throw shooting night the Spurs had:
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich refused to even say that he was "happy" when told of his team's 25-for-25 night at the free throw line. Here he was -- presented with perfection and the most free throws without a miss in a playoff game since 1989 -- and he chose to hassle a reporter about the question, rather than admit satisfaction. In his mind, being "happy" with 25-for-25 in a blowout would be akin to surrendering a shot at 26-for-26 or 30-for-30 or 60-for-60 sometime in the future, when he might really need it.
In other words, everything we have ever known about Gregg Popovich was a lie. Many of us were under the belief that the only thing that would ever satisfy this man was perfection. A perfect free throw shooting night, in a game after turning in an atrocious 38.4% clip from the charity line, as well as it being a franchise best for the postseason only ended up eliciting a ho hum "I'm glad we made our free throws" response from the three-time Coach of the Year. So much for that notion.
What Mr. Golliver points out best in his report is that for Pop to be happy with the 25-for-25 outing would completely dismiss the need for an even better night from his team. You know in games against either OKC, the Clippers or anyone else beyond, provided the Spurs get out of this series first mind you, every free point the Spurs can get, they should do their utmost to take advantage of because they will absolutely need every single one of them.
At another point in the post-game presser Pop was asked if there was anything better this team could do. "Everything" he says. Any turnover number that exceeds zero is too much for his blood. Even his big three that night were not beyond some mistakes. Manu threw some bad passes, Tony, as hot as he was, had a few points where he put up bad shots or took way too much time dribbling around the horn, and Duncan was late with his help defense on a couple of Lillard drives in the 4th quarter. Pop knew it, and he was sounding off all over his top superstars to let them know it too.
When it comes to Coach Pop, the pursuit of perfection is a never ending journey that is riddled with pitfalls and hazards that only seem to increase in size and severity as the road continues along. As gracefully he and his team appear to navigate these dangers to the eyes of many, the only thing that will make this man truly happy in the game of basketball is a 16th postseason victory.