FanPost

Manu's latest column in La Nación newspaper (Argentina)

Unlike other Manu columns this one has grammatical and typographical flaws. I corrected them as much as I could.

Article’s link in Spanish can be found here.

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Now that we are far away from the next game, I have no doubts about getting up early. I went to bed at 3 and got up at 8, but the boys help me to let go of all that load of games. Then I take a nap or otherwise I feel like dead, but it's the best there is. I have them playing over here, and then we go for a walk around the neighborhood.

Against Oklahoma we had a rather unusual series. Not saying it's a surprise that in the first games we take 20 points over each other, but then it gets even. We came to the fifth game with very large advantages for one and the other. It never happened to me. But we are happy, we achieved what we wanted -which was to win all our home games- and had the sixth to fight it. Thankfully, we closed it.

The last one was really hard. Having Tony at half speed is very difficult for us because we don’t have any surpluses. We saw him limp, moving carefully, and at halftime Pop told him he couldn’t play like that anymore. The outlook wasn’t good. We were seven points down, without Tony and in their field court against a team with tremendous talent... we thought the game was gone. But at the same time we realized that playing badly we weren’t so far. If we played like we did the whole series then we could have a chance. And it was awesome. The third quarter we played impressively. Our ball movement was impeccable and then we were up nine and feeling it could be won.

The trey play at the end of the game was plotted exactly. Pop told me: "Go, shoot the triple and win it", so I did it. They gave me an instruction and I executed. It went well. I don’t know how it came in, because it’s not a shot that I’m used to take: receiving and shooting. That’s more like a Patty Mills, Belinelli or Danny Green thing. The idea was to receive and throw it. I didn’t even see that Fisher was on the floor after the screen.

In the series in general, without Ibaka we didn’t have a very detailed plan on offense. We play our game, with more defensive indications than anything else. We had to play the way we always play: Pass the ball, look for the unguarded guy so he can shoot.

In those first two games the paint was more open than usually. Because Ibaka is always closing, plugging holes. So at the start we had a bit of everything, with inside game in and getting triples too.

It was very useful for them Ibaka’s return because he was so energetic, blocking everything and it never like he had physical problems. People went crazy with him and put a lot of pressure at the arena. When he returned a few things changed. We play with Tiago and Tim at the beginning and everything began to close. Ibaka is always there and he got help from or Adams. We began to rely more on the outside shooting.

In the fifth game, Pop decided to get Ibaka out of the paint, so we didn’t play with Tim and Tiago at the same time. Bonner started to force Ibaka into making a greater journey to guard him or taking the risk of letting him free. The center matches always had someone else open on our side.
Anyway, I don’t think there's something specific that unbalanced the series. We simply played better and defended differently in games five and six. Then the toughest and smartest ends up winning. Obviously, when it's a close game, it all comes to a key shot that goes in and another that doesn’t, but I think that being tough and smart is what got us to overtime.

To play against Kevin Durant is really difficult. You try to bother him a little bit, so he gets the ball a few less times per quarter, but then you have to trust in team defense.
For strategic reasons I had to guard him; it was him or Westbrook. Pop wants the point guards away from other players because they make so many screens. In the switches, Tony had the biggest drawback. You play with such a disadvantage that it is very difficult to explain.
Then again, the most important is team defense. If it would have tennis I’d have lost 6-2, 6-2 against Durant. He's the best of the world! With an inspired set I could have gone 6-4. He is 4 inches taller, he runs faster than me, and jumps higher than me. It could be scary, but that’s the good about having a team. We must be careful and trust everyone’s defense.

After all of it we are in another final. The fifth, to me. I am proud to belong to a team like San Antonio which has so many years being at the elite.
I guess the series with Miami, from the game point of view, will be very similar to last year. Neither team has changed a lot, nor the names or style.
We will have to make the necessary defensive adjustments because LeBron doesn’t play like Durant and Bosh doesn’t have the characteristics of Ibaka. But our offensive game will always be the same. We will do exactly what we do in every series: move the ball well, attack the rim and try not to shoot with the defender over yourself.
That’s the same thing that brought us here and that's what we have to continue doing well, because we want to win four more games.

This is fan-created content on PoundingtheRock.com. The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff at Pounding the Rock.

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