I had a friend at the game. She wore Manu’s jersey into enemy territory. I was hoping for the best and believed this game would not be a close one; then the first quarter happened. Murphy’s Law was never intended to be this deliberate. Everything that could go wrong went; the Clippers sensed a suddenly stunned Spurs team and took full advantage. After 12 minutes, the Spurs were down 33-11.
Initially, I couldn’t help but think that the Spurs were due for this kind of game. Teams never dominate the playoffs as the Spurs have thus far. Keeping up our current pace is historically impossible. The Spurs had to come back to Earth at some point. This must be it. There’s no way the Spurs could continue this ridiculous run and it was finally time for them to succumb to inevitability.
I texted my friend just after the first quarter, "Stay calm. Don’t talk yet. We will win this one. Give it time."
Here’s the thing about our team and my ability to doubt them; we are too good to lose. Watching the first quarter, I felt that the Spurs missed many easy shots and the Clippers made many difficult ones. To varying degrees, this has been the case in every 2012 playoff game the Spurs have played and we haven’t lost yet. It always evens out. It’s simple logic. Everything returns to the mean.
If the Spurs take high percentage shots all game and their opponents take low percentage shots all game, the bad guys will eventually miss and the Spurs will win. The contested shots that the Spurs' opponents made in the first quarter will not fall in the fourth. That’s how the game works. That’s why the Spurs are so good. The Spurs consistently get better shots than their opponents. When extended out far enough, let’s say 48 minutes, the Spurs will outscore their opponents. Their opponents simply cannot keep up.
This Spurs team is different. Look at our our competition. It's Paul and Griffin. It's Jefferson and Millsap. It's Durant, Westbrook, and Harden. Defensive strategies are dependent upon the ability to leave someone open. If you can't leave someone, then there's nothing to talk about. Every other team has players to leave open. As Charles Barkley once said, "You're open for a reason, stupid."
If you're open, it's by design. Leaving an inferior player open is the defensive goal. Fundamentally, the Spurs have ruined their opponent's ability to create an effective game plan, (not that Vinny would be capable of creating one if it were possible.)
The Spurs, as we all know, are the deepest, most potent team in the league. We have 6 players that shoot better than 36% from three point land. We have great drivers and an incredible post player. The Spurs have built a team that never puts a lineup on the floor that can be manipulated. Our opponent always has to guard every Spur and that means they have no defensive flexibility.
It ends up being a consistent beat-down. I used to look at basketball as a game of runs. Traditionally, it’s the best way to interpret the game. Teams are normally evenly matched. However, this year, it's not the case. The Spurs are better. They do not need to make the lucky run to gain an advantage.
Previously, a run consisted of some good offense, and a lot of spectacular play. I mean that runs normally involved a player doing something unlikely. Like Lebron hitting four threes in a row. Or some role player hitting a contested three. Or the Clippers miraculously stealing the ball at the end of the first quarter and making a long two pointer. Traditionally, runs have a good amount of luck in them and the luck is often described as ‘momentum.’ The Spurs do not require luck.
The Spurs have redefined the traditional run. The Spurs simply execute with precision for 48 minutes. At some point, their opponent experiences a lapse. The Spurs continue to execute and we see it as a run. This is not a run. It’s a beat down. It’s consistently playing superior basketball. The Spurs outscore their opponents due to superior play, not ‘runs.’ There is nothing lucky when the Spurs win. It’s inevitability. The Spurs are the best team in the NBA.
Down six points in the third, I texted my friend, "Okay, start talking trash now." I did not expect us to go on a run at that point. I was simply confident that the Spurs were better. The Spurs have the best team. While 5 minutes of basketball may skew either way, over the course of a 48 minute game, one will not be able to overcome the fact that the Spurs are best.
It’s an incredible feeling; the confidence that the Spurs are too good to lose. Down 33-11 in the playoffs, I normally would have been screaming and throwing things. This time? I waited. I asked my friend at Staples to wait. Just give it time. Eventually, the better team will win. We are the better team. There is no doubt. Go Spurs Go; Ready Brooms.
Your Three Stars
3.) Kawhi Leonard
Just a reminder, he is a ROOKIE! He is a rookie that defied everything that we know. What did we know? Pop hates rookies! Kawhi is solid. He's a rock. You need rocks to play well consistently. Some guys are streaky and some are consistent. Kawhi's consistency is one of the reasons that the Spurs do not panic. Whether the Spurs are up by 20 or down by 20, Kawhi is going to play consistently well. The Spurs can always count on Kawhi and he has been incredible this year.
2.) Tony Parker
Tony has not yet played an elite game. That's how spoiled we are. Our MVP of the regular season has not played great and yet we are 7-0 in the playoffs. Our opponents have done their best to keep Tony's production down, but it hasn't affected the Spurs as a whole. This is a testament to Tony's new persona. He is not confined to scoring. In previous years, if you kept Tony from scoring, it destroyed the Spurs. Pop would often be forced to bench Tony for Jacque Vaughn or some other awful dude. Man, I hated Jacque. His propensity to dribble in and out of the paint while accomplishing nothing always drove me nuts. But I digress, Tony played as well as the Clippers allowed him to and his leadership kept the Spurs' ship from capsizing early in the game.
1.) Tim Duncan
The Clippers played the best first quarter of their lives. The Spurs were down 33-11. This would have been a perfect opportunity for the Spurs to pack it up and prepare for Game 4. It's not worth it. Down 20 after one? What are the odds? What's the point in trying?
The point is pride. The point is that the Spurs are superior. There was no panic. There was no fear. The Spurs simply wanted to keep playing. This all is the work of our franchise player. It's the culture that he developed. Tim, David, and Pop have created a culture so strong that it affects the game, during the game.
Watch Crazy Stephen Jackson. Watch him argue a call. He's right, he got fouled and the official missed it. It's important and the official missed it. Stephen will start to become enraged, and then something will overtake him. A calming influence. It's Tim's aura. Our whole team is built on Tim's foundation. Tim and Pop control the Spurs' mind, and they will not be rattled.
It's amazing to watch. It's amazing to watch the Spurs get pummeled in the first quarter and not be worried in the slightest. "Stay calm. Don’t talk yet. We will win this one. Give it time." This is my mantra till the River Parade.