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Morning Rehash: Snake Charmers

For the third consecutive game, the Spurs operated at peak efficiency, this time in a thorough dismantling of the Blazers' normally brilliant offensive machine.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

In 2008, the Spurs were about to begin what seemed an impossible task. After a hard fought series against the Phoenix Suns, the Spurs had to prepare for a matchup against Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets. With little time afforded between series, the Spurs boiled down their strategy to a single statement.

"Kill the head of the snake."

New Orleans was a talented team that finished the season with a higher seed, and if the Spurs were going to win, it would be without homecourt advantage. The idea was simple. The Hornets were going to go where Chris Paul would take them, so the Spurs were going to take him out.

There's nothing revolutionary about that goal, and the Spurs have attempted similar gameplans to thwart Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, LeBron James and other stars, all to varying degrees of success.

Thursday night's game against the Blazers was a great example of a Spurs team that was fully prepared to take away what Portland wanted the most on offense. Damien Lillard, the toast of an exciting opening round, was stymied for the second consecutive game, unable to get free for open three point attempts. (He's hit just one of his seven attempts in the series.) LeMarcus Aldridge struggled as well, missing 17 of his 23 field goal attempts. With nearly every pass or cut, the Blazers found a Spurs defender changing angles and altering shots.

The Spurs were determined to kill any space the Blazers were accustomed to, and in funneling the Blazers' offense into uncomfortable areas, the Spurs were able to dictate the kind of offense they'd have to defend.

It was the very essence of snake charming: a calm, experienced performer transforming something normally deadly into a manageable, even docile state.

For their part, this is an outcome the Spurs are structured to avoid in their own offense, creating an approach that can best be described as "headless." While the Spurs aren't going to win a title without a stellar Tony Parker, they are more than capable of winning games, even in the playoffs, where his shot is off or he is hobbled.

You wouldn't expect that to be the case after Parker's masterful performances in Game 7 against the Mavericks and Game 1 against the Blazers. But when you're facing down a motion offense where every man on the floor can pass and nearly every man can shoot (sorry, Tiago), it's easy to see how an opposing defense can struggle knowing where to start. Adding Manu Ginobili into the lineup only increases the difficulty. The Spurs feature capable ball handlers everywhere, and cutting off one avenue can often open up several others.

This is why on Thursday night the Spurs were able to dominate while Parker and Ginobili were both members of the More Shots Than Points Club. Kawhi Leonard was a monster (more on that later). Boris Diaw destroyed everything in his way. Marco Belinelli spontaneously combusted. And not a single one of them played more than 28 minutes.

The contrast between that and a Blazers team that only really runs seven guys deep is jarring. You can run with the analogy any way you want. Headless snake. Bag of snakes. Snakes in every locker. Either way, the Blazers are facing an inescapable reality: the Spurs' machine is not easily disassembled.

Be sure to read Mark Barrington's recap, too, if you haven't already.


"I'm not big on those [bench] stats. They only play five to seven guys."

– Manu Ginobili on comparing stats between the Spurs and Blazers benches (via Paul Garcia)





















Kawhi Leonard was incredible. In under thirty minutes, he showed a little of everything. Steals, blocks, pull-up jumpers in transition, boards, three-pointers – Kawhi stuffed the box score like Charles Barkley stuffs churros. It was an amazing performance, and there were genuine moments that elicited audible gasps from me and Ian Dougherty (and my dog on the couch). Kawhi topped off his stellar night with a dagger three as the game closed. Never has the game ball looked so tiny in such massive hands.


  • 42.9: Spurs free throw percentage for the night. They went 6/14 from the ol' charity stripe. The brief stretch in the fourth quarter where things got "close" only happened because the Spurs machine momentarily froze running FreeThrows.exe.
  • 70: Spurs points in the first half. The only thing more dead than the "Spurs are boring" trope now is bringing it up.
  • 1: Number of shots Kawhi Leonard missed all game. (He took nine.) Also the number of times he showed emotion during the game when he complained after a bad call. That's a season high.
  • 16: Number of seconds the Spurs have trailed this series. I'm having a really tough time seeing this series go the distance. The Blazers look flummoxed, and Terry Stotts is not a level-90 Mage like Rick Carlisle.



"I got space and space got me / I should be selling it by the pound" - from The Jesus and Mary Chain's "Snakedriver"

Also because, you know, snakes.


The Spurs need to put a bird on it. The Ros-er, uh Moda Center has historically been a place of nightmares for the Spurs, but if you look at the circumstances surrounding those games, the Spurs have often found themselves sitting guys on the back end of a long road trip. The Spurs were far and away the best road team in the NBA this year, so I'd still expect a great fight Saturday night. It's a late one, so take a good nap after some good breakfast tacos, and we'll see you then.