The Spurs saw positive effects from their Game 2 adjustments but still lost by double figures. What is the best course of action for Game 3?
Marilyn Dubinski: Play like the team they have been at home, make some shots, and stay glued to Klay Thompson. Game 1 can almost be tossed out as a debacle where the Spurs played scared and never really adjusted the game plan. They made those adjustments in Game 2 but missed too many open shots to take advantage of the positive improvements. The Spurs certainly have what it takes to win at least one game at home, but they have to give everything they have for 48 minutes.
Bruno Passos: Replicate the defensive effort; stop playing Tony and Bryn together; make a three-point shot or two, and hope for the best.
Mark Barrington: Keep pounding the rock. There wasn’t a problem with the strategy in Game 2, the effort was good but the Warriors hit their shots and the Spurs didn’t. That’s mostly because they’re better shooters, but the Spurs can possibly win a game or two on their home court by continuing to play solid defense and maybe actually hitting some of their open shots.
Jesus Gomez: The only thing they can do is just keep playing their way. When they managed to do that, they were in it in Game 2. The margin of error is thin, but if they can sustain their focus and discipline for 48 minutes, they could take one of the next two.
J. R. Wilco: You could make the case that without Thompson going supernova, that G2 could have come down to the wire. So, the home cooking the Spurs have been used to over the past few weeks should be enough to make G3 competitive throughout.
In last week’s In The Bonus comments, Justjwill asked which one of Pop’ regular seasons habits would you change if they could: Starting Pau next to Aldridge, having Anderson finish games instead of Gay, not playing Davis Bertans, using Parker, Mills and Forbes at the same time or failing to foul up three late in games. Which one would you pick?
Dubinski: Gasol starting is not an issue in certain match-ups, and he and Aldridge do have some good chemistry. Also, Gay wasn’t always available, so I wouldn’t call those two issues bad habits. I would have liked to see Bertans play more, but it would be a disservice to Bryn Forbes to say he didn’t earn his playing time. I’m personally not a fan of fouling when up three — it would be a sign that Pop doesn’t trust his 2nd-ranked defense, plus if players see it coming they can turn it into three FT’s anyways — so I guess I’ll go with the three-guard line-up if for no other reason than it’s defensive deficiencies. That usually felt like a situation where Bertans should have played more and Pop was just trying to find minutes for players instead of putting out a line-up that made sense.
Passos: Given the quality of the opponent and the team’s limited options up and down the roster, there’s only one Pop-ism that I’d single out which could possibly make a difference at this point: his aversion to the dark arts. Incantations; blood magic; contracts with Mephisto — if he wants to be considered the GOAT, he needs to understand that sometimes you have to actually sacrifice a goat.
Barrington: I think the lineup changes thing would work the best, but to be fair, the Spurs were really limited by not having their best players healthy this year. Sometimes you have to go with the best players you have, not the theoretically best-balanced lineup.
Gomez: More Bertans! Davis can shoot at an elite level, but also defend passably and make the odd play when he’s chased off the arc. He’s even rebounded better, even if he still has a ways to go in that area. He can also do all the little things, like he showed in Game 2. Hopefully he’ll have some minutes in the next few games, because I like to see him play a little more as a Spur before he potentially leaves in free agency.
Wilco: I don’t even care if it would make the biggest difference or not: the biggest, most consistent, most annoying issue I’ve had with Pop over the years is not fouling when up 3. It’s cost San Antonio multiple games over the years without ever (to my knowledge) saving them one. So if that issue could be solved for all time, and never need to be discussed again, then I’d gladly forgo all the others.
Last week, Derrick White led the Austin Spurs to the G-League title, averaging 25 points, and stuffing the stat sheet in the playoffs. This week, he joined the Spurs in Oakland and in thirteen minutes of garbage time tallied seven points, one assist, one steal, and one block. Could he make an impact off the bench in this series? How about next season?
Dubinski: Pop is too stubborn to play a rookie in meaningful minutes in the playoffs unless it is out of complete necessity, although I do think he’d be an advantage over Parker at this point. However, I am looking forward to seeing what White can do next season. He’s a well-rounded player who would fit in well with the Spurs system (is that still a thing?), and it certainly feels like there will plenty of minutes available with Manu’s future unknown, Forbes being a free agent that I can see getting an offer elsewhere, and Parker maybe taking on more of a player-coach role. I definitely see White getting his chance, especially if he impresses in Summer League.
Passos: Next season, sure. Right now, he’s still too much of an unknown on both ends of the floor, and yes I’m aware how shaky Forbes and Parker have been. I don’t know what lineups he works best in, don’t think he’s familiar enough with the Spurs’ defensive rotations, and am not confident he’ll know when to be aggressive and when to defer on offense. I like White’s potential, but giving him meaningful minutes in this series would be mostly a developmental move.
Barrington: He’s played well every time he’s seen the floor, and he should have taken a lot of the minutes that went to Parker and Forbes late in the season. I don’t have much hope for the Golden State series, but I would like to see Derrick get some playoff experience so he’ll be ready next year.
Gomez: I can definitely see White getting minutes next season. He has the potential to be a two-way player, and the Spurs don’t have a lot of those. His ceiling is probably low — he’s an older rookie without elite athleticism or a standout skill — but he could blossom into a quality do-it-all role player. I doubt we’ll see him in this series, though.
Wilco: The day that Pop plays a rookie meaningful minutes in the playoffs is the day the earth stands still. But I like what I’ve seen from White with Austin. Unless a prospect is having his way at that level, there’s no sense in discussing his potential with the big club. So after a often-lackluster half of a G-League season, it’s been great to see him dominating.
How do you feel about Kawhi Leonard not sitting with his team during the playoffs? Is it a sign of greater concern?
Dubinski: I can see where there’s nothing wrong with this in Kawhi’s secluded world, but if nothing else it’s extremely bad optics on his part, especially without any communication. If I were him, I would say “okay, I’m done for this season, my team will probably barely last a week in these playoffs, so I can take that week off from rehab to go support them.” Once this season is over he’ll still have another 6 months to get well before next season, so why put all the pressure on his coaches and teammates to answer for him and allow his organization the distractions and bad press because of it? I’m still just waiting to see what happens on July 1 before passing final judgement, but he’s certainly not making me feel any better about it.
Passos: It would be nice to see him a few final times before he’s in a Celtics jersey. [KIDDING]
Barrington: Honestly, it feels like a manufactured controversy to me. If he’s not going to play this year, he should be rehabbing. Towel waving is overrated. At this point it’s just become a distraction, and the games should belong to the players who are going to play.
Gomez: It looks bad, but that doesn’t bother me that much. What worries me is that it could be a sign that his relationship with his teammates is also strained. Remember, Leonard left San Antonio shortly after the Spurs had a players only meeting. He hasn’t returned since then. Maybe that chat he had with the other guys was more tense than Danny Green and Brandon Paul claim it was. Or maybe everyone agreed that it would be for the best for him to stay away and we are all blowing this out of proportion. I would have gone with the latter explanation in past years, but there’s enough evidence of dysfunction in this Leonard situation to make me a little paranoid.
Wilco: As long as Pop and KL get on the same page this offseason and he signs his supermax as soon as he can (or at least when it benefits PATFO for him to do so) then all this will remembered as nothing more than a little bump in the road. But if he pushes to be traded and Pop can’t mend fences, then I’m going to look back on this series as the first time I thought a rift between them was realistic.
Pounders shared their playoff rituals. Do you do anything special when the season ends and the postseason begins?
Dubinski: Nope. I used to have silly superstitions like whether or not a certain Spurs shirts were good luck or bad luck on game days, but that doesn’t even matter nowadays since I have to wear something nicer than a T-shirt to work.
Passos: If their run ended prematurely, I used to swear off basketball for at least a few weeks and stew. These days, I’m happy to keep watching and hitch my emotions to a new team for a while.
Barrington: I got nothing. I missed game 1 because I went to a Renaissance Faire, and watched guys in suits of armor jousting. I feel like I somehow came out ahead.
Gomez: Nothing major. I do watch with the sound on, though. During the season I use some games to catch up on podcasts or listen to music. Not in the postseason. I feel like it’s disrespectful, even though I’m well aware the Spurs wouldn’t care in the slightest if they were to find out that I’m listening to the latest You Made it Weird or some El Mató a un Policía Motorizado in the background while they play.
Wilco: I’ve lived long enough that all of my go-to apparel and practices has seen enough losses that it would be impossible for me to think of it as lucky. So I guess the only thing I do is to make sure that I’m NOT wearing anything Spurs-related for any playoff games.