With their NBA Finals series tied at 2-2, the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat decided to give their players an off-day with a two-day layoff before Game 5 on Sunday.
Instead of meeting with the media in person, San Antonio Spurs head Coach Gregg Popovich and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra decided to field questions Friday via conference calls. Popovich, whose in person interviews can sometimes be less than a minute, actually produced really insightful responses via the call. Here are some key responses from Popovich about his team and the Heat.
Coach Popovich on Tony Parker’s availability for Sunday’s Game 5
“He'll be fine.”
Coach Popovich on Manu Ginobili’s struggles in the playoffs, and more notably NBA Finals
“He's having a tough playoffs, and he hasn't really found a rhythm or found his game yet. I think that he's obviously not as confident as usual, and he knows full well that he hasn't performed the way he would like and the way he's used to. But it's simplistic to say, what are we going to do to get him going? He's going to get himself going or he won't.”
“He knows that he's got to play better for us to be successful.”
For Coach Pop and the Spurs, their one weakness in these playoffs and their entire season has been one they bring upon themselves: Turnovers
“For us it's been the same during the entire season. Oftentimes or most of the time, the great majority of the time it's about turnovers. It's about not taking care of the basketball. Because it's not just you gave them another possession. But people forget you lost your possession. You might have scored one, two or three points, or four, I guess in rare situations. But you didn't score and the other team oftentimes especially the better the team you play, like Miami, you turn it over and they're going to score. It's basically a dunk or a lay up at the other end of the court.”
“So it's always a swing of four points, at least. And that's what really takes its toll. That's why we were so happy after Game 1 when we just had four turnovers. Since then we've been plagued. Largely due to their outstanding defense.”
Popovich on his teams turnovers due to the Heat’s defense
“No, the Heat have the same principles they have had all year long. They're an aggressive basketball team. They caused a lot of the turnovers with good aggressive defense, and we've allowed some of it to happen by playing in a crowd and not moving the ball expeditiously. So it's a little bit of both.”
Popovich on whether his veteran players are using their past championships for guidance
“Well, you know, I honestly don't believe they're thinking of the previous championships. Those are basically in the Dark Ages. I think they're just thinking about this team and what they need to do.”
Popovich said it’s frustrating to win a game, then lose one, then win one, then lose one. He spoke of how it’s hard for humans bring that same intensity every night.
“And you still go out and you lose the game, like we did last night. You lose a game like we did in Game 2, and we come back and beat them in Game 3 and look like they looked last night. That's what drives me crazy. Because as coaches, you try to prevent that. You would like to be a little more on an even keel and perform the same way each night. And the only thing I can tell myself after all these years is you're dealing with people, with emotions, and not robots. They come out and they all play hard, but there's that little intangible, that little spark of intensity or back against the wall or a little bit of fear that just seems to kick in when you've lost the previous game.”
“And when you find teams that can get over that, those are the championship teams.”
Popovich on his team and how they stay collective and don’t get too high or too low
“I think it's just a reflection of their personalities. If anybody is crazy in the group, it's me. They pretty much have an even keel. Timmy Duncan sets the tone, and he just competes. Whether he does well or whether he does poorly, game in, game out, year in, year out, he competes and people just follow that. Tony Parker is basically the same breed. Manu is a little bit more emotional, as I am. He's been doing this so long that he understands the wins in some ways are a relief, and the losses are devastating, and you can't let either affect you. You just go on with your business.”
“So after a game like last night, players, they're smart. They don't need to be told how many turnovers they had or this, that or the other or what we have to do. They feel it, and they'll respond in that regard, and they'll play well enough or they won't. But it won't be for lack of effort or anything like that. They'll just stay pretty consistent.”
Coach Pop on whether the Heat can take their play up to another level
“But they have that ability to kick it up a notch, where most teams don't. We're a pretty consistent team, but when they go to that next level or that next gear defensively and aggressiveness wise, you better be prepared for it and try to take advantage of it by moving the basketball, not playing in a crowd, that kind of thing. And our two losses against them we haven't done that very well.”