During the NBA Finals, John Karalis of Red's Army will be contributing to Project Spurs during the San Antonio Spurs' chase for title number five.
Amidst the chaos of a broken play, San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker just kept going.
Picks came and went. He was shut off trying to exploit a switch by Chris Bosh. After 15 seconds of dribbling, driving, twisting, and turning, he was on the floor. With two seconds left on the shot clock, he looked like this:
But he just kept going. Even with LeBron James, a tight-end sized freak of nature standing over him.
At the last possible instant, Parker let go a shot so feathery soft, it was like he was shooting alone after practice.
With the world falling apart around him, Tony Parker calmly broke Miami’s back. I’d call it a miraculous shot, if it wasn’t so perfectly “Spurs.”
That shot was a microcosm of the game itself. The Miami Heat were all over the Spurs for that entire possession like they were for most of the game. There was a point in the third quarter where it looked like the Heat just needed one little extra push to pull away and win comfortably. They never could, just like they couldn’t stop the Spurs even with the best player in the world standing over a prone Tony Parker and a few grains of sand left in the hourglass.
In the fourth, the Spurs just did Spurs things. Calmly, and without fear of failure, the Spurs marched back and took control. They didn’t need to be in control for all 48 minutes. They, like Parker as he found room under LeBron’s outstretched left arm, just needed to be in control for enough time at the end.
“It's a 48‑minute game,” said Gregg Popovich after the game. “In the NBA things go back and forth many, many times. The ability to move on to the next play is what's really important, if a team wants to be really good.”
That’s what it’s really about. That’s what experience does for you. That’s what deadpan personalities like Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan do for you. They are never too high, never too low. The next play comes quickly, and they are rarely unprepared for it.
Each great play over the course of 48 minutes is nice, but it means nothing unless you can follow it up on the next possession. Just look at the first basket of the game.
Tim Duncan’s pass from the top of the key was terrible. Miami stormed out in transition, and Dwyane Wade set an already amped Heat crowd into a frenzy with a monster two-hand slam. The Heat were feeling it right out of the gates. The building shook. And…..
…the Spurs rattled off the next nine points.
Never too high. Never too low.
The Heat never could push their lead into double-digits. They never could put away those old guys in silver-and-black. Their chance to hold home court slipped out their grasp when Parker inexplicably slipped past LeBron.
“I think at this point my mind was just blank,” said Duncan, displaying the type of calm that makes the Spurs so damn dangerous, and so damn good.
“I just wanted him to get a shot up in the air. I was trying to get position on the board, trying to work Bosh up the lane a little bit, so I could get back to the board. “
Monks meditate for hours trying to achieve “blank,” and here’s Duncan thinking and reacting with total clarity within the chaos of the last few seconds of a two-point NBA Finals game. His point guard is on the floor with LeBron right on top of him and Duncan is still two steps ahead thinking “here are the things I have to do in these few seconds to help us win if he misses.”
That’s so Spurs of him.
Of course, Parker didn’t miss.
“At the end I was just trying to get a shot up,” said Parker. “It felt good when it left my hand. I was happy it went in.”
Happy. But not too happy. They’ll save that kind of happy for the locker room, three wins from now, when there isn’t a “next play” to be worried about.
(hat tip to @Crotin for the screen grab)