Submitted by Project Spurs fan Benjamin Bornstein
The San Antonio Spurs are now only three wins away from completing their redemption tour and winning the franchise’s fifth NBA Championship. The win came by the score of 110-95, but the game as much closer than the score indicates. Both teams were neck and neck until “The King” was taken down by cramps.
The complexion of the game changed, the confidence level in the Spurs role players rose, and Tim Duncan stayed stoic as ever. The Spurs stretched a two-possession lead into a blowout and more importantly, got Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green involved. Green only had two points off free throws up to that point, but found his groove after banging in three long balls and throwing down an absolute jam to send the message that he is definitely here to play some ball. Leonard was also having a quiet night as he only finished with nine points, but did hit a corner three to give the Spurs their last basket of the game. It may not seem like much, but those were some big baskets for both Green and Leonard. It should help them get going for Game 2 at home and one that will be played in much better conditions.
An unsung hero for the Spurs has been Boris Diaw and he was as excellent as ever last night. Sure, he only scored two points but he grabbed 10 boards and six assists. That’s not even the best part about what he did last night. He was +30 during his time on the floor, thus proving he is a valuable part of the rotation and much better than people seem to think. He will surely get some more run on Sunday and we may even see him post someone up should Miami try to tinker with the lineup. That’s when the game gets fun for me anyway. Diaw’s craftiness, veteran savvy, and willingness to pass never cease to amaze.
Marco Belinelli had a decent game as well coming off the bench, contributing nine points, an assist, and two rebounds. He had been struggling against the Thunder so it was nice to see him come out and get some shots to go in. Patty Mills was the energy spurt and bench punch everyone has come to expect as he poured in seven points, three boards, a steal, and NO turnovers. He contained himself a little more than usual with no crazy shots or hero ball, but it was enough to get the job done.
Big Three Getting It Done
The Spur’s Big Three were excellent and even made a little history. Tim Duncan joined Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain as the only guys to have a 20-10 game while shooting 90% or better from the field. He also moved within one game of Magic Johnson for most postseason double-doubles (Johnson sits at 157) with his 21 points and 10 rebounds on the night. Tony Parker had 19 points and eight assists, but that paled in comparison to Manu Ginobili’s monster game off the pine. He came in and nailed consecutive triples and was a defensive nuisance all game, ending the game with a 97 defensive rating. He finished with 16 points, 10 assists, and five boards to go along with a block and three steals.
This was the sixth straight time that San Antonio has one the first game of the NBA Finals and it was the eighth straight time the Spurs have outscored their opponent by 15 or more at home in the playoffs. The Black and Silver scored 15 more points despite hoisting up 10 less shots than the Heat and those points came from having twice as many free throw attempts as Miami (11 compared to 22). The Spurs also assists on three-fourths of their made shots while the Heat were under 45% in that category. What does that mean? A lot less isolation offense and good ball movement despite the 22 turnovers from the team and better looks at the hoop.
The Heat were able to shoot a pretty good 47.4% from the field, but the Spurs came back with their own blistering 58.8% shooting from the floor. Neither team defended the perimeter well with both teams giving up 40% shooting or better from there, but the Spurs took the most advantage and hit 13 of their 25 shots from there while the Heat were “only” able to muster a 12-for-29 line.
The Spurs will host again on Sunday before the series moves to Miami for the next two games. The NBA got something right this past offseason when they moved the format back to a 2-2-1-1-1 setting from the previous 2-3-2 layout we saw last season so that will certainly affect both teams as far as traveling and getting rest goes. The Spurs won’t care though as they just want to win no matter where they are playing. They don’t need motivation from bulletin board material, media talk, or any other outside source. Gregg Popovich has this team firing on all cylinders and he’s not leaving this postseason without a trophy in his hands.