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Finals Practice: Splitter on passing, Leonard on working with Duncan during lockout

Through four NBA Finals games, the San Antonio Spurs are averaging 25.5 assists, shooting 46.7% as a team from 3-point range, and defeating the Miami Heat by an average of 13.3 points per game.

At their media practice session on Saturday, one day before Game 5 (where San Antonio has a 3-1 series lead), I caught up with Spurs center Tiago Splitter, who talked about why he’s been able to contribute in coming off the bench, and discussed how the Spurs are able to get some of their 3-point looks so far against the Heat.

Well it’s different when you’re playing the five (center), when TD (Tim Duncan) is not on the court,” said Splitter about coming off the bench in Games 3 and 4. “You have more space to roll to the basket, especially when you have a player like Manu (Ginobili), who can always find you in a good spot.”

The Spurs’ passing has received a lot of attention during these first four games, so I asked Splitter if it’s almost automatic in his mind to know where his 3-point shooters like Patty Mills and Danny Green are on the floor.

“They’re double teaming the pick-and-roll, so that’s one less player on the court (perimeter), so you know they’re going defend if you roll, so that means somebody’s open somewhere,” said Splitter of how he’s able to find his 3-point shooters. “It sounds easy like you say, but they put a lot of pressure, and put a lot of hands. Last year we couldn’t find that pass (against them), but this year we’ve done a better job.”

Splitter said knowing where his 3-point shooters are isn’t something automatic, he said he still has to survey the floor quickly before making the pass.

In Game 4, Boris Diaw threw a pass behind his back to Splitter for a dunk, as the Heat were trying to double Diaw. I asked Splitter if Diaw’s unique passes are something he’s gotten used to by now.

Well he’s done it to me throughout the season three or four times,” said Splitter of Diaw’s behind the back passes. “I’ve done it to him, he’s done it to me, he’s done it to Tim, that’s how we play and practice everyday.”

After the Spurs’ 111-92 victory in Game 3, Duncan was asked postgame about his early impressions of Kawhi Leonard three years ago.

“Luckily I played with him a bunch during the lockout time,” said Duncan after Game 3. “He came down and worked out with us when we were — before the team was together.  So I kind of got an early look at him.”

“I don’t know who put it together, but probably one of the players, probably Tim,” recalled Leonard of his first non-official early practices with Duncan three years ago. “Guys would fly out wherever they were working out at during the summer, and we would all meet together, and just play pickup really, 5-on-5 with each other.”

Leonard said the location of all of those practice were in San Antonio.

Lastly, Leonard left Miami after Games 3 and 4 averaging 24.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.5 steals, 2.5 blocks, and shooting 68% from the floor in the Spurs’ two wins in Miami. When asked Saturday what it feels like to be a potential Finals MVP, Leonard had a simple answer.

“It doesn’t mean anything to me,” said Leonard. “Just try to go out and win the next game, and that’s all I’m doing”

Paul Garcia

About Paul Garcia

Paul is a San Antonio Spurs credentialed media member for Project Spurs. He covered the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in Houston, TX, and the 2013 and 2014 NBA Finals. Paul has been featured on WOAI, Fox 29, and numerous nationwide radio shows.