Submitted by friend of Project Spurs, John Karalis of Reds Army.
It’s hard to talk about what Boris Diaw is without talking about what he was.
With the San Antonio Spurs fresh off a PTSD-inducing Game 2 loss, Gregg Popovich made a series-changing decision that started as Twitter comedy.
He started Boris Diaw.
The 2014 NBA Finals suddenly gave us a starting matchup of Boris Diaw versus Rashard Lewis. And the internet comedians howled.
That’s partly because just a couple of years prior to this moment, Diaw looked more like a guy who was eating himself out of the league. He wasn’t Stanley Roberts or anything, but he had the look of a dad who’d decided to whip out his favorite player’s rookie-year jersey as a retirement-day tribute.
He wasn’t what we’d call “svelte.” He didn’t have the look of the Boris Diaw that helped lead the Charlotte Bobcats to the playoffs.
But he still had the skills, which is why he still got work.
He still has the skills, which is why he got that start. And it’s also why he’s completely changed the series.
This would be a great time to throw in the caveat that nothing is over until it’s over, especially with the Miami Heat. We all know that if any team is capable of whipping off a three-game win streak, it’s Miami. If they steal one tonight, and win a Game 6 at home, anything can happen in Game 7.
But that won’t happen if Boris Diaw decides not to let it happen.
Boris Diaw is, on average, a +22 in the Spurs three wins. The San Antonio Spurs are 22 points better than the Miami Heat with Boris Diaw on the floor in their three wins. Even in the unpredictable, sometimes unreliable world of +/- statistics hawking, this is something that confirms what the eyes are telling me.
Diaw is San Antonio’s MVP right now. If the Spurs can end this series tonight, and if form holds, Diaw could… no, should, be named MVP.
Diaw has been able to consistently get past his defender off the dribble. It hasn’t been dazzling, but it’s been happening regularly. When that happens, Heat defenders have to rotate over to help on him. That means someone has to leave Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, or Tony Parker to help out on the Diaw defensive assignment.
That’s not how it’s supposed to go, defensively. It’s supposed to be the other way around. You’re supposed to live with stopping those other guys and letting Diaw get the shots. But when Diaw is forcing the rotations and then making some freaking spectacular passes, the Spurs are impossible to defend.
“He’s been amazing,” said Duncan after Game 4. “I think he’s really found his rhythm. He’s been the key for us early, catching and driving, making the right plays, finding open people. He’s really changed the game for us.”
“Boris pretty much does the same thing every night as far as helping us be a smarter team,” added Gregg Popovich. “He knows what’s going on most all the time. At the offensive end he’s a passer. He understands mismatches. He knows time and score. At the defensive end, he knows when to help. He’s active. So he just helps the whole team have a better IQ.”
The Heat have to gameplan for Diaw now. The Heat’s bishops and rooks have to worry about a pawn, leaving the Spurs more dangerous pieces to wreak havoc and do what they couldn’t do last year…
Capture Miami’s King.