A rare occurrence: Gregg Popovich with nothing to complain about after the game. The San Antonio Spurs put a passing and movement clinic against the Cleveland Cavaliers, winning 122-101 with Danny Green of all people leading the way, looking as good as he did in the NBA finals.
He finished with 24 points on 9-of-15 from the field, getting plenty of open looks thanks to the ball movement, patience and passing from San Antonio, looking quite crisp and smooth since they’ve had everyone back from their long list of injuries.
Six more players finished the game in double figures, most of them coming off the bench. Kawhi Leonard scored 18 points, and was followed by 16 from Boris Diaw, 16 by Patty Mills, 11 from Manu Ginobili and Marco Belinelli adding 11 of his own.
The Cavs actually led 23-13 at the end of the first quarter; The Spurs shot only 5-of-21 from the field, leading to their fewest points in a first quarter since Jan. 18, 2012 at Orlando. But it wasn’t bad shots or bad basketball, as Dion Waiters admitted after the game: The Cavs caught a break with the Spurs missing open shots.
That didn’t happen later on. The Spurs outscored Cleveland 37-17 in the second quarter and kept on playing too fast and too good for the Cavs to catch up. Danny Green spent a lot of time on Kyrie Irving, getting five turnovers out of him and making it very difficult for Irving to involve anyone else as the Cavs once again looked very limited and one dimensional on offense.
Patty Mills was actually the one who triggered the comeback and turnaround with a big second quarter, scoring 10 points. The Spurs were filled with point guards and still have Cory Joseph, but it looks like Popovich has a much better idea from recent games who’ll provide the better backup and resting minutes for Tony Parker.
It was interesting to see Green do so well, hitting 3-of-7 from beyond the arc, because it brought you back to the NBA finals in which Green had a roller coaster ride. From a role player who doesn’t do much but defend to a lethal sharpshooter aiming to be the series MVP, and back to a role player who can’t do anything on offense unless he’s open.
Green knows his limitations, and doesn’t try to do more than he can. That’s probably the best way to describe the Popovich recipe: Building a team built with players smart enough to know what they can and can’t do on the court, which surprisingly isn’t that common in the NBA. Green might not be too much of a scorer unless he’s left completely open, but when the Spurs play basketball the way they want, he’s going to get plenty of opportunities to show his scoring touch.
It was a chance for Duncan and Parker to step back and watch. Duncan played 26 minutes and took only 5 shots, adding 7 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Parker was on the floor even less, finishing with 3-of-11 from the field, as San Antonio actually did better without him for once.