While the San Antonio Spurs have figured out how to stop Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, getting their big three going all at one has been a bit more difficult in the playoffs. So while Tim Duncan was benched in crunch time and the Tony Parker – Manu Ginobili tandem proved to be on one of their worst days this season, Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter proved there’s plenty of depth behind the old, beaten up names.
Splitter hasn’t been used much in this series, but finally, over the last couple of games, he has shaken off his injury problems and the Spurs have looked much better definitively for it, limiting the Warriors to 86.5 points per game. Splitter was incredible off the pick-and-roll all night, scoring 14 points, including two layups early in the fourth quarter that kept the Warriors from getting any closer to six. Ginobili wasn’t hitting shots (1-6) from the field, but he was finding open men all over the place, finishing with 11 assists in the 94-82 win.
Tony Parker was only 3-for-16 throughout the game, scoring 13 points and adding 8 assists. The Spurs were so efficient off Pick-and-rolls for their big man, especially for Duncan and Splitter, combining for 16 points. It was especially evident and effective considering how badly the Warriors’ big men fizzled out, scoring only 3 points on such plays, as the Spurs once again took away the Stephen Curry weapon, leaving the Warriors looking like a very limited team.
Curry simply didn’t recover from game 1, because it forced the Spurs to keep a much better eye on him, and the same goes from Klay Thompson, who hardly contributed during the series except for game 2. The return of Splitter made the defensive adjustments much more comfortable for the Spurs, and Leonard made life very difficult for Thompson, scoring only 10 points on 4-12 from the field.
Curry? He couldn’t score off the dribble, making only 38% of those shots in game 6 and a terrible 33% in games 2 through 6. The Spurs sent Danny Green on him more and more throughout the series, and his 22 points in the 82-94 loss to close out the series didn’t negate the fact that the Spurs continued attacking him on offense, with Curry posting a -19 during his 40 minutes on the floor.
San Antonio are going to have a very different series when they face the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western finals. A lot less chasing around the perimeter (Although Mike Conley is going to be a major factor), a lot more falling into the paint and trying to help Duncan and Splitter on Gasol and Randolph. San Antonio showed they can learn while going forward, making the right kind of adjustments as the series goes on.
More importantly? The emergence of Green, Leonard and the return of Splitter. While the preferred way to win is still when Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili do most of the damage through ball handling and Tim Duncan is amazing in the post, their younger, newer and less proven players have what it takes to be more than just role players. They have what it takes to be leaders for a championship caliber team.