What will it take for the San Antonio Spurs to win their fifth NBA finals? Their defense, which so far did a good job in keeping LeBron James out of the paint on three of four occasions, and playing quick and smart offense that slices through all the traps and double teams, but that can’t happen with Tony Parker at less than 100% or Manu Ginobili playing like he can’t wait to retire.
Where’s Tim Duncan in all of this? Despite being able to pull of 20-12 or whatever number of rebounds he comes up with, his importance comes on defense. In blocking the paint and stopping anyone who does get by Danny Green or Kawhi Leonard. Duncan struggled in that role in game 4, as the Heat spread the Spurs a bit too thin, leaving Duncan all alone while James and Wade easily drove to the basket, and Chris Bosh had more space than in the previous games to hit his mid-range jumpers.
Where is Kawhi Leonard in all of this? His defense is the key, but his offense isn’t going to be something that makes or breaks the team. It’s certainly a plus having him hitting open three point shots or making plays off of loose balls and offensive rebounds, but that’s not the heart and soul of the Spurs’ offense, and what he does with the ball didn’t make the Spurs score 113 points with 16 three-pointers in game 3.
What about Danny Green and Gary Neal? Game 4 was the perfect example of how it’s not up to them. Green will make open shots more likely than not (67.9% from beyond the arc in this series), but the kind of shots that fell for him in game 3 aren’t going to drop in each game. The same goes for Gary Neal, who hit more tough shots than anyone in that game, but it had nothing to do with the flow of the game or chances created by Parker and Ginobili.
And that’s where the two players come in. It’s useless explaining again why Tony Parker is the best and most important players for the Spurs, but the second half in game 4 was a perfect example of San Antonio’s to not just have the right kind of plays set up for them by Gregg Popovich, but to have the right kind of player execute them on the court. The Spurs have been this good because of their intelligent players, with Ginobili usually not missing a beat in terms of ball handling and directing a team when Parker is off the floor. The Spurs were this bad in the second half because they both were.
For Parker, it might be the injury, but it might be fatigue, like he mentioned. After scoring 15 points in the first half, Parker missed all four field goals in the second, and couldn’t beat his defender even once, as the tough shots he amazingly made in the first 24 minutes stopped falling. Once he wasn’t able to carve the Heat’s defense open, the turnovers started happening, and the Spurs can’t run with the Heat.
Ginobili? He’s averaging 7.5 points while shooting 34.5% from the field and 18.8% from beyond the arc. He can’t seem to make a decent decision most of the time, and has cost the Spurs quite a few possessions and points on the other end because he keeps making mistakes. Maybe there’s still time for him to fix the damage he’s done, but with Parker a question mark due to his health, the Spurs can’t win with Ginobili being a question mark regarding his ability to still perform at this level. Tim Duncan can get all the double-doubles in the world; without the two other angles in the veteran triangle, the Spurs don’t stand a chance.