While Tim Duncan isn’t having the easiest of time so far in the Western Conference semifinals, completely forgetting about the number one reason the San Antonio Spurs are four-time NBA champions in the fourth quarter might have been the biggest mistake Gregg Popovich, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili made in their game 2 loss.
Once again, the Spurs kept chasing younger and faster players. If it was Stephen Curry in the first game, Klay Thompson filled that tormentor role during the first half, leading to an eventual 100-91 win for the Warriors, their first in San Antonio after 30 games. They managed to narrow the lead down to 7 through some big shots from Gary Neal, scoring 6 points in the game and doing more harm than good during his minutes on the floor.
When you look at the overall picture, Duncan had a good performance, and during his minutes on the floor, the Spurs were at least equal to the Warriors, showing great ability to shift between big and small lineups thanks to the problems Curry is presenting. Duncan scored 23 points, adding 9 rebounds and did a good job in keeping Bogut off the offensive glass.
But after 33 touches through the first three quarters, resulting in 21 points, Duncan touched the ball only three times in the crucial quarter, taking only one shot at the basket. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili might be the play-makers for the Spurs, especially in crunch time, but ignoring Duncan, who is doing a good job against younger men, was the wrong way to handle their chase after the Warriors.
And then there’s the defensive problem. Putting Kawhi Leonard on Stephen Curry halted the best shooter in the league during the final stages of the previous game, but Mark Jackson learned from that. He made it a bigger lineup, that made putting Leonard on Curry a liability creating a post mismatch in the Warriors favor. Curry, averaging 8.9 assists in the postseason, knows very well how to find and identify these situations, even when his shooting isn’t going too well.
And once again the Spurs’ shooting was atrocious. If you’re looking for one person to blame, you won’t find it. The Warriors are simply playing very good defense, closing down lanes for Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, forced to take tougher shots than they would like. But there’s also the Spurs missing easy shots – both Parker, Ginobili, Leonard and Green had enough clean looks to make it a much closer game in the final quarter, and they’ll continue to get these looks as the series progresses. For now, missing them has cost the Spurs home court advantage.
They can be satisfied with their defense on Curry in Game 2. Danny Green did an excellent job on him, forcing Curry to drive instead of shoot, but then Thompson erupted, hitting seven three pointers in one half. It makes no difference. The Spurs need Tiago Splitter on the court for more than 10 minutes a game, and more importantly, need to remember that Tim Duncan needs to touch the ball more than 3 times in one quarter, especially when it’s the fourth.