It’s hard to think about it at the moment, but the San Antonio Spurs vastly exceeded expectations by reaching the NBA finals, not to mention dragging it to a game 7 and being in it right up until the very end. Why it ended badly? Because Tim Duncan was alone among the big three that showed up for the final two games, while Manu Ginobili kept making all the wrong moves, and Tony Parker didn’t have it in him to be on the court in crunch time.
Fatigue, eventually, got to the Spurs, who might be the younger team on average, but their key players aren’t built for seven games in two weeks, and three so intense ones in five days. Tony Parker wasn’t at his fittest for quite some time, but the last two games were especially troublesome for him, being guarded by LeBron James, finishing with 3-of-12 from the field in game 7 and 6-of-23 in game 6, most of them while the best player in the world was covering him.
Manu Ginobili wasn’t troubled by injuries, but by other things. His terrible game 6 ending, turning the ball over four times in the late fourth quarter and overtime, stuck with him. As we approached the deciding moments, he did have one big three pointer and another assist to Kawhi Leonard that kept San Antonio one basket away from Miami, but he turned the ball over three times in the final possessions – once by not being able to catch the ball without any pressure on him; once by sending a pass no one understood where it was going; and a third time by making the bad choice under the basket, passing to a covered Tim Duncan without even looking.
Tim Duncan? He showed up, big time. A three-time Finals MVP that has been deemed too old more than once over the last few years, but Duncan had no trouble scoring and dominating a younger (and shorter) Chris Bosh, finishing with 24 points and 12 rebounds. And yet what he’ll remember is that miss with less than a minute left, a running hook that he usually hits with ease. This time, the presence of Shane Battier was too much for him to overcome.
The Spurs didn’t have anything from Danny Green once again, but the problem is Green tried to force his way through the slump. Green isn’t the kind of player who’ll dribble his way out of a defense, and the only shot he made all game long was the one time the Miami Heat left him open. The other 11 times, there was some sort of obstruction in his way, and the Heat’s decision to finally take away the three point shot from the Spurs paid off, and showed how offensively mediocre Green really is.
Kawhi Leonard was the one who came out with the highest rise in his stocks over the series. He was the only one who didn’t tire out in the final two games, but he was too late on James’ big shot with 27 seconds left, partially blocked by Tony Parker himself, as he was getting away from the screen set for James. Leonard finished with 19 points and 16 rebounds, averaging 14.6 and 11.1 throughout the series.
Gregg Popovich decided to go with Ginobili and give up on Parker. He made mistakes in game 6, he made them again in game 7. The truth is, it’s not like he had much of a choice. Those are his ball handlers, like it or not. Ginobili was playing terribly, while Parker simply couldn’t stand on his feet at the end. Gambling on Cory Joseph or Nando de Colo after ignoring them all series long wasn’t the way to go.
The Spurs have been counted out from ever winning the title so many times since 2007, it’s gotten a little old and tired. This team played better basketball than the Miami Heat for most of the series, and are certainly not done being a major force in the NBA. Finalists once more? Too soon to tell, and won’t happen without certain additions, not to mention the questions surrounding the future of Ginobili and his possible retirement.