Adios, San Antonio: Why the Spurs are Done For

I was rooting for the Spurs last night. I hate the Heat with all of my young, naive heart. Because deep in the recesses of my soul, I believe that good will always triumph over evil–that no matter what hardships are faced, no matter the slings and arrows of defeat–that in the end, the good guy will win.

Not anymore.

There are two reasons why the Spurs lost last night: free throws and Gregg Popovich.

The free throws are easy to explain. Hit them and you’ve won a championship, yet they missed 7 as a team, 3 or 4 of them during critical junctures in the NBA Finals Game 6 last night. The hard part to explain is the mental three-ring circus that head coach Gregg Popovich put on–a ringmaster leading bumbling grizzly bears on trikes to the basket.

With the game on the line, ol’ Pop refused to take Manu Ginobli out of the game. Manu, a man who had 9 points and 8 turnovers. A man who almost had the double double stat line from hell. A man who has had one great game this entire playoffs, when his legacy as a man, who puts an orange thing in an orange thing, was on the line.

Then, on the last play of the game, ol’ Pop puts in Duncan (who he had been routinely taking out, which lead to multiple Heat offensive rebounds) and Splitter. Down 3 points and needing a three-pointer, and he decides not to put in…oh, I don’t know, maybe 5 three-point shooters!

Popovich has been hailed as one of the most cerebral coaches of his era, but last night showed how confidence can lead to calamity. After Manu had a great game as a starter, Pop road that Euro turnover train til it derailed the entire franchise. Those 8 turnovers from Manu were so stupid. Let me explain.

Manu would take the ball at the top of the key. Duncan would pick for him and roll to the basket, and Manu would pass him the ball. Very simple basketball for most.

Well, easy for defenders as well. The Heat quickly realized that this was the only play Manu was actually capable–well, I take that back–not capable of making. Every time he tried this pick-n-pass, he got picked off. Not once during the game did Manu make a clean pass. But it turned out that Manu had saved his greatest turnover for overtime:

Yeah, Manu, taking on 4 defenders by yourself, who have proven to have an eye for the ball, is such a sound decision. Why Popovich left this guy in I feel has mostly to do with their career relationship. So, you’ve worked with a guy for over a decade, so what? It would be a lot easier to explain to Manu how you sat him in game 6 when you have a championship ring to give him.

This was by far the worst coaching job in this chess match of a series. The games have gone back and forth the whole time. Many people cite the fact that Miami hasn’t lost two games in a row since the first of this year. But they seem to forget that the Heat haven’t won two games in a row in 13 games now.

Still, I don’t think the Spurs can recover from such a loss. Knowing you played well enough to have won, but still lost, is a hard pill to swallow.

Thanks, Pops.


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