My man Bart was really stoked after last night’s game. It might be hard to tell from his recap because he is the blogging equivalent of Kawhi Leonard.
In all seriousness, I am really stoked myself. In the first quarter of the game, I had that sinking feeling like “ah man, this is going to be a tough series, especially if we don’t get that game tomorrow”. Then the Spurs came back and I’m WAY over on the other end. I’m thinking how invincible we are.
Here are a few thoughts on our team.
We are good. Really, really damn good. We knew this. After yesterday, I now think not only are we really good, but we are also very confident. The Spurs, as an entire team, now possess that swagger that swaggerless people have when they have swagger. No bravado. No insecurity. Just complete and total confidence in themselves. You can’t fake it. You can’t pretend to have it. You have to earn it. They had building it up in this winning streak and they earned the full measure of it yesterday.
The one thing that I’m telling myself, in order to preserve some perspective on how good I think this team is, is to remember that the Clippers are hurt. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and Caron Butler are all injured and playing below full speed. I’m not trying to diminish the wins, I’m just trying to keep perspective on how I think we are playing and how that translates to the next rounds.
Dominance and Completeness
Now that I have all that perspective in place. Let’s talk about how good the Spurs are. You can’t browse the web these days without stumbling upon an article detailing the Spurs dominant stretch. Another meme that is starting to appear is how complete they are. They don’t win with their style. They win with any style. Look at the games they have played against the Clippers. In game 1, they shut down Paul and Griffin. In game 2, the Clippers shoot 9-13 from 3-pt. In game 3, Griffin goes off and Paul has a double-double. All had the same results. If they let Paul have assists, the Spurs win. If they single Griffin and he gets hot, the Spurs win. If the Clips get a great effort from their bench, the Spurs win. Tony plays terrible, the Spurs win. Tony on fire, the Spurs win. Play fast, Spurs win. Play slow, Spurs win. In short, the Spurs aren’t dominating any one facet of the game. Or even two or three facets. Ok, that’s not quite true. There is one facet they are dominating. Execution.
I re-watched the game last night. I didn’t realize *just* how good Kawhi was yesterday. Considering what I was tweeting about him – Kawhi is the badassest of the badassed people, that’s saying something. I deflected more balls than I realized. Boris Diaw’s steal was helped by Kawhi’s long-armed presence and Kawhi is the one he corralled the ball. That bad shot where Randy Foye went up in the paint and the ball landed on the Spurs bench, that was Kawhi knocking it loose just as he went up. A poke at the ball around Paul ended up back with the Clippers. He recovered his block of Paul’s shot. He led the break where Danny Green missed the layup and Tim tipped in the rebound. He had a whole mess of activities that didn’t end up in the box score. Caron Bulter was 0-2.
Probably the single biggest thing he does game in and game out, every possession, that doesn’t show in the box score is that he runs hard up and down the court the entire game. Every single possession. This puts a lot of pressure on the other team when he’s out there with Tony. Especially when he’s making his corner 3. It also means that the other team’s bigs have to run because Kawhi’s man can’t help on a Tim Duncan beating Blake Griffin down the court.
If you haven’t seen it, Tim has a great quote about Kawhi in the press conference. Then, Kevin Arnovitz asks a follow up question about it. More or less Tim says, “Kawhi is more mellow than me, if that’s even possible.”
I always have two favorite players on the Spurs. Tim Duncan and my favorite non-Tim Duncan player. In past years, it has been George Hill. This year it is Kawhi. But, however much a rave about Kawhi being my favorite, it should be assumed that I mean “my favorite non-Tim Duncan”.
Tim was just phenomenal yesterday. His block of Griffin just left Griffin flustered. It was kind of funny to watch Griffin’s reaction. It was like he first thought “Hey, I want to look to the refs for a call.” Then, “I can’t that was too clean.” Then, “Damn, that was bad and Tim is old and he still stopped me cold.” It was cold in that way that Tim does it with cold calculation. He didn’t jump around and beat his chest afterward. He just got ready to do it again.
Speaking of which…
Did you hear Mike Brean’s comment to Van Gundy when Bonner fell over Griffin and they got all tangled up? Brean said, “It’s nice to see guys get tangled up and not try to fight each other.” Over and over again in these playoffs, I have seen the Spurs and their opponents be civil to each other in non-action sequences. Tim grabbed Jordan by the shorts to keep him from falling into the camera guys. Griffin asked Bonner is he was alright. In game 2, when Manu fouled Griffin on the break, Manu went up to him well afterward to ask him if he was alright. In game 1 or 2, Tim turned up court and hit Griffin in the mouth with an arm or shoulder and Tim stopped to see if he was alright and put his hand on his head. I’ve seen Tony help up Chris Paul.
You can play hard and not be a dick. Not sure if anybody in the East knows this, but it is true. Even Kenyon Martin has been able to deliver some nice hard fouls without taking a cheap shot at somebody.