TrueHoop: Gregg Popovich

The Spurs' great H-E-B commercial legacy

March, 19, 2014
Mar 19
10:26
AM ET
Serrano By Shea Serrano
Special to ESPN.com
Archive
San Antonio SpursAP Photo/Bahram Mark SobhaniSalsa. Shaving cream. Laundry detergent. Steaks. This is what the Spurs are all about.
The coolest San Antonio Spurs commercial of all time ran as part of the NBA's BIG playoff campaign in 2012. It very simply showed an offensive play being run in slow motion by Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan while only Mobb Deep's "Shook Ones" played in the background. It was perfect. All of it. Every single part. It was exactly who the Spurs are. I think I cried for, like, 45 minutes after I watched it.

The runner-up to the 2012 spot was the one that ran in 2005, when Nike was doing those bits where NBA players turned into animals. You can’t find the clip on the Internet anywhere, but the ad strung together separate clips of Manu, Tony and Bruce Bowen before they all morphed into piranhas. Other NBA players got similar treatments in the series. LeBron had one where he turned into a lion, and Dirk had one where he turned into an eagle or something, though if I were in charge I'd have had him turn into an ostrich. The most charming one of that group of commercials was Earl Boykins' -- he turned into a tiny poison dart frog, and that's just adorable.

The least-coolest Spurs commercial of all time was the one where Michael Finley was telling kids not to do drugs.

And somewhere in between all three of those fall the H-E-B commercials, 20 or so segments filmed over the past 10 or so years where various recent Spurs players (mostly Tim, Manu and Tony, but also sometimes Brent Barry and Bruce Bowen or Matt Bonner and Kawhi Leonard, and even occasionally coach Gregg Popovich) talk about brisket or laundry detergent or chip salsa.

H-E-B is a San Antonio-based supermarket chain that’s been around for nearly 110 years. They are, to be clear, beloved, woven all the way into the fabric of the city. My friends and I used to ride our bikes to the H-E-B by my house and then go inside and steal the pan de dulce they had on display in the bakery area. It's one of the first things I remember when I think about being a kid in San Antonio. H-E-B is basically the only grocery store my mom has ever shopped at. When my parents come to visit my family and me in Houston, they drive clean past three separate grocery stores to get to an out-of-the-way H-E-B whenever they need to buy something. That's just how it is. There is an actual symbiotic relationship there. Which is probably, at least in part, how/why the Spurs/H-E-B commercials have engendered the cult-like appreciation and fanfare they have in San Antonio.

I'm aware that all NBA cities have these sorts of locally run commercials where NBA players pitch car dealerships and mattress stores and so on -- I've watched them in Houston for years now -- but I feel confident in assuming that none are better than Spurs/H-E-B ones. The most recent batch, which went live in October, had a reverb that, for the first time in my memory, extended all the way into my Internet purview, landing at Yahoo! and Sports Illustrated and SLAM and more.

The seven most important H-E-B/Spurs commercials from their run together:

"One For Each"


This was one of the four most recent ones from the aforementioned October batch. People were excited about this one because it was the first time that Kawhi Leonard ever spoke in his whole entire life. (Kawhi will grow to be as loved a Spur as there ever has been, I'm sure of it. He's perfect. I love him.) You'll notice how easy Parker is in it, which is something he only recently figured out how to do. Duncan is an admirable straight man, a role he has held for the entirety of the series. And Manu is Manu, which is to say that he is God's Hand.

"M1 Effect"


Important because it is the only commercial that's ever been played in San Antonio that implied that a threesome was about to occur. Respect history, son.

"Laundry Sorting"


Kawhi again. Every time I watch this my heart melts to liquid from being so in love and then leaks out of my everything. Kawhi is an angel on Earth.

Note: During Game 6 of last year's NBA Finals, when Kawhi missed one of the two free throws he shot at the end of the game, giving the Spurs a three-point lead over the Heat (which Ray Allen eventually gobbled up) instead of four, that was very much the saddest point of my whole entire life. Not because the Spurs lost. I mean, it's whatever. I've seen the Spurs lose before. I'll watch them lose again. That's not a thing. It was so sad because it happened to Kawhi -- TO MY KAWHI. It was worse than when I watched my own son steal a ball from his teammate during his YMCA basketball game and then dribble to wrong side of the court and shoot a layup.

"Tough Talk"


Kawhi again, OMG.

"Night Club"


Important because Pop shows up. My one dream is to play for Coach Popovich. My other dream is that they remake “Bloodsport” and I get to play the lead. I'll take either one of those dreams.

"Poetry"


I met Brent Barry once. He was thoughtful and engaging. I liked him as a human. And I definitely liked him as a player for the Spurs, particularly during Game 1 of the West finals against the Phoenix Suns in 2005 (he went 5-for-8 on 3-pointers and tied for the highest plus/minus of any player on the court). And I enjoy him as a commentator and analyst, too. The best Brent Barry TV moment was when he was on NBA TV's "Open Court" and was ornery when discussing the dunk contest that he won. But I just didn't care for him much in these spots. It always seemed like he should've been funnier. I don't know. The Spurs won two titles with him, though, so he's good by San Antonio forever.

"Jerseys Smell Good"


Important because it was the only time in these commercials that Bruce Bowen was funny (the "How are they gonna respect us ..." line).

Note: Bowen is one of my all-time favorite Spurs players. Whenever I played rec league basketball in college or even today I always claim No. 12 for my stuff. I always appreciated his tenacity. I also appreciated his willingness to trip other players. That's basically my best defensive move, just tripping people while they're running around. #Bowen4lyfe

Bonus: "David Robinson and Dennis Rodman for Pizza Hut"


There have of course been other fun commercials in Spurs history. The American Express one with Tim Duncan is a personal favorite, if only because the herculean Kevin Willis has a very sneaky cameo in it. And there's also the Mister Robinson's Neighborhood one David Robinson did with Charles Barkley. And the Sprite one with Tim Duncan and Grant Hill where they're doing odd jobs during the 1998 NBA lockout. And the shaving one with Tim and Robinson together shortly after the Spurs drafted Tim. But maybe the best is the above Pizza Hut one, where David Robinson is talking to Dennis Rodman about how Rodman needs to open up and allow himself to be more weird.

I miss David Robinson so much.

I assume that these commercials will go on forever. There is no chance that the Spurs will ever leave San Antonio and there is an even smaller chance that H-E-B will ever not be around. And I’m grateful for that and happy. I just pray that Kawhi is around for just as long.

10 Things To Know: Christmas games

December, 24, 2013
12/24/13
4:36
PM ET
Verrier By Justin Verrier
ESPN.com
Archive
"I actually feel sorry for people who have nothing to do on Christmas Day other than watch an NBA game.” -- Stan Van Gundy

Despite concern among the mustachioed and unmustachioed alike, the NBA's Christmas Day lineup has become a holiday unto itself.

With football occupying a large portion of the viewing public's attention as the calendar year winds down, the first month-plus of the basketball season tends to be more of a warm-up for most. Christmas Day, then, has become something of an unofficial start to the season for late arrivals over the past few years, and the league has welcomed all with open arms by providing a smorgasbord of premier, nationally televised matchups.

To prepare for the full slate at hand, here are 10 things to know about the 10 teams hitting the NBA hardwood on Dec. 25.


1. The Kobe-LeBron rivalry is over before it began

The puppets are always the first to know.
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In 2009, just before LeBron James officially established his MVP bona fides and Kobe Bryant proved himself on a championship stage without Shaquille O’Neal, their clash over the same rarefied air space defined the NBA. James’ Cavaliers and Bryant’s Lakers were emerging as the league’s controlling elite, and with the two seeming predestined to meet in the NBA Finals at some point in the near future, if only because we deserved such a matchup from the basketball gods, Nike launched an ad campaign featuring plush likenesses of the All-Star wings sharing the same apartment to capitalize on the momentum.

But arguing over excess chalk dust on their Muppetized loveseat likely will be the only important postseason meeting between the two in their careers. What at one point seemed an unavoidable collision course turned into two highly accessorized ships passing in the night. Their seven-year gap between human and basketball years simply led to unparalleled peaks, and now what we’re left with to show from all the debating, hyping and hoping, besides the residual effects from the careless rearing of poor Lil’ Dez, are two Christmas Day blowouts in favor of James’ team, in 2009 and 2010.

The appetite from the league at large, though, remains unsatisfied. Why else would Heat-Lakers be plopped on the schedule this offseason right in the middle of Bryant’s recovery from an Achilles injury, instead of, say, Heat-Pacers? If market size does indeed matter so much, why not choose the Los Angeles team contending for a title?

Given James and the Heat's otherworldly production and Bryant and the Lakers' current struggles, both physically and personnel-wise, the rivalry that figured to end as an all-timer will never be the same, even if what we got never seemed enough.


2. The master

Twenty-eight is old in basketball years, but Chris Paul has probably seemed that way for some time now. LeBron James is 28, too, but his mass appeal keeps him at the forefront of the youth culture, even amid all that family-man branding. Blake Griffin (24) and DeAndre Jordan (25) feel like they’re decades apart from their point guard. In his own way, the reserved Kevin Durant (25) does, too. There’s always been an extreme poise emanating from Paul, whether it’s assuming control of the offense by sheer food-chain protocol or wrangling his chubby-cheeked son in the Clippers’ locker room. Even at his flashiest, knifing through lanes with precision dribbling, it’s all about seizing complete control.
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Indeed, Paul can dazzle, but he’d rather pull it back and process a situation. While centers stretch out to the arc and coaches push the pace to Ferrari-like speeds, Paul is content in his Volvo, getting exactly where he needs to go without any complications.

But with a roster built to get up and down more so than in his previous two seasons in Los Angeles, Paul has had to soup things up a bit. After playing at the 25th-fastest pace in his first season and the 19th-fastest in his next, Paul’s Clippers now rank eighth, among the Houstons and the Denvers. That plus the added slack taken on after the injuries to J.J. Redick and Matt Barnes have led to a hit in his shooting numbers, which surely nags him, but he’s never been more efficient as a Clipper, and most of his other stats are up (rebounds, assists) or near highs (points) for his stint in L.A., too.

The proliferation and growing public consumption of analytics only deepen the appreciation for the decidedly old-school game manager. The passing data from the SportVU tracking system is a virtual shrine to his mastery of the position: He leads all others in assists per game, total assists, secondary assists (tied), assist opportunities, points created by assists and points created by assists per 48 minutes. There’s only one other category, passes per game, in which he ranks second.

What’s old is new again, or maybe it’s the other way around. But the Clippers are looking forward again after some early hiccups, and Paul is again on track to finally capitalize on the window he has in his prime years, however long it may last.


3. A pair of aces
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Each cut to the rim, each stroke on his wizardly mane, each up-and-under move to draw a foul will probably always sting a little back in Oklahoma. There's no replacing a James Harden, even if the kiddies being groomed in the second unit are beginning to look like important pieces in the Thunder's championship quest. But the two dynamic superstars still lurking on the wings certainly haven't slowed down in their sixth season together.

According to our friends at ESPN Stats & Info, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are currently the highest-scoring duo in the NBA for the third consecutive season, with 49.7 points per game between them. Only four other duos in league history have accomplished that for three straight seasons or more, with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen the last to do so from 1989 to 1993 with an NBA-record four.


4. It’s gotta be the sleeves?

First, a few words from LeBron James on the shimmering, Y2K-influenced sleeved jersey each team will don for Wednesday’s five-game slate, via the Miami Herald’s Joe Goodman:
LeBron said in pregame that the Heat’s shooters “are already upset about” the Christmas jerseys.

LEBRON: "I can’t have my shooters out there worrying about some sleeves and not shooting the ball."

Shooters are a neurotic bunch. Ray Allen, the greatest long-range threat in history, is more programmed than any player at this point: He follows the same warm-up routine, eats the same pregame meal, shaves his head at the same time. He once told Jackie MacMullan that he has “borderline OCD.” Anything that alters that ritual could pose an issue, and imagined or not, those teeny compression sleeves present just enough foreign element to unravel what is largely a life of repetition for the modern pro basketball player.

The Warriors, then, would be among the teams most likely to feel such an effect. Golden State has built its brand around its deep shooting, and currently ranks second in the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage and among the league leaders in percentage of shots taken from 3.

But after serving as the lab rats for adidas’ grand sleeved experiment last season, the Warriors have sported white, home jerseys with the new look and shown no apparent ill effects from it. In the four games they’ve broken out the sleeves in 2013-14, the Warriors have shot 46.5 percent from the floor and 40.6 percent from 3, which is right on par with their season averages of 46.2 and 40.2 (and among the more ridiculous stats ever published).


5. An exercise in sadness, Part A

Brooklyn knew it was operating without a net. You don't hand out draft picks like grocery-store coupons without feeling the pressure, the doubt of it all, even with all those barrels of cash to wipe your brow. And somehow, that self-awareness only makes the crash landing of the Nets' championship hopes, all the way down to fourth from the bottom in the putrid Eastern Conference, that much more gruesome.

Here's a look at all the grim and grisly carnage thus far.







6. Behold: The Sultan of Swag

At this point, Kobe Bryant’s snarling underbite is a tradition that ranks right up there with the more menacing characters of Christmas-season story time. The 17-year veteran has played in more Christmas Day games (15) than anyone else in NBA history and has accumulated the most career Christmas points (383). Really, what use is a Christmas ham these days without a dozen contested midrange J's to go with it?
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This year, though, your yuletide bombardiering will come not from the itchy trigger finger of Bryant, who is expected to miss five more weeks with a knee fracture, but courtesy of the “Swag Mamba,” Nick Young, who in his first season with his hometown Lakers enters the Christmas spotlight for just the second time.

The cockatooed sixth-year swingman certainly lacks the gravitas Bryant brings these days, but any game that prominently features Young, a smiley SoCal native with the O’Doul's version of Kobe’s skill set, is something of an impromptu field day -- all fun, all the time.
And with Bryant again aching, there’s been more Swag Time than ever: Young, whose shot selection ethos befits an “If it fits, I sits” cat, leads the Lakers in attempts (16.3) and points (21.3) in three games sans Bryant, and has even been given spot duty at the 1 for the point guard-depleted Lakers despite one of the very worst assist ratios among small forwards.

So, another LeBron-Kobe clash may not be in the offing, but these modern-day Lakers are a special kind of “Showtime” with the blissfully oblivious Young as their guiding force. Expect enjoyment, if not fierce competition, to ensue.


7. Welcome back, Dwight Howard

Anyone who has ever had to procure a postgame quote from Dwight Howard wouldn’t be surprised that the All-Star big man needed time to do anything, but 20 months and three teams after undergoing back surgery, the now-28-year-old center is beginning to look as close to his heyday as he may ever get.
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Smart people across the Interwebs have discussed the progressive tactics the Rockets’ offense has employed to great success, and amid the revolution, the back-to-the-basket big man Daryl Morey nabbed from the Lakers this past summer is having his best month offensively since April 2011, with 21.2 points on 62 percent shooting, 14.5 rebounds, 2 blocks, 60 percent free throw shooting (!) and 100 percent 3-point shooting (!!) in 35 minutes over 11 December games. The Rockets have five more games on the slate before the new year, but the only thing close to that since he wore out a FastPass at Disney World was a torrid eight-game April (20.9 points, 61.1 FG%, 10.5 rebounds, 2.4 blocks) to push the Lakers into the playoffs.

Outside of PER, virtually all of his advanced numbers on the season are better than they have been since 2010-11, and while he’s no longer the pre-eminent rim protector in the league, he’s become a force again in the paint on both ends of the floor. It seems the four-out, one-in approach on which he thrived in Orlando and now is again (to a certain degree) in Houston is more to his liking than blowing off pick-and-rolls. A happy Dwight is indeed a productive Dwight.


8. An exercise in sadness, Part B

Need another downer while the yuletide joy is flowing?

Facing off against the Nets on Wednesday will be one of the few teams that can feel them in all their catatonic pain, the Chicago Bulls, who have wandered the earth aimlessly after losing Derrick Rose once again.






9. Melo has Durant’s number

It’s quite fitting, given this fever dream of a Knicks season, that Carmelo Anthony joins their Magna Carta-length list of question marks with a bum left ankle right before they need him most. The Knicks obviously rely on Anthony and his 26.3 points per game; his 28.9 usage rate is fourth-highest in the league; and he's one of the team's few major contributors with a plus/minus better than minus-1 on the season, per NBA.com/stats.
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But while Kevin Durant and the Thunder roll into Christmas Day as the most imposing challenge in the league right now, they present the Knicks with one of their best chances yet of obtaining a first big win of the season -- if Anthony is active.

Despite the Thunder’s dominance of late, in the 12 games Anthony has faced Durant over the past seven years, the elder Melo is 11-1, according to Elias, with the lone loss coming in double overtime when Anthony was still on the Nuggets and the Thunder didn’t yet exist. In those matchups, Anthony, currently the No. 2 scorer in the NBA, has averaged 30.2 points on 50.2 percent shooting, while Durant, currently the No. 1 scorer in the NBA, has averaged 26.8 points on 42.4 percent shooting. It should be noted, though, that Anthony has played Durant just once in the past two seasons.

Of course, all of that may not have mattered even if Melo were the pinnacle of physical health: The Knicks (9-18) are 0-8 against the Western Conference this season; the Thunder (22-5) are 7-1 against the Eastern Conference.


10. Pop or Scrooge?

Who said it: San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich or Ebenezer Scrooge in the 1951 rendition of “A Christmas Carol”?

A.) “I want some nasty.”

B.) “You’ll want the whole day off, I suppose.”

C.) “Happy? I don’t know how to judge happy.”

D.) “We didn’t send mariachi bands or birthday cards or breakfast in bed.”

E.) “It’s all humbug, I tell you, humbug.”

What's old is new again

November, 22, 2013
11/22/13
9:44
AM ET
McNeill By Andrew McNeill
Special to ESPN.com
Archive
Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, Tony ParkerAP Photo/Eric GayThe Spurs are banking on the same old formula once again, but with a few fresh new looks.
Apart from a single photo from each of their four championship seasons, there are few reminders of the San Antonio Spurs’ rich history near their locker room at the AT&T Center. Down a long white hallway where action shots of each of San Antonio’s active players are displayed, the title photos -- those uncomfortable team portraits with everyone from the equipment manager to team owner -- hang above metal boxes into which television stations plug their equipment. Cameras, microphones and small monitors are often left sitting on the floor under these team photos as people go about their business before the game. It is the messy part of an empty wing, far from a cherished section designed to immortalize Spurs teams reaching the ultimate achievement.

In the players’ lockers hang jerseys with accents that are oh, so familiar. Like it has for years, white trim outlines the black for the numbers 21, 20 and 9 and black lettering for the names “Duncan,” “Ginobili” and “Parker.” But these days they sometimes sit atop a camouflage pattern, a tribute to San Antonio’s large military community, or a silver alternate with a large single spur on the front.
[+] EnlargeTony Parker
AP Photo/Eric GayHas the sun finally set on San Antonio's dynasty?

The Spurs have won at least 50 games in 14 straight seasons, an NBA record. They’ve had the same coach for 18 seasons, the same star player for 16 seasons and the same “Big Three” for about a decade. It’s a franchise steeped in history.

But amid all the consistency, this franchise is constantly evolving. San Antonio was one of the early adopters of the SportVU camera tracking system. Last season, the Spurs became the first team in NBA history to go text-free when they debuted their gray alternate jerseys, declining to put a city or nickname on the front of the jersey and simply featuring that spur on the chest. There is now an in-house DJ for home games and, to my knowledge, Gregg Popovich has yet to order his execution. Tim Duncan (37 years old) and Manu Ginobili (36) will be retired soon enough, but the maturation of Kawhi Leonard (22) has the team optimistic about its future.

There are changes to this roster, but on the floor the product has been maintained, and that continuity is paramount. Twelve players return from a team that finished an excruciating 28 seconds away from an NBA title last season. Ten of those players were on San Antonio’s roster the previous year, when the Spurs squandered a 2-0 lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference finals.

After San Antonio dispatched the Grizzlies in a four-game sweep in last season’s Western Conference finals, the message resonating from San Antonio was about how happy the team was to get Duncan back to the NBA Finals. “We really want to do it for him,” Tony Parker said at the time, pleased he was able to make good on a promise he made to Duncan. The team sounded like a happy family relieved to get one more time together before life took each their separate ways. Some wondered if Duncan would retire after the season.

It was an understandable feeling. Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and Popovich know more than anyone how difficult the road to the Finals is, how many things have to fall into place in order to play into June. The Spurs were as healthy as they had ever been last season. Duncan has battled a deteriorating left knee over the second half of his career, but played 69 regular-season games and produced his best per-game averages in three years. Even Ginobili, who is usually good for one catastrophic injury per season, only dealt with small injuries of the soft tissue variety and played 60 games during the regular season.

Now after 103 games in 2012-13 and a summer full of international play for some of the team, including Parker, this Spurs team is going to play another 100 games and make it back to the Finals?

Yet a quick survey of the Western Conference suggests there’s no reason San Antonio can’t do just that. Every other West contender -- the Thunder, Clippers, Rockets and Warriors -- has a fatal flaw greater than San Antonio. And unlike the Spurs, they’re all figuring it out on the fly.

Questions persist about the mental and emotional toll Game 6 of last season's Finals had on the team, when the Spurs couldn’t secure a defensive rebound to clinch the series and ended up losing in overtime. “I think about Game 6 every day,” Popovich concedes. Other Spurs have similar stories, and who can blame them? San Antonio was seconds from being crowned champion, only to watch it disappear in a tangle of gold ropes on the AmericanAirlines Arena court in Miami. Two days later, in Game 7, the Spurs fell again.
[+] EnlargeTim Duncan
AP Photo/Eric GayDespite a crushing loss to Miami in the NBA Finals, things are looking up once again in San Antonio.

But the NBA season is such a long one. By the time the playoffs roll around Game 6 will seem like an eternity ago. The Spurs realize the painful memories will linger, never to go away completely, but there’s nothing they can do but play their way through it. It hasn’t gotten in their way so far: The Spurs currently sit at the top of the Western Conference with a 10-1 record, their best start through 11 games since 2010-11 when San Antonio began the season 13-1.

Aided in large part by the lack of getting-to-know-you period that so many other teams around the league are experiencing, the Spurs are second in the league in defensive efficiency behind the only other 10-1 team, the Indiana Pacers. The offense resides in the middle of the pack right now, but if San Antonio regains its rhythm and Duncan improves on his nightmarish 38 percent shooting, the offense will creep closer to elite once again.

The Spurs built an empire upon incorporating new aspects to an aging foundation. Young players joined with older to continue a winning tradition in San Antonio, while the organization finds new ways to make this classic franchise one advancing with the times. Imitated -- not quite duplicated -- around the league, the Spurs continue chasing history. Sometimes personnel changes are required for survival, but the Spurs are confident that continuity and a healthy mental state is enough to frame one more 12-by-18 team photo on the white walls outside their locker room.

Three trends behind Spurs' demise

June, 21, 2013
6/21/13
4:26
PM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
Archive
In San Antonio, the proximity to a fifth title will be the legacy of the 2013 NBA Finals.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the San Antonio Spurs are the fourth team in NBA History to blow a 2-1 and 3-2 series lead in the NBA Finals, joining the 1962 Lakers, 1969 Lakers and 1978 Sonics.

Naturally, a post-mortem analysis focuses on what went wrong against the Miami Heat

Benching Parker down the stretch
The losses in Game 6 and 7 shared the curious absence of Tony Parker in crunch-time offensive situations.

In Game 6, Parker remained on the bench for the final 31 seconds of overtime. The ensuing two offensive possessions resulted in a Manu Ginobili turnover and a blocked Danny Green shot.

In Game 7, Parker remained on the bench coming out of a fourth-quarter timeout with the Spurs down by four and 27 seconds remaining. Again, Ginobili turned the ball over.

Would things have gone differently if Gregg Popovich left his best playmaker on the court?

That will remain the great unknown. But it is also worth mentioning Parker’s struggles. He was held scoreless on 0-of-6 shooting on his seven drives and did not create any points for his teammates on drive-and-kicks.

Danny Green hits a wall
Going into Game 6, Green was the likeliest candidate for Finals MVP if the Spurs captured the title. In five games, he’d set an NBA Finals record with 25 3-point field goals, while leading the team with 18 PPG.

That’s when it all fell apart for Green. He went from San Antonio’s most effective offensive weapon into a deep slump.

Green went 2-for-19 (10.5 percent) over the final two games, at one point missing 13 straight shots. Despite his woes, Green played a combined 78 minutes.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, his 1-for-12 performance on Thursday made him just the second player in NBA Finals history to take at least 12 shots in a Game 7 and make one or fewer. The other was Dennis Johnson, who went 0-for-14 for the SuperSonics in 1978 against the Bullets.

LeBron happens
Amidst all of the possible second-guessing of Spurs' decisions, it’s impossible to overlook the impact of LeBron James.

Consider that in the final two games of the series, James averaged 34.5 points, 11 rebounds and 7.5 assists. His 37 points on Thursday, matched Tom Heinsohn’s record for points in a Game 7 win.

The Spurs’ defense is content to allow long and mid-range jumpers. That strategy largely succeeded against LeBron in the first six games. In Game 7, James capitalized.

James was 9-of-20 (45.0%) on field goals outside the paint in Game 7, including 5-of-10 from 3-point range. James attempted 87% of his field goals in Game 7 from outside the paint (49% in Games 1-6), his highest rate since joining the Heat.

A series of adjustments: What's next?

June, 19, 2013
6/19/13
3:59
PM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
Archive
Getty ImagesThe head coaches for both teams have made the right moves throughout this series.
Game 7 won’t just come down to the players on the court. The two coaching staffs in the NBA Finals have each made adjustments throughout the series that have paid off significantly.

Let’s run through what they’ve done so far:

Game 2: Heat go to Chalmers-James pick-and-roll
After the Heat went 0-for-4 on Mario Chalmers/LeBron James pick-and rolls in Game 1, Erik Spoelstra had faith his team would fare better.

The Heat went to this combo often during Game 2's most pivotal run.

The Heat made 6-of-7 shots and scored 16 points on pick-and-roll plays with Chalmers handling and James screening during a 33-5 run in the Heat’s series-evening win.

GAME 4: Mike Miller inserted into the starting lineup
The Heat used a lineup with one traditional big man for all of Game 4 after doing so 65 percent of the time in Games 1-3.

This opened up driving lanes. The Heat shot 11-of-15 off drives by James and Dwyane Wade, with Wade hitting all six of his field goals off his drives.

GAME 5: Manu Ginobili starts for first time since June 6, 2012
Spurs use Boris Diaw extensively on LeBron James

Gregg Popovich inserted a slumping Manu Ginobili into the starting lineup and Ginobili responded in a huge way. He scored a season-high 24 points, including 14 on drives to the basket. His nine points on drives during the Spurs 19-1 fourth-quarter run helped put the game away.

Popovich and crew also gave Boris Diaw an extended look against LeBron James.

James was 1-for-8 shooting against Diaw for the game.

GAME 6: LeBron James attacks with Wade on the bench
The Heat were outscored by 15 points with Dwyane Wade on the court in Game 6, the worst +/- among any Miami player.

Wade was subbed out with 39 seconds remaining in the third quarter with the Heat down 12 in Game 6. When he returned with 3:48 left in the fourth, Miami had a 3-point lead.

James was given more space to drive after Dwyane Wade sat on the bench for the first 8:12 of the fourth quarter, going 3-of-4 on drives in the fourth quarter/overtime.

James was the ball handler on the pick and roll 15 times in Game 6, nearly twice as often as his usage on those plays the first five games of the series.

The Heat shot 7-of-9 on pick and rolls when James was the ball handler in Game 6 (10-of-30 in Games 1-5).

Will this carry over to Game 7? Therein lies some interesting discussions for potential adjustments.

In the series, Miami has been outscored by 56 points with James and Wade on the court together (+48 when James is on the court without Wade)

James is shooting 13-of-14 inside five feet with Wade out of the game in this series, and just over 50 percent on such shots with Wade on the floor.

Pop of the day

June, 13, 2013
6/13/13
2:34
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
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Gregg Popovich
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"The foie gras and truffles treatment worked really well."

-- Gregg Popovich, March 2011, when asked about Tony Parker's surprisingly quick return to the Spurs' lineup following a calf injury.

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June, 11, 2013
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Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
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Gregg Popovich
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"I don’t love [basketball] the way everybody else does. I don’t sleep it and eat it. I already did that, and I know what I like to do, what I like to coach, and that’s what we do. But I’m not gonna beat myself up over a loss and I’m not gonna pat myself on the back about a win. It’s basketball, and it should hold that space in your life. So I don’t think it’s all that important. It’s our job. We work at it, and then you let it go, and think about life, because life’s pretty damn short. I’ll make sure I’m not coaching as long as Nellie and Larry [Brown], that’s for sure.”

-- Gregg Popovich, January 2011

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June, 10, 2013
6/10/13
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Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
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Gregg Popovich
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“When I came down to St. Croix to see Timmy eight or nine years ago, nobody said a word to me [about driving on the left side]. I got my rental car and I went out on the road, and I was gesticulating at like ten people before I realized I was the jerk.”

-- Gregg Popovich, October 2005

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June, 6, 2013
6/06/13
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Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
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Gregg Popovich
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“[Tim Duncan] doesn’t really even talk to me that much anymore. We’ve been married so long that ... half the things I say he doesn’t hear, the other half he tunes out if he did hear, because he figures it’s bull----. Manu’s getting to that point. Tony’s close to it."

-- Gregg Popovich, November 2012

Media guide to Gregg Popovich

June, 5, 2013
6/05/13
12:54
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Adande By J.A. Adande
ESPN.com
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Gregg PopovichBob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsA lesson to the media: Choose your questions wisely when talking to Gregg Popovich.

This has the potential to be one of the most fascinating matchups of the NBA Finals:

Gregg Popovich against the media.

The in-game interviews might be the most visible, but they’re also the smallest skirmish in the ongoing battle. Popovich will interact with the media before and after games, after practices and shootarounds, and even the occasional encounter in a hallway or parking lot. So with the hope of fostering greater peace, I’m passing along a few tips for dealing with Popovich to my media brethren.

Popovich is actually one of my favorite people in the league. His answers can range from insightful to humorous. But if you go at him the wrong way, you’ll get nothing but hurt feelings. So listen up:

1. If the question is 'Do you guys want to talk to Pop?' the answer is 'No.'


Popovich will show up at his mandatory media sessions but isn’t trying to do anything beyond that. The Spurs public relations department might ask for interest as a courtesy, but you’d be better off waking a bear and inviting it to tea. I learned that the hard way at a morning shootaround before a Spurs playoff game against the Oklahoma City Thunder last year.

I thought Popovich could help me with a story on how point guards had been impacting the playoffs. The San Antonio writers stood behind me, silently, their expressions saying, “Yeah, good luck with that.” I asked my question and Popovich replied, “I’m trying to figure out how to stop Kevin Durant and you’re asking me about the history of point guards in the league?” He spun around and left.

So get your share of Popovich when he has to be there. He won’t be much help otherwise.


2. Speaking of 'no,' don’t ask questions that can be answered 'yes' or 'no.'


If you do, that’s exactly the answer you’ll get. That principle applies to every interview, but it especially applies to Popovich.

The problem is he’s wise to every trick to getting around yes/no questions. It’s why he called out David Aldridge for his “How happy are you ...” question during an interview in the regular season, and did the same during the Golden State series outside the visitors locker room at Oracle Arena when a reporter framed a question with, “Are you happy with the attitude ...” and Pop quickly shot back, “I’m never happy. About anything.”

Making it worse, Aldridge -- “The Questioner himself,” as Popovich put it -- was there too, prompting Pop to revisit Aldridge’s initial query.

“It was even a degree question,” Popovich said. "'How happy are you?' On a scale of one to 10, or what?"

In Memphis, a reporter kept starting off questions with, “How important is it ...”

Popovich cut him off: “You’re big on this important stuff, aren’t you?”

Go with fewer “How?” questions, use more “What?” and “Why?” questions.


3. Ask smart questions, but don’t try to look smart.


There’s a sweet spot between dumb questions and overreaching in an attempt to look smart.

Popovich appreciates an intelligent question. He has no tolerance for people eager to display their hoops knowledge. That’s what got Doris Burke in trouble the first time she did an in-game interview with Pop.

“I want him to know I know my basketball,” Burke said. “And instead of just saying, ‘How did Phoenix make their run?’ I said something along the lines of, ‘Shaq was 0-for-6, he went 6-for-6 ...' and just the question went too long.”

Pop folded his arms and looked at her with an expression that caused her to stumble over her words in her next question. It went so badly that the producer decided not to air it.

Basketball savvy can be shown by the types of questions asked, not by the long buildup to the question. It helps if you ...


4. Listen. Learn what Pop likes and doesn’t like.


For example, he never gets tired of talking about Tim Duncan or Tony Parker. Popovich has been singing Duncan’s praises since 1997 and keeps coming up with new tunes. Popovich had his clashes with Parker earlier in their relationship, but he recognizes he has been blessed with one of the best point guards in the NBA and appreciates Parker’s greatness.

What he’ll never address are vague topics such as mood or motivation. He doesn’t go for the Knute Rockne stuff, as he calls it.

“Teams are made up of human beings,” Popovich says. “Psychoanalyzing them before the games is not something I try to do.”


5. He doesn’t hate the media. Really, he doesn’t.


“This relaxes me before every game,” he said during one media session held in the hallway outside the Spurs locker room. “This is good.”

He’ll even go beyond the call of duty. Before an early-round playoff game, a local writer asked Popovich for help with a crossword puzzle word. He needed a six-letter synonym for “discombobulated” that ended in a y. Popovich went to his office, the gears in his mind grinding away. Before the game started he delivered a piece of paper to the writer’s seat by the scorer’s table. The paper contained two words: “Punchy” and “Screwy.”

Ask the right questions and Popovich will provide good answers.

Gregg Popovich builds young players

May, 28, 2013
5/28/13
3:50
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
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Tiago Splitter and Zach Randolph
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Memphis lost to a team that has always been more aggressive about developing young talent.

Of all the things coaches hate, globally televised boneheaded mistakes surely top the list.

They happen.

Not even the most veteran are immune. Derek Fisher inbounded a crunch-time ball to the other team in these playoffs. Manu Ginobili shot an early-clock covered long 3-pointer that almost cost the San Antonio Spurs a game.

But, by and large, the spectacularly mindless moments, the ones that get Shaquille O'Neal mocking you in custom video from an Atlanta studio, are the province of the young.

Think JaVale McGee.

That's why so many teams keep young players stapled to the bench in big moments.

But there's an oddity: Those very same McGees tend to have valuable things like superactivity and bodies from basketball heaven.

In the final analysis, who's better for your team: an active and mistake-prone dude, or a fundamentally but athletically compromised guy?

The old guys keep everyone from looking stupid. But sophisticated numbers suggest that even with all their missed rotations and biting-on-fakes, the youngsters like McGee are very often better at, you know, winning.

Remember Zach Lowe's insight into the Toronto Raptors from Grantland earlier this season? The Raptors have their own young, mistake-prone guy, Jonas Valanciunas:
Valanciunas, like most rookies, misses rotations, overhelps, and commits other sins of positioning on defense. Coaches hate that stuff, and they've often nailed Valanciunas to the bench in crunch time in favor of Aaron Gray -- a fundamentally sound player who lacks NBA athleticism.

The numbers in large part disagree with that tactic, at least as it relates to Valanciunas's defense. The Raptors' defense has been better with Valanciunas on the floor. More importantly, the visualization data shows that Valanciunas is active and athletic enough to make up for all his defensive mistakes, Rucker and his team say.

"With Jonas -- yeah, he's making mistakes," Boyarsky says. "But who cares?"

Casey said he hasn't had deep discussions with the analytics team about Valanciunas, but Sterner has, and he agreed it's sometimes a thorny issue of valuing culture over results. "You want your defense to be sound," Sterner says. "Even though the production might be better, you still want [Valanciunas] doing the right thing.

This is a trend


Coaches are playing "correct" Grays over "still learning" Valanciunases all over the league. It satisfies a coach's sense of order and control. Every coach wants his team to play the right way -- which is not so different from following coach's orders. Without that, what's the point of having a coach?

Meanwhile, the guy who plays the "wrong" way often helps his team more, thanks to the many advantages of youth.

It's a dilemma that trips up many NBA head men. But not Gregg Popovich.

The story is that the Spurs' front office keeps feeding Popovich NBA-ready role players, and by the time his team's in the Western Conference finals, he can confidently trot out Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Tiago Splitter, Gary Neal, Cory Joseph and the like, who are all both young enough to be in their athletic primes and schooled and experienced enough to do things the right way.

Nice. Decisive, even. Lucky.

Young Spurs play, produce


Only it's not luck at all!

Popovich gets the same unproven players every team gets -- in fact, he gets worse ones. The Spurs haven't had a lottery pick since Tim Duncan in 1997. Nevertheless, he plays young players relentlessly and aggressively all season long. He plays young unproven players when his team is ahead. He plays them when his team is behind. He plays them when his team is in first place and when they're in last. He plays them in all four quarters and in overtime. And, most importantly, he does it season after season.

Splitter was once the Spurs' Valanciunas, if you will -- only the kind you draft 28th overall instead of fifth. Splitter has started 66 games for an elite team and has played close to 4,000 NBA minutes. Popovich has had plenty of time to make clear what he wants from his big man. By crunch time of a conference finals elimination game, coach and player had built so much trust that Splitter was not just on the court, but was the linchpin of the Spurs' successful campaign to thwart the pound-it-into-Zach Randolph Memphis Grizzlies.

Splitter was much bigger and gave Randolph fits.

"The irony of Zach," David Thorpe, ESPN.com NBA analyst and executive director of the Pro Training Center in Clearwater, Fla., said, "is that while he's not athletic, he is better against very athletic defenders. He's all fakes, feel, pins. Get him against an athlete like Blake Griffin, and he'll murder him. Really long guys like Splitter, though, who don't have to jump … Randolph can't counter that. And his impulse was to take Splitter closer to the hoop, but that close Splitter's length becomes even more useful, and there was help almost every time. Zach just had a little tiny bit of space to operate. It was a huge factor in deciding the series."

That's the kind of advantage Popovich develops for himself, and this is hardly a one-off.

In 2001-02, the Spurs were a 58-win contender with an unconventional 19-year-old rookie French point guard who couldn't really shoot, didn't rack up a lot of assists, was undersized and didn't play great defense. Any coach would have benched Tony Parker while he was learning, and it's no secret why. I'm not sure I can recall a coach more openly exasperated with Parker than Popovich was that season.

But you know what Popovich did? He played Parker more minutes that season than Parker played this season -- when he was an MVP candidate -- saying all along that he wanted to see if Parker could develop into the kind of player he knew he could become.

If you believe Thorpe's talk of "royal jelly," Popovich's minutes and belief played starring roles in the development of all the Spurs' talented young players. In other words, it's likely Parker would not have turned out as fantastic now without all that learning on the job back then.

This season, Green led the Spurs in minutes played. Splitter, Leonard and Neal all logged more minutes than Ginobili. It's about keeping the stars fresh, which is crucial. And it's about developing the young corps. The right way to distribute minutes is up and down the roster. When you get it right, you can end up with fresh veterans and trusted young players, both of whom can work wonders.

Grizzlies timid with young role players


Memphis coach Lionel Hollins, meanwhile, does things like most NBA coaches and has come to trust few of the Grizzlies youngsters. Darrell Arthur and Quincy Pondexter have developed into rotation players on the job. Ed Davis, Donte Greene, Austin Daye, Tony Wroten, Jon Leuer and Company, however, well, we'll never know if they could have helped against the Spurs.

When they got to play together, the Grizzlies starters with Davis in place of Randolph comprised one of the most effective units in the NBA, by plus/minus. Davis is long and athletic and offers help defense and rim protection that Randolph does not. Although the Grizzlies weren't good in Davis' almost 11 minutes in the conference finals, to the naked eye, Davis is far better than Randolph at containing Parker in the pick-and-roll, which turned out to be a key Randolph shortcoming in the series. Davis also has a track record, born in Toronto, where he played regularly, of finishing around the rim at an even more efficient rate than Randolph.

That doesn't make him a better player, but it does make it a shame Hollins couldn't deploy him confidently to mix things up as the series fell apart. Different looks were precisely what the Grizzlies needed. Hollins only had Davis for 36 games after he arrived via the Rudy Gay trade, however, and he only played him an average of about 15 minutes per game. When push came to shove, Hollins didn't know what to expect.

And the conference finals is no time to experiment. Although … Did you happen to catch Leuer in Game 3? It was like seeing an antelope wander onto a Hollywood movie set. Where did he come from? He plays for the Grizzlies, by the way. Or, more accurately, he has been on the Grizzlies roster since January. Does 96 minutes over 41 regular-season games -- or 11 minutes over 15 playoff games -- count as "playing?" That's a tad south of two minutes per contest, all told. The Grizzlies got him to shoot 3s -- something he didn't play long enough to do in these playoffs.

Hollins just coached the Grizzlies to the best season in team history. His team was well prepared for every game and, in an important measure of any coaching staff, has played gritty defense every minute of every game for years. Nothing is broken in Memphis.

But when it comes to the fine art of turning prospects into producers, Popovich's aggressive youth-friendly approach is the standard. Popovich has missed with some young players, but he has also hit the bull's-eye more than once, and it's made all the difference.

Where do the Spurs rank among dynasties?

May, 28, 2013
5/28/13
1:26
AM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
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Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy.

Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish.

Bill Russell, John Havlicek and Sam Jones.

Those are the clubhouse leaders in the “best trios in NBA history” debate.

The formula to enter that debate? Three Hall of Famers, multiple NBA titles and longevity.

Let’s add Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili to that conversation.

Duncan, Parker and Ginobili are the first trio on a team other than the Celtics or Lakers to reach the NBA Finals four times together, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Duncan, Parker and Ginobili have recorded 98 postseason wins together, the second-most in NBA history by a trio, according to Elias. Only Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Cooper (110) have more.

After winning three titles together but not reaching the NBA Finals since 2007, Duncan, Parker and Ginobili are the only trio in NBA history to win multiple titles and then experience a drought of at least five seasons before making it back to the Finals.

Duncan won his first title in 1999. When he takes the court in the NBA Finals, his 13-year gap between his first and last Finals appearance will be the longest in NBA history among players that played for the same team when they made those appearances.

Duncan and head coach Gregg Popovich have recorded 129 wins together, the most by a player-coach duo in NBA history.

Parker is at the top of his game
Parker scored a team-high 14 points inside the paint in Game 4 on 7-of-8 shooting. Despite being listed at 6-foot-2, Parker led the Spurs with 40 points inside the paint in the series.

Parker’s 37 points in game 4 are tied for the third-most in a road win to clinch a Conference Finals series in the last 50 years. Only Michael Jordan and Abdul-Jabbar have scored more during that span.

Duncan still has it
Duncan was the primary reason why Zach Randolph had trouble scoring in the Conference Finals. As the primary defender, Duncan held Randolph to 5-of-17 shooting (29 percent) and 0.58 points per play. Randolph averaged one point per play in the first two series this postseason.

If the Spurs win the NBA Finals, Duncan would join John Salley as the only players in history to win a title in three different decades. Salley won with the Pistons in 1989 and 1990, the Bulls in 1996 and the Lakers in 2000.

Get back to where you once belonged

May, 26, 2013
5/26/13
7:42
PM ET
Adande By J.A. Adande
ESPN.com
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Timothy Duncan
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
After Paul McCartney rocks Memphis Sunday, Tim Duncan will try to seal up a fifth West finals.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The press release promoting the weekend’s big concert in Memphis and all the surrounding activities sat next to my computer as I typed up my story on Tim Duncan’s masterful Game 3 performance.

“Paul McCartney’s ‘Out There’ tour will feature hours of material from the most beloved catalog in popular music,” the release read, “with Paul performing songs spanning his entire career -- as a solo artist, member of Wings and of course, The Beatles.”

I couldn’t help but link it to this quote from Duncan on my screen, which described why the San Antonio Spurs have looked so comfortable and in control during the two overtime games in these Western Conference finals.

“We’ve been together for a long time,” Duncan said. “We have a lot of plays to work from and a lot of experience to work from.”

Whether it’s a deep playbook or an extensive songbook, there’s a level that only sustained excellence can achieve. With McCartney in town and the Spurs enjoying a 3-0 lead in the series, it seems like a good time to bask in their achievements.

Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have played in 28 playoff series together, winning 97 postseason games. Only the Los Angeles Lakers’ combination of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Cooper won more.

It probably isn’t a coincidence that when the Spurs were trailing in the final minute and a half of the fourth quarter, they came out of a timeout and the ball went from Parker to Duncan to Ginobili in an exquisitely executed play that resulted in an easy layup.

“I have a great deal of confidence in them,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “They’ve earned that. They’ve been together, they’re all very competitive. They may or may not do something perfectly, but they’re going to do it to the best of their ability. That allows one to go to bed at night and deal with whatever the consequences are.”

“We don’t panic,” Parker said. “We know what we want to do. We made a lot of great plays at the end of the game last night.”

Ginobili described it as "corporate knowledge," an institutional memory that resides in this trio that has played together for more than a decade.

“We know how we feel without even having to say a word,” Ginobili said. “And that’s important. And we have five pieces that are very important to what we do that are new.”

The playoff contributions from the likes of Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter can’t be discounted. Green and Leonard have knocked down open 3-point shots when Parker or Ginobili force the defense to collapse. Splitter provides a big presence and is an underrated passer. Matt Bonner has added driving and inside-scoring elements to his game in addition to his 3-point shooting.

“It’s the core group and new pieces, just being altruistic and trying to help out,” Ginobili said. “Pop being very communicative and very clear on what he wants. It’s the whole package. But of course, Tony, Tim, Pop and me, we know each other very well and it’s easy to communicate.”

They’re the ones who Carry That Weight. They’re trying to Get Back to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007. I could go on with the McCartney-written song titles, but I’ll just Let It Be.

Spurs limit touches to make Z-Bo a no-go

May, 19, 2013
5/19/13
7:02
PM ET
By Gregg Found, Justin Page & Sunny Saini, ESPN Stats & Info
ESPN.com

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
The Spurs made a franchise-record 14 three-pointers and limited Zach Randolph to two points.

The San Antonio Spurs didn't yield a point to Zach Randolph until there was 9:26 left on the clock in the fourth quarter. By that point, the Spurs already had an 18-point lead.

So it went for Randolph, who entered the game leading the Memphis Grizzlies in scoring this postseason with 19.7 points per game.

Randolph finished with two points, a playoff career low in games where he played at least 10 minutes.

The Spurs limited him to just 11 offensive touches. ESPN Stats & Info video tracking defined those as "touches on the offensive end of the floor," including offensive rebounds.

What's more, only two of Randolph's 11 offensive touches came in a post-up situation. Entering the game the Grizzlies led the NBA in scoring from post-ups this postseason with 221 points (20.1 per game).

Spurs three-for-all
The Spurs set a franchise playoff record by hitting 14 three-pointers in the game.

They spread those 14 three-pointers among six different players while the Grizzlies three-pointers were made by only one player: Quincy Pondexter.


And in what must make Gregg Popovich happy, all 14 of the Spurs three-pointers were assisted.

The Spurs spread the bounty there, too. While six different players made a three-pointer, seven different players assisted on one. That includes kick-out passes from Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter.

Spotting Pop a lead
Now the Grizzlies are looking at 1-0 deficit against a coach that has won more than 120 playoff games and four championships.

Gregg Popovich is 19-3 all-time in best-of-seven playoff series when his team wins Game 1. His .864 series win percentage after Game 1 wins ranks only behind Phil Jackson and Red Auerbach among head coaches with 15 postseason series worth of experience all-time.

Both Jackson (36-0 series record) and Auerbach (15-0) had perfect series records after winning the opener.

Spurs pick-and-roll to Conference Finals

May, 17, 2013
5/17/13
2:30
AM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
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AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezTony Parker led the Spurs past the Warriors in the Western Conference semifinals
The San Antonio Spurs knocked off the Golden State Warriors to reach the Western Conference Finals for the second straight season and the eighth time in the last 15 seasons. Here are five things you need to know about the Spurs.

Tiago Splitter
Splitter
Spurs big men on a roll
Duncan and Tiago Splitter outscored the Warriors big men 16-3 on pick-and-rolls in Game 6, including eight points on 4-of-5 shooting from Tiago Splitter. The Warriors big men missed all seven shots on pick-and-rolls, and turned the ball over twice.

Shutting down Curry
Stephen Curry made 33 percent of his shots coming off screens or pick-and-rolls in the final five games of the series, including 5-of-13 in Game 6. In Game 1, Curry made 8-of-15 shots (53%) on such plays, including 4-of-7 on 3-pointers.

Coming up big in the fourth
The Warriors got within two points at 77-75, but it was all Spurs in the last four minutes of the game as they outscored Golden State 17-7 the rest of the way. Parker struggled with his shot most of the game, but scored 10 points in those last four minutes including two three-pointers.

Road to success
Clinching on the road is nothing new for the Spurs since Gregg Popovich took over. This is the 18th time they’ve celebrated a series win on their opponents court since 1996-97 – tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for most in that span. Their 50 road playoff wins under Popovich are the most in the NBA since 1996-97.

Milestone win for Big Three
The trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have now won 94 playoff games together. That passes the trio of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Byron Scott for most playoff wins for a trio. The Spurs Big Three trails only another Lakers trio: Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Cooper.

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