After loss, silence golden for Spurs
MIAMI -- The only benefit for the San Antonio Spurs in the 48 hours after their 103-84 loss to the Miami Heat in Game 2 will be the fortress of solitude they've built for themselves over the years, the quiet refuge they've willfully sought while others have the cameras documenting every move.
Imagine the national furor that would have engulfed the Miami Heat's Big Three had they shot a combined 10-for-33 in a 19-point NBA Finals blowout loss, as Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili did Sunday night. (Speaking of quiet, the Spurs had a seven-game winning streak snapped. Did you even know they had a seven-game winning streak?)
You can bet your retweet button that not much will be said about these Spurs' shortcomings … unless the words come from the Spurs themselves.
"Tim, Tony and me have to step up and play much better," Ginobili said. "We have basically no shot of winning a game against them if none of us played good. So we definitely got to step up and do better."
There were also the sparse words of Gregg Popovich, who credited Miami's aggressive defense and didn't waste much time detailing his team's offensive shortcomings.
"No matter how you slice it, it's 10 for 33," Popovich said. "Missing shots and not shooting well and turning it over is a bad combination."
Ah, the turnovers. After turning the ball over only four times in Game 1, the Spurs coughed it up 17 times in Game 2. As much as anything, that's what allowed the Heat to look like the Heat again: taking off in transition, cashing in 19 points off turnovers, scoring 13 fast-break points.
The turnovers and the poor shooting from the key players overwhelmed the things the Spurs did well, including a 44-36 rebounding advantage, five 3-pointers from Danny Green (who has made nine of 14 3s in the series) and outstanding individual defense on LeBron James by Kawhi Leonard, who also had 14 rebounds. LeBron made only one of his first four shots against Leonard in the first half, and even after LeBron made two of three against him in the second half it still left him at 5-for-14 in the series.
Leonard's defense and rebounding were so good that he could be excused for his 4-for-12 shooting. The off night didn't keep Popovich from playing Leonard 33½ minutes, which was more than any starter.
In some sense, the poor shooting and turnovers simplify matters for the Spurs, like a golfer who can blame a poor outing on his putting. Shoot better, protect the ball and the Spurs can get back to their winning ways.
As Duncan said: "I'm getting the shots I want. I just have to knock them down."
The lone bit of intrigue came from Parker, who raised the possibility that the Spurs might need to go away from their strategy of collapsing on James and forcing him to pass. In Game 2, the guys he found were knocking down shots: six of 12 from Mario Chalmers, five of eight from Ray Allen and three 3-pointers from Mike Miller.
"We'll talk with the coaching staff and see if we're going to keep doing that," Parker said. "Obviously, LeBron is unbelievable. He's going to score. But right now the other players, they are playing great, too. So we can't have both. We'll see."
If I'm San Antonio, I'm sticking with this game plan and betting that Chalmers, Miller & Co. won't continue to make more than half of their shots, especially with the next three games coming in San Antonio.
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With the pivotal Game 3 -- pivotal doesn't sound like a strong enough word for a game which has determined the series winner in 11 of the past 12 NBA Finals that started 1-1 -- the Spurs should try to hold LeBron under 20 points for the third consecutive game. The only other time that happened to him in the playoffs was Games 3, 4, and 5 of the 2011 NBA Finals in Dallas; the Mavericks won two of the three and LeBron had to face a year of questions about his mental fortitude.
That's the beauty of the Spurs' world. One loss won't send a roomful of writers to their keyboards to pound out stories on Duncan's inadequacies or Parker's clutch-deficient DNA. The Spurs' stars have safes that are crowded with rings and stories that are set. They're only here to add to the collection. The only character flaw they're accused of exhibiting is greed, which is how they felt after Game 1.
"If you would [have] asked me before heading to Miami, I would say, 'Okay, we'll take [a split],'" Ginobili said. "'Winning one and losing the other by 20, not a big deal. I'll take it. But once you win the first one, you forget about that."
Among the reasons most people expected the Heat to bounce back in Game 2 is the oft-cited fact Miami has not lost back-to-back games since January 8 and 10. You've probably heard that.
But did you know the Spurs have not lost back-to-back games with Duncan, Parker and Ginobili in the lineup since December 12 and 13?
Of course you didn't. It's the Spurs, so it stayed silent.
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