Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is one of the greatest coaches in the history of the NBA. He’s a four-time champion and recently became the longest-tenured active coach, not just in basketball, but in all major U.S. team professional sports. It’s nearly impossible to second-guess the guy, because what the hell does anybody know compared to Gregg Popovich?
That being said, it’s time to second-guess Gregg Popovich, because damn, he really fumbled the ball at the goal-line — with his team ahead at the end of the fourth quarter, no less.
Let’s run down the list:
Why take Tim Duncan out of the game at the end of regulation?
I understand the thought process here: The Heat were going small and sending out their shooters, and you don’t want Tim Duncan running around the perimeter guarding against the three. But that left Boris Diaw as the only true big on the floor, and he was likely to be guarding LeBron James — on the perimeter. That left no one to body up against Chris Bosh, which led to this:
Duncan had slowed considerably by the fourth quarter, but he was still the game’s leading rebounder and your best player. Do we really need four guards/small forwards running around the court? On the Ray Allen three, you can see three guys running behind one another to get at him, the height of defensive redundancy, accomplishing nothing and not looking to box out. One of those guys, at least, could have stayed off the court. And speaking of guys who could have stayed off in the final moments…
Why did Manu Ginobili play so much down the stretch?
Ginobili regressed to the mean last night after an explosive Game 5 by having nearly as many turnovers (eight) as points (nine). He wasn’t shooting well, and his passes were horrendous. A guy like that should probably ride the pine a bit in the fourth quarter, right? Wrong: He played all of the fourth and the majority of overtime. It was a gamble that backfired in the worst way, particularly when he coughed the rock up twice in the final minute of the game. And let’s not even get started on that final drive to the basket. Actually, why don’t we do that?
Why was there no timeout called on the final possession?
Your team is down one in overtime, and you have the chance to steal the NBA CHAMPIONSHIP on the road in Game 6. Your best playmaker (Tony Parker) is on the bench, and you see the game’s worst player (Ginobili) barreling down the sideline, nearly out of control, headed to the basket. What do you do? Call a time out, let Parker (who had already hit an amazing clutch three in regulation) get back in there with time on the clock, holding for potentially the final shot of the year? Well, that’s not what Pop did, letting Manu drive the lane and
get fouled get stripped, essentially ending the game. It was a perplexing way to let the final seconds tick off.
Hindsight is 20/20, of course, and if the Spurs had won last night we might be sitting here going, “Damn, it sure was smart of Pop to take out Duncan, leave in Ginobili and not draw up a final play.” But personally, I was dumbfounded during the game, unable to understand these very un-Pop like decisions.
Sometimes good coaches make bad calls, and this time it might have cost the Spurs an NBA championship. The players are the ones who have to play, sure — but Pop put his team in a really tough position to pull it off. SO NICE GOING BUDDY. Just kidding, but not really.
Photo via Getty