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2012 NBA Playoffs Recap, Day 22

The Spurs continued their winning streak by doing the unthinkable and Kobe needs a wake-up call. (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

Spurs erase 24 point deficit to go up 3-0
Right around the time the Spurs were getting drilled by 22 points, I tweeted something along the lines of, “The Spurs will win this game.” Since mid-January, I haven’t missed a Spurs game. I like to think I have a pretty good feel on who this team is and how they function. Thus, here are the three reasons I believed the Spurs could still win Game 3 after such a dreadful start.

1. The Clippers did their thing too early. (I had a high school coach who used a more, umm, “interesting” way to describe what the Clippers did but I try to keep the blog PG.) I’ve heard Gregg Popovich admit many times throughout the season how much he hates big leads early in games. There’s too much time for the team that’s down to rally and there’s too much time for the team with the big lead to lose focus. Los Angeles dominated the Spurs for the first 16 minutes of a 48 minute game. There was no reason to write off the Spurs and their potent offense that early.

2. The Clippers were hitting just about every shot they put up. (Blake Griffin’s fade-away bank shot? Please. That might go in 2 out of 10 attempts.) Conversely, the Spurs couldn’t throw a stone in the ocean. However, at no point did the Clippers outhustle the Spurs. The Clippers were bringing it effort wise and so were the Spurs. San Antonio never folded up shop and felt sorry for themselves. They didn’t accept the Clippers were the better team that day. Instead, the Spurs kept grinding, knowing that in time the Clippers would fall back to earth and the Spurs would eventually start hitting.

Also, the Spurs execute the “never too high, never too low” motto to perfection. Had San Antonio’s effort wavered or their style of play devolved to a sloppy mess, I wouldn’t have felt as confident about their chances of winning.

3. The Spurs were up 2-0 in the series after dominating Games 1 and 2. They were on the road gearing up for an intense playoff game against a desperate team at a time when most players are taking their pregame nap. It wasn’t surprising the Clippers blitzed the Spurs early. Though, it certainly benefited the Spurs. Why?

San Antonio needed a wake up call. For all the reasons above, Game 3 was the one the Spurs were most likely to lose. Had the Clippers not trounced San Antonio early, the Spurs probably would have grinded their way through an ugly effort before ultimately falling short. Instead, the Spurs were embarrassed and had front row seats to the excessively giddy and overconfident Clippers.

Now the Spurs had added motivation. Not only could the Spurs shut up a building of 20,000 fair-weather fans with a come-from-behind victory, but they could take the hearts of the Clippers, too. And so they did. They clawed back to 10 at the half. Tied it at 57 midway through the 3rd and took a 12 point lead after a 24-0 run. And you know what? The Spurs didn’t even need the 4th quarter. 20 minutes were enough to eviscerate the Clippers.

One more thing, I love when opposing players get all up in arms about Popovich intentionally fouling someone. It’s ridiculous. Let’s pretend Tony Parker couldn’t score to his left. Would it be reasonable for Spurs fans to complain every time Chris Paul and the Clippers forced him left? Uh, no. You exploit your opponents’ weaknesses. If the Clippers were really that bothered, they could have either removed Reggie Evans from the floor OR, get this… MADE THE EFFING FREE THROWS.

Lakers choke again, Kobe throws stones
For the most part, I’m a Kobe Bryant apologist. However, I’m almost certain there’s an unspoken basketball rule that states, “Homeboys that shoot 1/9 in the 4th quarter of a critical playoff game before finally hitting a meaningless bucket to go 2/10 shouldn’t throw stones.”

Yes, for three quarters, Kobe was fantastic. In the 4th quarter, though, he hurried his game, forced contested shots, and completely took the Laker offense out of sync. He argued in his postgame press conference that the passiveness of his teammates forced him to take those tough shots. While that may be true on a few of those attempts, it didn’t apply to all. Several times Kobe was the only Laker to touch the ball on an offensive possession. Andrew Bynum was completely ignored in the 4th quarter. I agree; Pau Gasol’s ridiculous pass in the final minute was beyond foolish. He had an easy shot and he passed it up for a turnover. Gasol has been down right awful for two straight postseasons and that’s not really Kobe’s fault. Or is it?

Let’s think about this for a second. Has Kobe ever made a teammate better? If his teammates lack the aggressiveness and confidence to assert themselves in critical situations, shouldn’t some of that blame fall on Kobe?

The NBA is a superstar’s league. They run the show, they control the team. The San Antonio Spurs have rookies, waiver wire castoffs, and unknown shooters from Towson taking and hitting big shots. Why? Because Tim Duncan believes in them. He reminds them of this daily and challenges them to step up. When they fail, he doesn’t attack them, he encourages them. Find me one player that didn’t benefit from playing with Tim Duncan. I’m pretty sure you can’t.

While Kobe can’t force Gasol or any of his other teammates to take and make open shots, he could have prevented the passiveness they show in critical moments. Kobe wants us to believe he’s a victim of his teammates’ weaknesses, but really, they’re all victims of his narcissism. He’s to blame for their 4th quarter failures as much as they are. After all, this IS his team, isn’t it?

Also, LeBron James wishes he were Kevin Durant. If I could be as clutch as Durant, I would kiss my mom on the lips on national TV, too.

One Comment

  1. I just got through watching OKC blow out the Lakers in the 4th quarter. You’re right Kobe has never made a teammate better but he can’t put the ball in the hoop for these guys. Kobe scored 40 points in the elimination game with the Thunder and 0 assists.

    Players like Steve Blake didn’t even take a shot at the hoop, and everybody else that put up a shot couldn’t hit a shot or layup to save their life.

    The Lakers should keep Kobe and get rid of everybody else except Metta Worldpeace because he was the only other player besides Kobe that showed up.

    But I agree with you, Kobe was to blame for two of the close game losses for the Lakers against the Thunder this series.

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