Saturday, May 11, 2013

Spurs-Warriors Game Three: Respect The Vampires

Tony Parker? Tony Parker.
For the first three quarters of tonight's pivotal Game Three, the Spurs were playing the perfect veteran road playoff game. Their best player, Tony Parker, was dominating. They answered every run with poise and a make. They took fouls rather than give up plays that would get the wild Oakland crowd back into it. They took care of the ball, and made their free throws. It was a clinic. They led by 10.

And then the fourth quarter started, and stuff changed. Tiago Splitter turned the ball over a couple of times. Manu Ginobili made an unforced error. Klay Thompson drained a corner three. Andrew Bogut stuffed Tim Duncan, leading to an old-school three attempt for the tie from Draymon Green. And in 114 seconds, the first 36 minutes was eliminated. The roof was coming off the place; the plane was on the runway. Clearly, the Dubs were about to take flight.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich called time and scowled, and Lo, That Man Can Scowl. Green missed the free throw, and the Spurs' Danny Green hit a 3. A Steph Curry miss -- there was a lot of that tonight -- and then another Parker three, and it's like the run never happened.

And, well, this is what the Spurs do, year after year, until they don't. It's a very odd franchise, in that they always seem to contend, always seem too old, always adjust and just don't go away... and then they get spiked, usually out of the blue, and we have to remember that they are old and doomed until this time again next year. I call this team vampires, but I think I'm doing the Spurs a disservice in that. This franchise is far more persistent than any undead.

This is, of course, what makes this series so freakishly compelling; the exact same attributes that made me think it wasn't going to be that competitive. Golden State has clear athletic advantages all over the place, and can rain threes on you and go on runs faster than any team outside of Miami. San Antonio rolls with the punches better than anyone, never panics, never gives up, won't beat themselves. They also have such crazy crafty moments (the Duncan old-school three to get Bogut's 5th foul with 6:15 left was as big of a play as you could make with that much time left on the clock) that you wonder why they ever lose.

As for the Dubs, this was the second straight game where Curry wasn't electric, and I'm starting to wonder if he's just gassed for the year. He also blew an ankle with 4:40 left while all of Oakland held their breath, but stayed in and looked terrible the rest of the way; if he misses Game Four, which is Sunday early (I think the NBA is *trying* to kill Curry), this club is toast. Danny Green has shut him down better than anyone, and San Antonio has started to target him on defense, too.

Jarrett Jack gets a lot of praise for a guy that hurts his team with half of his plays, but he single-handedly ended any chance of a late comeback tonight, and there's a reason why Dub Fan doesn't seem to like him very much. And as long as Bogut keeps missing his FTs, Popovich is going to hack and win. They hung around all night, but never got over the hump, mostly because when the guards aren't hitting from distance, they just don't have the same verve. On the other hand, they have won in San Antonio, have bounced back from worse than this, and if Curry can bring the magic again, they will soon resemble the team that led 95 out of 106 minutes in Game 1 and 2.

But, well, the Spurs are the Spurs. And they've ended young and fun teams so many times before, and maybe did it again tonight. We'll learn more in 36 hours.

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