Spurs Got Nasty!
Down by nine and slowly fading into oblivion, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich called a time out and sat his team down and asked them to do one thing…”get nasty!”
“I said that?” Popovich said afterward. “The heat of the game, stuff comes up,” Popovich said. “So I talked to them about they’ve got to get a little bit uglier, get a little more nasty, play with more fiber and take it to these guys. Meaning you have to drive it, you have to shoot it.”
Well, the talk seemed to work and the Spurs went on a huge offensive outburst with 39 fourth quarter and took a 1-0 series lead against the Oklahoma City Thunder with a 101-98 win in San Antonio Sunday night. It was a back-and-forth battle all game long and every star found their moment to shine. The Thunder’s “Big Three,” Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and sixth man of the year James Harden, were a combined 5 for 21 from the field at one point in the first half and it looked as if the pressure of the big stage was getting to them. The three of them seemed to get their act together and finished the game shooting 17 of 36 for a total of 63 points collectively.
The problem is that when you are playing a team with the Championship pedigree that the San Antonio Spurs possess, you are not allotted a half of a game to get your shit together. Although Tony Parker and Tim Duncan have carried the Spurs for most of the season, San Antonio had to look elsewhere to close out the game. Parker struggled mightily from the get go and finished with a respectable 18 points, 6 assists and 8 rebounds on 6-15 shooting. Parker’s PIC (Partner in Crime), big Timmy, matched Parker’s 6-15 FG% while only bringing in 16 points and 11 boards. Both of these starting lineups are fantastic on a lot of levels, but the one thing that will determine how this series will end up are the teams benches.
One of the most intriguing match-ups of this series was slated to be the battle of the 2 best sixth men in the game, James Harden and Manu Ginobili. Game 1 did not disappoint! During the three regular season match-ups between these two juggernaut teams, Manu Ginobili was sidelined with injuries and never had a chance to face the Thunder, so in his first game against them this season he made sure they knew what he could do. Manu played in most of the second half and was the Spurs leading scorer with 26 points on an impressive 9-14 shooting and 5 of 5 from the line. As each team went shot for shot through the fourth quarter, Ginobili took the ball with a little over 3 minutes left and drove to the hole. He drew a foul from his counterpart Harden and made the basket. That was the point where anyone watching new that the Spurs had taken game 1 as Ginobili tried to do his best Tiger Woods fist pump impression to electrify the crowd. The Spurs bench was extremely remarkable by not only outscoring the Thunder’s bench, OKC 37 SAS 52, but outscoring their own starting lineup, 52 to 49.
Game 1 was a gem and I expect nothing less for the entirety of this series. For OKC to stand a chance they are going to have to find a way to slow down the leagues highest scoring team. If the Spurs want to continue winning as they have been for 19 straight games dating back to the regular season, then all they have to do is what Coach of the Year Gregg Popovich says and “Get Nasty!”