Spurs Steal Game 5 in the 4th
Suns (2) vs. Spurs (3): Spurs 88, Suns 85 (Game 5)
- Must say, this series ain't too shabby. Game 5 played out very similar to Game 4 where one team seemed to have firm control of the game but couldn't close the deal. The one key difference between Game 4 & 5 -- the Spurs got to play the spoiler tonite instead. It looked like the Spurs came out very tentative in the 1st half, and seemed like they almost felt guilty that the Suns were short-handed, and they looked confused at what the Suns were doing--the Spurs only scored 33 pts in the 1st half (a season low). But after halftime, it looked like they shook off the early game rust & reticence. Neither team really shot the ball all that well--both teams shot 40.3% for the game--but the Spurs came alive in the 4th much the same way the Suns did in Game 4. The Spurs scored 32 pts in the quarter (1 point less than they scored in the 1st half), and they shot 57% for the quarter, after shooting 36% thru the previous 3 quarters.
- The Spurs' perimeter players could not find the mark on their shots for most of the game, but they picked the last possible instance to start knocking down shots (Manu & Bowen in particular). The Spurs shot 8/14 from the floor in the 4th, not to mention 5/6 from 3pt in the quarter. The Spurs shot 8/16 from 3pt in the 2nd half after going 0/7 in the 1st.
- Manu gave them a huge boost when they needed it most. Manu, who has been erratic offensively thru-out the playoffs, looked out of sync like every other Spur in the 1st half. Manu scored 22 of his 26 pts in the 2nd half, and was huge in the 4th with 15 pts with 3 3pts. Manu also hit some big free throws down the stretch, including drawing a foul on a 3pt attempt for 3 FTs. But he almost erased his goodwill with a few careless turnovers late. Duncan's bankers were not quite as automatic as they have been, but he was huge at the start of the 3rd and ended with 21, 12 & 5 blks.
- Bowen hit some big corner 3s, including the one that gave the Spurs the lead with :30 left. Bowen hit all of 3 3pts. in the 2nd half to finish with 9, 7 rebs & 4 stls. Mike Finley also made some big jumpers in the 2nd half & finished with 13 pts. Parker could never getting going at all, and seemed to be in a fog for most of the game, but did manage to hit a big jumper to tie the game at 79 with 2:30 to go & it was his drive-n-kick that produced Bowen's big 3pt. Though the Spurs' center spot continued to be a costly void--the Elson/Oberto combo only produced 6 pts & 4rebs.
- The Spurs' defense really turned the screws the last 5 mins, where their coverage on the pick/roll was excellent & Duncan was his usual interior presence as he blocked 2 shots at the rim & changed a few more. Pop decided to go with a downsized lineup in the 2nd half since neither Elson or Oberto were very effective in the 1st half, not to mention Marion was causing matchup nigthmares for them. This move possibly was the reason for Marion cooling down in the 2nd half after 20 pts & 11 rebs on 8/11 in the 1st half (Marion only was 1/5 for 4 pts in the 2nd). The Spurs' transition defense might have had its best showing--13 fast break pts for the Suns, only 4 in the 2nd half--which was huge since it was assumed that the Suns would try to push the tempo with a smaller lineup.
- Some great coaching adjustments from both sides thru-out the game:
- Duncan was having some problems scoring on the block in the 1st half, so Pop started to set Tim up in different spots & Duncan started to use his quickness advantage vs. Thomas. Duncan started to face-up Kurt a little more & drive him, instead of trying to body him into his moves. Good move. Thomas is effective when he can use his body & forearm to defend, when you as an offensive player create a little space between him, now he has to use his feet more.
- Duncan started to go off early in the 3rd to draw the Spurs to within 4--he scored 7 & fed Manu for a lay-in in the 1st 3 minutes. Then D'Antoni called a timeout at the 9 minute mark, and switched to doubling Duncan, which worked wonders for the rest of the quarter as the Spurs could get no rhythm. The adjustment flummoxed the Spurs, and forced more jumpers, but the Spurs were still fairly cold from outside.
- Then Pop made a crucial decision to take out Duncan at the 10:00 mark of the 4th to try jumpstart their periemter players offensively, and it immdeiately paid dividends, the Spurs went on a 5-0 run. When Duncan was on the bench for 3 minutes, the Spurs went on a 11-4 run.
- D'Antoni also moved Marion onto Duncan in the 2nd half which caused some issues for Duncan defensively, because now he was stretched out to the 3pt. line to cover Marion, as opposed to only having to worry about Thomas out to 17 feet. The Suns started to pull up their high screens way high in the 2nd half, probably to drag Duncan farther away, but they did it to other Spurs as well
- Obviously, can't praise the Suns enough for pushing the nearly fully-stocked Spurs to the limit. And for this undersized lineup to hang in a low-scoring, methodical affair can't be underscored enough. The Suns' defense has to be commended for their scrambling scheme & their doubling on Duncan was very effective. They gave Parker a huge cushion all nite and can't remember too many patented Parker finishes, Tony's scoring was kept in check all game.
- Thought it would be imperative the Suns find some way to keep the rebound margin respectable. Not only did they keep it respectable, they won the battle by 3. And it was basically a 2-man affair with Marion getting 17 & Thomas had 12. Kurt had another underrated workmanlike-effort defending & boxing out Duncan as well as you can ask, especially in the 1st half. Kurt also added a nice wrinkle where he mixed up his mid-range jumper with a few drives that either led to a few points or trips to the foul line (Kurt had 15 pts, 5/5 FTs).
- Marion was a one-man wrecking machine in the 1st half hitting floaters, hitting some 3s, finishing, & a ton of boards. He scored nearly half (20) of the Suns' 44 1st half pts. Nash had a rough shooting night, but still managed to make some huge plays down the stretch. Again he made some great decisions off the pick/roll either setting up teammates or changing his angles coming off the screens to keep Duncan off-kilter. Nash had 19 & 12 assists on 6/19. A guy the Suns desperately needed to step up was Barbosa, but Leandro continued his series-long struggle vs. the Spurs. Barbosa committed some bad fouls & turnovers (4), and shot just 3/12 overall--Barbosa is shooting 36% overall for the series, roughly 10 pct. points lower than his season average.
- For Game 6, expect the Suns to double Duncan often. I think it's the right thing to do, force the other guys to prove they can make shots; if they hit those shots, live with it. Maybe occasionally D'Antoni should go ultra-small with Marion at the 5 to match vs. Duncan, then run Nash/Marion pick/rolls. Even run Marion in pick/rolls if Elson or Oberto is lined up with him. Not sure if Pop should go heavy with the undersized lineup in Game 6, because they Spurs got beat on the boards tonite without Amare. I think they need to get some sort of rebound production from their center combo, maybe a combined 10-12. It would make it easier on the Spurs if they could ever get their Big 3 to all play well on the same night.