2014 NBA Playoffs: Three-time Coach of the Year Gregg Popovich showed us why he deserved the award again this year with the smart adjustments he made for Game 5.
Keeping Serge Ibaka out of the paint and holding him to only three made shots completely flipped the series back in San Antonio’s favor. Popovich’s smart decisions weren’t just with the lineup change before the game, but also about halfway through the third quarter in Game 5.
With the game seemingly out of reach (but not completely), Popovich decided to pull the old guys and other starters off the court and insert the bench, including some deep reserves.
He let Boris Diaw take full control of the court with the bench, and it was obvious that Diaw’s confidence took a turn for the better. Calling out plays and taking over offensively, it certainly carried over to the next game. The starters sat and watched as the bench constantly put pressure on the typical OKC starting lineup—and they weren’t letting the lead grow.
Those who kept watching the game also got to see a pretty split move by Cory Joseph with led to Ibaka being on a poster.
This move helped the starters see the type of intensity San Antonio needed to play against OKC, and it kept the Thunder starters on the floor—which had a big effect on Game 5.
Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker played a combined 61 minutes compared to the Thunder’s Big Three, which played for a combined 121 minutes.
Yes, they are much younger, but fatigue isn’t nonexistent for young people. Durant was visibly fatigued before being taken off the floor as the game was prematurely decided.
Now the question is will Popovich repeat himself in Game 6?
I’m not asking if the Spurs are already throwing in the towel and just going to take their chances at Game 7 at home; They will come out of the gates with, hopefully, the same tenacity and strong play that they showed in Game 5, but what will happen once that lead starts to grow?
The Spurs are currently 9-1 at home, and it has not been pretty when they play at OKC.
They are going to compete, no question about it, but you also need to think about Game 7.
The Thunder are facing an elimination game, so they are putting everything they have on the floor, while the Spurs have a second chance. If the game gets out of hand, Pop will play it safe and take the starters out.
The good part about it, the bench can still play some solid basketball and that can keep the Thunder Big Three on the court which could potentially lead to fatigue hurting the Thunder in Game 7.
Pop is still Pop though, and, most of the time, he is quite unpredictable.
Let’s hope the mastermind can finish things off tomorrow in this seesaw series.