Tempering Expectations And Signs Of Optimism


May 8, 2013; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Danny Green (4) takes a shot over Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) during the second half in game two of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at the AT

Never forget where you came from.

Everyone’s heard it a time or two in their life. It’s part of staying a humble individual.

Another personal favorite life motto is Denny Green’s, “They are who we thought they were!” And sometimes you have to go back in history and remind yourself that these guys really are who we thought they were.

As Spurs fans, we’re so accustomed to Pop and R.C. Buford bringing in obscure players and turning them into solid rotation pieces to maximize their value. When the team functions as one cohesive unit, they’re practically unstoppable. It’s who they are and that’s no secret. But when they play as selfish individuals, weaknesses show.

And that was the case Wednesday night.

Danny Green is currently the starting shooting guard on a championship caliber team, and is also the only player in Atlantic Coast Conference history with at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 250 assists, 150 three-pointers, 150 blocks and 150 steals in his career. But with all that, Green was still the 46th selection in the 2009 NBA Draft and was waived by the Cavaliers and Spurs both in 2010, until the Spurs resigned him, and you know the rest.

Draft Express had Green pegged as a best case scenario – Francisco Garcia – who has been at the end of Houston’s bench since the trade deadline. And if you compare their career numbers, the comparison is pretty spot on. Would you trust Francisco Garcia to defend Klay Thompson? The former 11th overall pick in 2011 and Washington State University’s 3rd all-time leading scorer? Not without some help.

Gary Neal was an undrafted free agent out of Towson University. After three seasons of playing basketball overseas, he caught his big break in Spurs Summer League, earning himself a 3-year guaranteed contract, after shooting 50% from beyond the arch. Draft Express said Gary Neal’s best case scenario was Joe Forte.

Forte went 21st overall in 2001 to the Celtics (after they decided to pick him over some guy named Tony Parker), and played two years in the NBA. Forte is now playing in the Iranian Super Basketball League. This is the man Gary Neal was compared to, and the man the Spurs are hoping can slow down Stephen Curry at certain points in the game. And you already know Curry’s family history and what he did at Davidson. Neal cannot defend Curry all by himself.

This isn’t about how Neal and Green have completely outperformed their expectations since they’ve been in the NBA, and this isn’t a slight to them in the least. It’s just reality. In a game of one-on-one, Neal would struggle to beat Curry and so would Green in beating Thompson.

And that’s the way the Spurs played last night. While the Warriors played as one unit, San Antonio tried to match the superstar performances of Golden State’s backcourt, when they really don’t have that type of ability. This excludes Parker and Ginobili as their struggles are more of the, “Just let me get some shots to fall” variety. The Spurs need to play as a unit on both sides of the ball if they want to beat the Golden State Warriors three more times to win this series.

They showed signs of being that team in the second half.

Don’t let the media fool you. There’s been plenty of talk that the Warriors have looked like the better team for 90% of this series. Or that the Spurs should be happy they’re not down 0-2 after Golden State’s Game 1 debacle. I don’t see it that way.

Sure the Spurs fourth quarter in Game 1 involved some luck. But once regulation ends, it’s just another ball game. For 12 minutes in the fourth quarter and 5 minutes in each overtime, San Antonio was a slightly better team. That’s why they won. And in last night’s second half the Spurs were again the better team. The final score may not show it, but the statistics are there.

So far in the postseason, San Antonio averages 24 assists a game. The Spurs first half yielded 4 assists. FOUR. In the second half: 10 assists. Granted there would’ve been many more if the Spurs didn’t shoot an uncharacteristic 41%, but nights like that happen. Defensively, the Spurs held Golden State to 37% shooting and had a +10 rebounding advantage in the second half. And the only adjustment Popovich made was challenging his team to pick up the intensity.

With the series tied 1-1, going into Oracle Arena looks like a trap. But if anyone can steal a game in that arena it’s the Spurs. Hell, they’ve technically already stolen one game this series. So why can’t they do it again?

The San Antonio Spurs just have to remember who they are and where they came from, because it’s how they got here.