San Antonio Spurs All-Time Lists

Spurs: Ranking Popovich's most brilliant playoff coaching moves

Gregg Popovich
Gregg Popovich / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages
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San Antonio Spurs
LeBron James, Danny Green / Mike Ehrmann/GettyImages

1. Defensive strategy against LeBron James in the 2013 NBA Finals

Although the Spurs ranked seventh in defensive rating heading into the 2013 NBA Finals, few believed that they could stop the Miami Heat. Despite that, they nearly did because of Popovich's decision to have his players go under screens set for LeBron James.

It was an audacious move, but it worked incredibly well. The decision was partly due to Duncan's limitations in defending away from the rim. While a dominant rim protector, he had no shot of switching out on the perimeter. As a result, Pop instructed Leonard, Green, and even Boris Diaw to go under on screens set for the league MVP. 

Doing so kept Duncan near the basket while another player would pick James up on drives before he reached Duncan. Without being able to easily blow by his main defender, James struggled to score in the paint at times. If he wasn't driving into a sea of long arms and repeatedly getting blocked, the Spurs were daring him to take open shots, which he began turning down.

The strategy gave the Spurs two chances to knock off a historically great team that won 67 games that year, including 27 straight. Unfortunately, the Spurs came up just short. We'll leave it at that. Despite that, Popovich's defensive game plan was fantastic.

Overall, Popovich's strategies have been critical to the Spurs turning the tide in several playoff series. In fact, his playoff coaching decisions often vexed more talented teams and gave the Spurs their best chance to win.

Next. Ranking All 43 Spurs from Champion Playoff Rosters. dark

As a result, Popovich has proven that he's one of the greatest coaches in the history of the NBA.