Kurt Helin

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Two

Gregg Popovich’s main adjustment: Hope his guys just shoot better


LOS ANGELES — Gregg Popovich made adjustments to how his Spurs defended and attacked the Clippers between Games 1 and 2 of what is now a tied series 1-1 heading to San Antonio for Game 3 Friday.

For example, he tweaked how they defended that double high pick-and-roll the Clippers have gone heavily to (and still are having success with despite the adjustments). On offense, you see the Spurs using a lot of what they did against Miami in the Finals last year (because the Clippers’ defense is similar), coming off the high pick then passing back to the middle of the floor.

But his main adjustment — hope his guys just shot better.

Seriously. For all the talk of an Xs and Os chess match, Popovich said before Game 2 that the real key was just that the Spurs do what they do best better than in Game 1.

“It always gets overplayed, when you lose you need to make an adjustment or two, and if you win you just go with the flow,” Popovich said. “You have to do what you do well. For instance, we can change pick-and-roll defense and do something different on Blake (Griffin), but I’m not sure that’s going to make us shoot better. We would like to shoot better tonight, we’d like to actually get back in transition D like it mattered. So if you do that it’s got nothing to do with Os and Xs and strategy things that you do. You’ve got to get back on defense or you’re in trouble. You’ve got to make shots or you’re in trouble. You can’t turn it over or you’re in trouble. Don’t do those things and the adjustments don’t mean a whole lot. We’ll make adjustments, so you guys think I’m doing something, but I’m hoping we do that stuff better.”

They did.

The Spurs shot 36.6 percent in Game 1, 46.2 percent in Game 2. Their eFG% (which accounts for the bump from made threes) jumped from 41.9 percent to 50.5 percent. The Spurs adjustments and ball movement got them seven more uncontested looks in Game 2 (40 to 33) and they hit a higher percentage of them (45 percent to 39.4 percent). The Spurs also did a much better job of getting back in transition and taking away some of the Clippers’ easy buckets.

This isn’t just a sound bite for Popovich. Doing what they do better was a core part of his message to the team. Look at what Patty Mills said after the Spurs Game 2 win.

“That was a game of grit, and grind and competitiveness,” Mills said. “We showed competitiveness at the toughest times, which is good. We lacked that in the first game so we knew that before any Xs and Os in this game we needed to show we could come out and compete for 48 minutes — and even more tonight.”

Doc Rivers and Popovich will both make adjustments heading into Game 3, and those tweaks will have an impact on the outcome.

But so will the answer to this simple question: Which team can do what it does best, better?

PBT Extra: No Rajon Rondo, no Chandler Parsons, Dallas is in trouble vs. Houston

Rick Carlisle, Rajon Rondo

Dallas is in real trouble against the Rockets.

Houston was the favorite anyway, but the debacle with Rajon Rondo and the injury to Chandler Parsons leaves Dallas shorthanded and missing key pieces. In this PBT Extra Jenna Corrado wonders if it will be addition by subtraction for Dallas without Rondo, and in the short term it may (especially if Devin Harris can play).

But an engaged Rondo would have been a different story. Probably. We will never know.

How unlikely was Golden State’s comeback? With :09 on clock Warriors had 6.5% chance.

Stephen Curry

It was as insane a comeback, as wild a finish as you will ever see in a playoff game.

The New Orleans Pelicans were in control of this game from the middle of the first quarter on, including their own 17-0 run in the second quarter. The Pelicans were up 20 entering the fourth quarter and 17 with six minutes to go. This was their game to win.

Even up three with :09 left and Golden State with the ball, the Pelicans had a 94.5 percent likelihood to win the game, according to the people over at Numberfire.com. Check out this chart of the win probability during the game (viaNumberfire.com):


Pelican coach Monty Williams said postgame that he told his charges to foul, don’t let them get off a three. Curry did without being fouled, Marreese Speights got the offensive board and dribbled out (he would have been the guy to foul), and Curry got another shot at the three from the corner (and he was fouled on that shot, it just wasn’t called).

It was improbable, bordering on the impossible, that the Warriors would make this comeback. With  49 seconds to go they had a five percent chance of winning.

Now it is part of the Warrior’s legacy — and part of Stephen Curry’s growing personal mythology.

Stephen Curry drops 40, leads 20-point comeback as Warriors beat Pelicans in OT, take 3-0 series lead

Stephen Curry

The crowd was rocking. Anthony Davis was making the plays — 23 points through the first three quarters — that had the New Orleans crowd screaming like it was Mardi Gras. It  seemed after 36 minutes that it was going to be the Pelican’s night; they were up 20 points entering the final frame, up 17 with six minutes to go. The Pelicans were in command. New Orleans outplayed Golden State most of the night.

But Golden State has Stephen Curry.

The Warriors started to make a little run early in the fourth, chipping away at the lead bit by bit. The clock couldn’t move fast enough for the Pelicans. Then Curry entered the game, and he kept getting space — somehow 16 of Curry’s 29 shot attempts on the night were uncontested (according to the NBA’s SportsVU cameras). He was making plays.

Golden State closed out the game on a 17-5 run but were still down three with 9.6 seconds left in regulation. Then this happened.

Curry missed the first one, but Marreese Speights picked up the offensive board, brought it out to the corner and Curry got another shot.

He wasn’t going to miss that one. The Pelicans had their hearts ripped out on national television.

From there it just had a sense of inevitability. Curry finished the night with 40 points and nine assists, and the Warriors won 123-119. That gives Golden State a commanding 3-0 series lead, they can close the Pelicans out Saturday in New Orleans.

Still, all anybody is talking about is that final play, the shot by Curry.

Pelicans coach Monty Williams said after the game he had told his players to foul on that final play — don’t even let Golden State get off a three to tie it. Foul them and make it a free throw contest. The Pelicans had ample opportunity before both shots and didn’t execute. They didn’t and paid the price.

Basketball games are not won or lost on one play, there were a number of things that cost the Thunder. Such as offensive rebounds. It wasn’t just Speights’ rebound that led to the Curry shot; the Warriors had seven offensive rebounds in the final five minutes. For the game, the Warriors grabbed the offensive rebound on 39.3 percent of their missed shots.

Curry and Klay Thompson were hot at the start of Game 3 but credit the Pelicans for once again being scrappy and fighting through it. New Orleans led by one after 12 minutes then pulled away in the second and third. They were the better team — New Orleans shot 51.1 percent on the night to Golden State’s 40.4.

But it’s about how it ends. The game went to overtime and Curry had seven points in the frame as the Warriors opened on a 9-3 run. Again the Pelicans scrapped to make it interesting, but they could never fully close the gap.

Klay Thompson poured in 28 for Golden State while Draymond Green added 12 points and 10 rebounds. Davis finished with 29 for the Pelicans; Ryan Anderson added 26.

It’s a painful loss for the Pelicans, but the kind that young teams grow and learn from.

For the Warriors, it’s a legendary comeback. It’s also another win when they don’t play their best game. In this round they can get away with that.

Thanks to Stephen Curry.

Stephen Curry hits ridiculous corner three to force OT (VIDEO)

Stephen Curry

Down 20 to start the fourth quarter, the Golden State Warriors fought almost all the way back. Yet with :09 left in regulation the Warriors were down three, and it just felt like it might be New Orleans’ night.

Then Stephen Curry happened.

The game’s best shooter got his first chance in an isolation on the left side, but his three grazed off the rim. Then there was Marreese Speights to grab the offensive board, bring it out to the arc and got it to Curry in the corner for one more shot. With half of the Big Easy closing in on him to contest it, Curry splashed his second shot right trough the net.

The Warriors forced OT, then got seven more points from Curry in the extra frame to get the win. Golden State is now up 3-0 in the series.