What We've Learned About San Antonio Spurs During NBA Finals

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistJune 14, 2013

What We've Learned About San Antonio Spurs During NBA Finals

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    The San Antonio Spurs have been a model of consistency during the 17-year tenure of head coach Gregg Popovich, but the NBA Finals is currently a different story.

    After a nail-biting four-point win in Game 1, it appeared like the series with the Miami Heat would be six or seven grueling matchups.

    Then, Miami demolished the Spurs in Game 2, and this series would surely end in San Antonio with a Heat thrashing.

    Routinely, Popovich's squad in Game 3, led by Gary Neal and Danny Green, decided the NBA Finals definitely would not leave San Antonio, but for a different reason—domination by the Spurs.

    So, naturally, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James thought it would be a good idea to be fantastic on Thursday night. A combined 29-for-50 shooting mark later, the Heat tied up the series at 2-2.

    What have we ultimately learned about the Spurs? Oh, how to count the lessons.

Tony Parker Is Really, Really Good

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    Tony Parker is a human highlight reel.

    In Game 1, Parker scored 21 points, had six assists and committed zero turnovers against a ferocious Miami defense. The 12-year playoff veteran also made an unbelievable shot to seal the victory by ducking on LeBron James, double-clutching and getting a friendly bounce.

    Parker had a rough Game 2, but he still managed 13 points and five assists.

    Despite suffering a hamstring injury in Game 3, Parker scored six points, dropped eight dimes and earned a +27 rating in the Spurs' blowout win.

    And then, despite the injury he said would keep him out of a regular-season game, Parker netted 15 points on 7-for-15 shooting and dished nine assists. Though he was relatively ineffective in the second half, the blame for San Antonio's struggles cannot fall completely on Parker.

    The Spurs' need for Parker is huge, though, because it helps their offense immensely when a 6'2" point guard can score on LeBron using magic.

Manu Ginobili Is Really, Really Not

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    San Antonio fans, feel free to revel in what his career once was, but look at what he is doing now.

    Simply, Manu Ginobili's best days have come and gone.

    Ginobili performed decently in Game 1, scoring 13 points, but since then he has shot 6-for-18 from the field, including an abysmal 1-for-11 from the three-point line.

    Ginobili has turned the ball over seven times in four games according to the box scores, but it sure feels like a lot more than that.

    He is turning into more of a liability on the court making horrible jump passes, awful touch passes and amazingly bad shot decisions.

    Late in Game 4, Bleacher Report's Garrett Jochnau expressed a frustration synonymous to many Spurs' followers.

    Ginobili should be happy with the veteran's minimum.

    — Garrett Jochnau (@GarrettJochnau) June 14, 2013

    It is safe to say Ginobili's new contract will not be near the $14.1 million mark he was due this season, per Hoopsworld.com.

    And it shouldn't be.

Tim Duncan Is Still a Machine

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    He may be 37 years old, but Tim Duncan is playing like a man no older than 36.

    If that 36-year old man is Tim Duncan, that is.

    The 16-year pro is still averaging 15.3 points, 11.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game during the NBA Finals.

    Duncan is making left-handed floaters, strange-angled one-handed bank shots and 18-foot jumpers, but he still can throw down a patented one-handed slam.

    He has been a gem for San Antonio throughout the series, but Duncan needs to improve on his five-rebound Game 4 performance so the Heat cannot get silly second-chance points.

Kawhi Leonard Is a Smart Defender

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    Kawhi Leonard is San Antonio's best defender, and LeBron James is Miami's biggest offensive threat, so Leonard gets to guard James.

    But Leonard is unfazed and will certainly not make excuses.

    The 21-year old has performed admirably thus far, and even in Game 4 disrupted James' attacking prowess. A major difference from Game 3, however, was that LeBron started to knock down his jumpers.

    Leonard's biggest asset is making the correct judgments and snap decisions, and he rarely puts himself in a bad position.

    If the promising second-year star keeps getting his 11.25-inch hands in the face of Miami's superstar, it is all that can be asked of him.

Tiago Splitter Tries His Best

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    Tiago Splitter is overmatched and out-skilled, therefore is being outplayed.

    But he tries his best, darn it!

    Between LeBron, D-Wade and Shane Battier, Splitter cannot catch a break at the rim.

    But he will not stop going to the rim, and he should not, either.

    Splitter likely should see his playing time go down but at no fault of his own. The Heat are succeeding with a smaller lineup on the floor, so Popovich will have something up his sleeve to counteract it.

    Then again, his sleeve may contain Splitter, and you can bet the native Brazilian will try his best when called upon, darn it.

San Antonio Can Still Improve from Distance

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    The Spurs have made 50 percent of their three-point attempts in the last three games, but they can get better.

    Danny Green (19-for-28) and Gary Neal (12-for-22) have carried San Antonio in the finals from distance, but other players still have room to improve.

    Kawhi Leonard has shot just 4-for-13 in the series, and while Parker drained an enormous three before halftime in Game 2, he has attempted only two other long-distance shots.

    While I realize driving the lane is Parker's forte, he should be taking open looks, too.

    Boris Diaw hit a crucial shot when the Spurs were on a run in the second quarter of Game 4, but he has barely played in the finals.

    Plus, Matt Bonner, who typically nails three-pointers, cannot find an open spot. When he had two such looks in Game 3, surprisingly, Bonner missed.

    Throw in Ginobili's horrific 3-for-16 mark in the series and San Antonio has plenty of room to improve from behind the arc.

The Spurs Must Protect the Ball Consistently

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    Gregg Popovich may give short-timed and few-worded interviews, but he is not wrong. Protecting the ball is one of the most important things to do in basketball, and when the Spurs do it well, they win.

    But when San Antonio does not, predictable results ensue.

    The Spurs committed a remarkably low four turnovers in Game 1 and won, but they gave the ball away 16 times in Game 2 and were dismantled.

    In Game 3, San Antonio relatively controlled the rock, ceding possession 12 times before losing control 18 times on Thursday night.

    Committing few turnovers equals wins, but bunches of them spell disaster, and the results have shown it with a 2-2 deadlock in the series.

Trivial Details Equate to Wins

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    This is what we have learned about the Spurs; The little stuff matters, no matter how intricate the detail. The following is a fool-proof system to predict the result in-game, I promise.

    1. If someone not named Danny Green makes the second basket for the team, the Spurs win.

    2. When the Spurs make a buzzer-beater going into halftime, San Antonio wins. Tim Duncan accomplished it in Game 1, and Gary Neal duplicated the feat in Game 3.

    3. The first team to make a basket with under 3:25 remaining in the third quarter wins.

    4. If San Antonio scores exactly 40 points in the paint, the team emerges victorious.

    5. When the Spurs score more points than Miami, San Antonio wins, and, conversely, the Heat win if they outscore the Texans.

    Insightful, right?