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Veteran Spurs Lacking Championship Poise
Posted By Derek Page On June 6, 2012 @ 6:00 am In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
The Western Conference Finals are the least opportune time to start developing bad habits, but the San Antonio Spurs have done just that. Turnovers have crippled the Spurs since taking a 2-0 series lead and have played a large role in three straight losses at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Over the course of the 2012 regular season, San Antonio finished as the third best team in the NBA in terms of taking care of the basketball with an average of just 13.7 turnovers per contest. Even with the run-and-gun offensive style the Tony Parker-led Spurs now facilitate, ball security has been one of the Spurs’ best qualities all year long.
The last three games against the Thunder have been a different story.
After committing a reasonable total of 31 turnovers that led to 37 points for the Thunder over the first two games in San Antonio (both wins), the wheels have seemingly fallen off for the Spurs.
During this, the Spurs’ first three-game losing streak since March of 2011, San Antonio has committed a whopping 52 turnovers that have led to 59 points for Oklahoma City. In two of those three contests, San Antonio gave the rock away 21 times apiece, which resulted in a total of 48 combined Thunder points.
Against a team like the Thunder – that thrives on making teams pay for coughing the ball up by using their speed and athleticism to score easy baskets in transition – these turnovers are compounded even more. This is especially demoralizing considering the Spurs, boasting four NBA titles over the past 13 seasons, aren’t supposed to be letting the pressure get to them.
On the other side, the team that finished dead last in the NBA this season in terms taking care of the basketball (16.3 turnovers per game) is having no trouble in that department recently. In fact, the much younger and less playoff proven Thunder is averaging merely 12.7 turnovers per contest over the past three games for a total of just 36 points against.
To put that in perspective, in Game 5 the Spurs backcourt duo of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili were responsible for 10 of San Antonio’s 21 total turnovers by themselves.
As a result, during this three-game winning streak for Oklahoma City, the difference in the points off turnovers margin has been +23 in favor of the Thunder. Not coincidentally, the total margin of victory for the Thunder in taking a 3-2 series lead is 31 points.
“The bottom line is you can’t turn it over 21 times for 28 points against a team like [Oklahoma City],” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said after Game 5. “They’re too good and that’s what we did again. Turnovers have been a theme throughout this entire [series].”
While many of those turnovers have been a case of the Spurs simply shooting themselves in the foot, there’s no denying Oklahoma City’s tenacious defense has played a large role in the Spurs’ seemingly frazzled offensive approach recently.
“Part of that is us being sloppy or not delivering the ball at the right time and part of it is that they’ve played really good defense,” Popovich explained. “They’ve been physical.”
Being the veteran-laden team that they are, the Spurs simply cannot be as careless with the ball as they’ve been over the last three games if they want any shot at sending this series back to San Antonio. Against an already supremely talented Thunder squad, it’s asking a lot to have to deal with self-inflicted wounds while at the same time trying to fend off the heroics of players like Kevin Durant and James Harden.
Coach Popovich says he believes winning Game 5 in San Antonio established the Thunder as a championship-caliber team. Now it’s up to the Spurs to steal one in Oklahoma City in a do-or-die Game 6 and prove that this San Antonio squad is indeed a threat to not only advance, but win the NBA Finals.
“I’ll be on them and I’m sure they’ll come out ready to go [in Game 6],” Popovich said. “Championship teams win on the road and Oklahoma City did just that. They’ve proven they’re a championship-caliber team. Now we have to go do that and if we can’t win on Wednesday, we’re not a championship-caliber team. It’s as simple as that.”
Even though the Thunder look primed to take Game 6 at home tonight, the Spurs deserve at least a puncher’s chance due to their championship pedigree. Slicing the recent tedious surge in turnovers in half tonight would go a long way in helping this series make the short trip back to San Antonio.
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