NBA Commentary: San Antonio Spurs Role Players, Helping Carry Team Through Finals.
2013 NBA Finals.
If you consider yourself to be a true sports fan, then you'll most likely feel that the 2013 NBA Finals have been nothing short of dramatic. Before the current NBA Finals series between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat began, fans, analysts, and commentators alike figured that this would be an epic series. I myself was one of those people that felt like this series could be one to be talked about for years to come, and it's honestly looking as if we were right.
Neither the Spurs nor the Heat have been able to totally claim a tight grasp on this series. It's like two boxers trading punches in the ring, and neither has landed that knockout blow. Since this series started, both teams have traded wins - with game six taking place tonight. After three straight games played in San Antonio, game six - and potentially game seven barring a Miami Heat, win tonight will take place in South Beach. The Spurs have an opportunity in game six to land that final blow to finish off the Heat.Tonight's game is a must win for the Heat, as the Spurs hold a three games to two lead in the series.
When the stage was being set for this series, the majority of the headlines had names like: LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobilli and Tony Parker in the spotlight. These are the players that many of us figured to be the key contributors to how the series would turn out. It's no secret that both LeBron James and Dwayne Wade have been Miami's key duo in their success during this series. However, with the exceptions of games 1 and 5, San Antonio's own 'Big Three' of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobilli have had less than their usual performances.
Everyone figured that the Spurs role players would have to step up in order for San Antonio to defeat the always dangerous and defending champions Miami Heat. However, I think it's safe to say that most of us never figured that several of the Spurs role players would be a big as they have in this series. In fact, names such as Danny Green, Kawahi Leonard, and Gary Neal have basically carried the Spurs in two of their three wins. With a potential fifth championship title on the line tonight in game six for the Spurs, can their role players carry them for one more game, or will Parker, Duncan, and Ginobilli revert back to their championship play of the past?
San Antonio's 'Big Three' Have Had Their Share of Troubles in the 2013 NBA Finals.
Problems San Antonio's 'Big Three' Have Faced.
In previous seasons where the San Antonio Spurs won titles, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobilli, and Tony Parker have been the players that provided the leadership and skills on the floor to will the Spurs to victory. With all three players in the later stages of their respective careers, the Spurs organization chose to put in younger pieces to help complement the aging veterans. This strategy has obviously worked out well in the Spurs favor, as they are still an elite team in the NBA.
Playing alongside the Spur veterans and under head coach Gregg Popovich has obviously helped in the development of the Spurs role players. The Spurs finished the regular season with a 58-24 record, and have basically been dominant in their playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors, and Memphis Grizzlies. Now in their fifth NBA Finals appearance, they have now found themselves on the cusp of a 5th NBA Championship for their franchise. However, little did we know that the Spurs role players would have to contribute as much as they have.
After a sensational performance in game one of the series, Spurs point guard Tony Parker struggled in game two, as the Spurs would lose 103-84 to Miami. Parker hit the game winning shot and scoring 21 points in game 1, but was just 5-14 from the field in game 2. The Spurs would dominate Miami in game three with a 113-77 demolition of Miami. However, Parker suffered a leg injury that would later be classified as a hamstring injury. The injury left casting doubt on how effective Parker would be in the series going forward. Parker has continued to play through the injury, but he clearly isn't as effective as he normally is. The different defensive looks and match-ups that Miami are showing him isn't helping either.
Since joining the Spurs in 2002, Manu Ginobilli has easily been one of the Spurs best players and competitors. Ginobilli however has struggled not only in this series, but in the 2013 NBA Playoffs in general. Ginobilli, who will be turning 36 next month, has struggled with his shooting during the playoffs. This has resulted in many analysts voicing their opinions as to whether or not Ginobilli has declined as a player. After being inserted into the starting lineup for the first time all season in game 5 of the finals, Ginobilli answered with 24 points on 8-14 shooting from the field in San Antonio's 114-104 victory. He finally showed glimpses of the Ginobilli that we've been accustomed to seeing over the years.
Spur's Guard Danny Green Has Been A Consistent Sharpshooter Against Miami.
San Antonio's Role Players Stepping Up.
As I mentioned earlier, Ginobilli, Parker, and Duncan's sporadic play has been a bit unexpected. What also has been unexpected in regards to the Spurs is the play of role players Danny Green, Gary Neal, and Kawhi Leonard. These key role players needed to provide a spark for the Spurs with their sharpshooting abilities, but not many of us expected them to basically carry the Spurs at various points throughout this series.
Danny Green has been a three-point assassin during the NBA Finals. Green, a 6'6 shooting guard, first joined the Spurs in 2010. He would be released by the Spurs days later, and would play overseas and in the NBA's D-League before rejoining the Spurs in mid 2011. Green's three-point shooting throughout the finals has been spot on, and has been a deciding factors in the outcome of several games. Green, who has averaged 8.7 points in his NBA career, has scored in double digits in all three of the Spurs victories. He scored 27 points on 7-9 shooting from three point range in game 3, and scored 24 points in game 5. Green also broke Ray Allen's NBA Finals record of 22 three pointers in a series.
Green is shooting an amazing 66% from three point range in the finals. All of this is coming from a player that was cut from the Cleveland Cavaliers(the team that drafted him) and the San Antonio Spurs at one point. Green's play throughout the finals has spurred talk of him potentially being the 2013 NBA Finals MVP. Not only has Danny Green stepped up for the Spurs, but so has starting forward, Kawhi Leonard. Leonard, a second year player, played his college ball at San Diego State. Leonard isn't known for being a big talker. However, he has silently played excellent defense against LeBron James.
Leonard hasn't stopped James completely. However, he has made shots tougher for James. To add to Leonard's silent but solid defense, he has also contributed with his scoring. Another player that has been instant offense off the bench for the Spurs is Gary Neal. Neal, who is an un-drafted combo guard, spent several years playing overseas before joining the Spurs in 2010. Since joining the Spurs, Neal has developed into a solid bench player, that gives the Spurs added sharpshooting. This was displayed in game three, as Neal finished with 24 points off the bench. Other role players that have helped the Spurs in this series include backup point guard Corey Joseph, and veteran Boris Diaw.
Will the Spurs Close Out the Miami Heat In Six Games?
Will the Spurs need Parker, Duncan, and Ginobilli to come up big in order to win in Miami? I absolutely believe they do. However, it should be a reassuring feeling for the Spurs that they have key role players and a deep bench that has the ability to help carry the team at various times. You almost can't help but to root for players like Green - a young player that that has traveled a long road to get to where he is at now, and is making the most of his opportunity.
Although the Spurs are on the brink of cashing in on a fifth title, they cannot afford to be lackadaisical in game 6. Miami is facing elimination on their home floor, so I'm sure they will fight tooth and nail to make sure this series goes to a series deciding game seven. Coach Popovich making the decision to insert Manu Ginobilli into the starting lineup in game 5 proved to be a wise move. Not only did Ginobilli have his best game of the NBA Finals, but this was arguably his best game during the 2013 NBA Playoffs.
The Spurs may have the slight edge in the series, but I believe they know that tonight is a must win for them, just as much as it is for the Heat. Anything can happen in a game seven, and I think the Spurs are aware of that. One thing they do have is experience in playing in a game 7 during the NBA Finals. The Spurs and the Detroit Pistons NBA Finals series in 2005 went seven games, with the Spurs winning it all. If the Spurs 'Big Three' do happen to have an off night in game 6 tonight, their role players will hopefully continue to be there to back them up.