Laying motionless on the floor of the AT&T Center, Tony Parker began clutching his leg along with the hopes and dreams of thousands of San Antonians.
For a team that seemingly went into Game 1 waving a white flag after a bombardment of 3-pointers by the Houston Rockets, it would have been understandable for the San Antonio Spurs to pack it in and let their concern for a fallen comrade zap their adrenaline laden fourth quarter rally.
Instead, the Spurs persevered through a couple of turnovers and scoreless stretch of 1:19 to seal a Game 2 victory.
The Rockets only managed 13 points in the final frame, which all came after Parker’s injury occurred. San Antonio survived their first taste of Parker-less playoff basketball for the first time since 2001 by scoring 24 points to finish the quarter, with 15 of those points coming from Kawhi Leonard and Jonathon Simmons.
Here are the suggested Game 2 adjustments and how they fared:
1) Verdict: Partial credit – Cooler heads prevailed in Game 2, so Dewayne Dedmon’s emotional leadership wasn’t needed on Monday night. The Spurs brought all the intensity they saved from Game 1 to the table as evident early on by Pau Gasol’s play. No matter how many times Clint Capela tried to spike his shots into the stands, Gasol maintained his composure and was a force on the glass, in the paint, and on defense.
2) Verdict: Success – In five minutes on the floor together during Game 2, the backcourt of Mills and Parker had an offensive rating 139.5 with a net rating of 77. Oh what could’ve been…
Here are the adjustments for Game 3:
BAPTISM BY FIRE
Obviously the biggest question mark is whether Gregg Popovich inserts Patty Mills into the starting lineup, or leaves his rotation the same and rolls with rookie Dejounte Murray.
Regardless of who starts, it will be the first playoff start in their career for either Mills or Murray.
The case for Murray is strictly because of how few minutes he would actually have to occupy, while his athleticism and length could be a big advantage defensively. If Murray can handle the ability to play the start of each half, along with a handful of minutes to begin the fourth quarter, Mills can work closer to 30-35 minutes to ease the loss of Parker’s offense.
A concern with Murray is certain problems that plagued him in the Development League this season. When he commits a turnover or misses an assignment on defense, he attempts to atone for his mistakes aggressively. Turning the ball over against the Rockets is the equivalent of giving a pyromaniac a gas can, some lighters and the keys to your unattended house.
As long as Murray can check his eagerness to rectify mistakes and not get suckered into easy fouls or turnovers, the Spurs can survive this series while increasing Murray’s development exponentially.
CHOPPED NOT SLOPPED
Turnovers are the easiest way to allow Houston to cruise to victory, but missed shots can be just as deadly.
In Game 1 the Rockets went 22-for-50 from beyond the arc, while San Antonio went 31-for-84 from the field. Though Houston suffered a poor shooting night, the Spurs’ ability to score allowed them to get set on defense and limit transition opportunities.
San Antonio was +17 in field goals made from Game 1 to Game 2, while Houston ended up -16 in 3-point attempts between contests. While the Rockets played a majority of the game at a thriving tempo, the Spurs managed to slow the pace between Games 1 and 2 by 15 possessions, grinding this iteration of Mike D’Antoni’s seven seconds or less squad to a halt.
The Spurs’ role players won’t have baskets fall as easily inside the Toyota Center as they did at home, which makes it imperative that San Antonio continues to keep the pace down, while out-rebounding the Rockets and outscoring them in the paint as they did in Game 2.
This isn’t an adjustment, it’s just a slightly uninformed guess.
With Parker out for the remainder of the playoffs, someone from the inactive list will be in uniform on Friday night.
Bryn Forbes seems like the logical candidate to make the leap from inactive to active, given that he spent plenty of time in the Development League grooming his point guard skills. He’s also as capable to turn into a flamethrower on the court as anyone not named James Harden or Kawhi Leonard. But does Pop really want Murray, Forbes and Davis Bertans standing idly by with their lack of experience, or would he prefer a consummate pro?
During Game 2, it seemed as if Reggie Miller was willing to risk his broadcasting reputation on the fact that LaMarcus Aldridge had a leg injury. While Popovich denied that specific ailment, he did admit that Aldridge is “working through some things.”
If Parker’s injury makes Pop overly cautious, there’s a good chance Joel Anthony could end up on the active list over Bryn Forbes, as an emergency plan to Aldridge.
After all…know Warden, know rings. No Warden? No rings.