Gregg Popovich Made Questionable Decisions Late in Game 6

by June 19, 2013

The best coach in the NBA isn’t prone to making very many mistakes, but last night in a devastating Game 6 loss, Gregg Popovich made some head-scratching calls. Of course, Pop was his usual acerbically funny self when grilled by reporters afterwards. Per Yahoo! Sports: “In went Boris Diaw, 6-foot-8 and somewhat athletic. Out came Tim Duncan, 6-11 and 37 years old, but perhaps the greatest power forward of them all and certainly the greatest Spur. He owned 30 points and 16 rebounds at that moment. He was shown the bench anyway. The Spurs like to switch off picks in those moments, like to be fluid and versatile, and Gregg Popovich is not a man prone to variation or sentimentality. So for the final two Miami possessions of the fourth quarter, Duncan was out. Seconds later, a LeBron James shot bounced off the rim and high in the air. There were gasps from the crowd. Everything was floating in the balance when Chris Bosh, who Duncan had owned all night, leaped, grabbed the ball and kicked it to Ray Allen. San Antonio could’ve tried to foul in an instant, giving Allen two free throws rather than the 3-pointer that forced overtime and will go down in Finals lore. But Popovich has an answer to that foul rather than defend strategy. ‘We don’t,’ the coach said. Later in overtime, the Spurs trailed by one with 8.8 seconds left. Kawhi Leonard grabbed a rebound. San Antonio had a timeout in the bag and now the ball with a shot at everything. One basket and they’re champions. Popovich decided to let them play, rather than get Tony Parker, by far his most dynamic playmaker, into the game. No set play was called, leaving a struggling Manu Ginobili, who had seven turnovers at that point, to drive hard into traffic, essentially hoping to hit a circus shot or get bailed out by a foul. Neither happened. Miami got the ball. Allen iced it on the line. A desperation shot by Danny Green was blocked. Final score: Heat 103-100. Game 7 is Thursday. […] This is what won the Spurs those four NBA titles, what’s made him the NBA’s finest active coach. Everything is considered beforehand and nothing shifts with the emotion of the minute, even the final minute of the Finals. The Spurs don’t foul, they defend. The Spurs switch on final possessions. The Spurs believe in playing on in transition. ‘Believe me,’ Ginobili said, ‘he had many more reasons to make [these decisions] than for [anyone] to question him.’ […] His players remain believers, and for that the Spurs still have a chance. A lesser coach, a younger coach, and this series might be done. Only Popovich can sit Duncan, sit Parker, and have a chance to not lose the room. ‘There’s no questions there,’ Duncan assured. ‘Me, personally, I trust Pop,’ Parker said. ‘I’ll go with whatever Pop decides.'”