|Gregg Popovich and his high standards have the Spurs up 2-0. (Getty Images)|
The Spurs were up 16. They had blistered the Thunder the whole night through. In the third quarter, they scored 1.35 points per possession, an ungoldy number for a Western Conference Finals game. They were rolling.
Tony Parker blew a defensive positioning, the lead had shrunk from the mid-20's to the teens. The Spurs were still very much in control, dominant while making the Thunder look silly in their rotations. Sure, Parker made a few slips. He'd also scored 26 points, and added another 18 points to the offense in assists. That's 44 of 80 points.
And Gregg Popovich called timeout, and flipped out on Parker. Flipped. Out. Yelling screaming, as the man who has helped lead his team to three titles yelled back.
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That's the key. The process is what matters.
You can be process-oriented or results-oriented. And in the macho, "win at all costs" psychosis that pervades the NBA, results are what gets talked about, measured, analyzed, and prioritized at all costs.
And to be sure, had the Spurs not produced results, had Popovich not produced results, there would be no chance at developing the process. But they did win, because of the process. Having Tim Duncan was essential. But plenty of teams have blown having a franchise player. The Spurs have built a system, built a culture, built a process on accountability and the idea that all of the little things, the way that players execute the details, matter. Scoring 30 points is great and will be rewarded with trust and respect. But it does not exempt you from everything else.
Score 40 points, you're still going to get yelled at for making mistakes which cost the team.
Because those little plays act up, and containing them, guiding them to correction, driving for perfection which will never be attained is still the best way to to build consistency, to build a model which excels "star A plus star B plus roleplayers X and Y= championship." The Spurs are winning with Danny Green and Boris Diaw and Gary Neal and Matt Bonnner. They are winning with an aging Tim Duncan who didn't have a good night on Tuesday in Game 2 and with a second-year center in Tiago Splitter.
And it's because to a man, from Popovich on down to Neal, they respect the proces. Hammer the rock, maintain the process, execute, and win.
The Spurs lead 2-0, not because their talent is better, or their depth. They're not ahead because of hot shooting (well, not completely) or because of their matchups (well, not completely). They're ahead 2-0 becaue of their execution, which is the product of every moment in practice, in meetings, on the floor, in games, with the same expectations, the same tenets, the same ideas. Consistency. It's what happens when you care more about the process than the results.
It's how you get the results you want, for 13 years and counting.