There was Tony Parker, sure. But there was also Danny Green, making a huge block, knocking down huge shots. There was Boris Diaw, the forgotten man, fresh off of injury making plays on both ends. There was Kawhi Leonard, quietly becoming the Spurs' most valuable all-around player under the radar.
And of course there was Manu Ginobili.
The names I have just listed all played a part in the Spurs' 129-127 victory in double-overtime against the Warriors on Monday night. But while Ginobili will get the highlight and the accolades and the story features tonight and tomorrow, the real point, the real reason the Spurs were able to come back from 18 down to defend their homecourt is that it could have been any of those players, it could be any player, it was all those players.
The Spurs have go-to talent, don't get me wrong. When the numbers on the scoreboard get tight, they have battle-tested, clutch-ready, dagger-dishing guys to get the job done that they can count on. They have superstars. They have Hall-of-Fame, internationally famous, side-of-the-building-poster guys who have their own legends.
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But they have designed a system to both maximize those stars' talents and to use those gifts to lift the other player. Any player that steps in the game for the Spurs is ready to play, ready to shoot, ready to defend. There's trust in the system, trust in the coach, trust in each other, and that's what makes their specific combination so valuable.
In Game 1, the Spurs did what so few teams can. They made adjustments in-game to nullify the strengths of the opponent. Stephen Curry was torching them, so they changed up their coverage and forced him into progressively harder shots, banking that he would keep trying to make them when his legs were gone. He did.
The Warriors ran 15 isolations from the first through the third quarter, when they built their lead. But they got greedy. They ran 15 in the fourth quarter alone, as the Spurs mounted their comeback. While the Warriors were going to one-on-one ball, the Spurs stuck to their script. They ran approximately the same number of pick and roll plays and post-ups and off-ball plays as they did the rest of the game. They didn't get sucked up in one player trying to do too much, instead they let their superstar Tony Parker do what he does when he gets room, their roleplayers made their roleplayer shots, and they played great defense.
The result was a comeback, and while the Warriors pushed through that first overtime, eventually, it was the Spurs with their balanced attack that came through. The Nuggets fell to the Warriors because they didn't have a player to counter-attack with of Curry's caliber, the Spurs succeeded because they had it all. The superstar, the system, the roleplayers, all of it, and it all worked on the same page.
No panic. No fear. Commitment and clockwork.
If it feels overbearing, it should. The clarity of the Spurs' process hits you over the head like the hammer their favorite quote talks about. They win when they work the process and execute as they should. It helps when the shots fall, but lost in the highlights is a commitment to a plan, and the discipline to execute it.
Manu Ginobili hit a heck of a shot Monday night. But it was 15 Spurs and Popovich who guided the ball through the net.