“Yeah, definitely helped,” said Tim Duncan. “Boris shot the ball really well, and just the threat of Matt being out there I think helped us to keep him (Ibaka) out of the lane a little bit and spread him out a little bit. It was a great move by Pop, a little adjustment there, and it obviously worked out.”
Duncan is an example. In two games in OKC, with Ibaka slapping San Antonio shots in every direction, Duncan had four shots blocked and made just 10 of 25 attempts. But in Game 5, Duncan made eight of 13 and scored 22 points. Helps when Ibaka has to sprint 15 feet, not just five feet, to get within range of bothering the Big Fundamental.
The Spurs played with the same crispness they displayed when Ibaka was missing. After Game 4, Popovich decried his team’s decision-making, saying it challenged Ibaka far too often instead of passing out to the open man. That changed in Game 5.
“We got off the ball,” Popovich said. “We didn’t have any ballstoppers. We hit open people and relied on team play more than we did in OKC. We just played harder. You know, you play with passion, you play with determination. It seems kind of a trite sort of notion, but sometimes players do and sometimes they don’t. They’re human beings, they’re not automatons.”
Brooks noticed. He called it “catch-and-drive” instead of “catch-and-hold.” And thus the Spurs proved they could beat Ibaka, against whom they had lost seven straight games and 12 of 14.
Now Brooks must counter Pop’s moves – play a small lineup more? – and the Thunder has to regain the attitude it showed in Oklahoma City. And keep it if and when the series comes back to San Antonio for a Game 7, when the Thunder will need Sergezilla in all his terror to win this series.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at . He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.