First off, what a fantastic game between the Spurs and the Hornets. It was basketball the way it was supposed to be played. Guys on both teams were making big shots and plays, diving and hustling for the ball. What about Chris Paul, that guy is an amazing player, he's gonna great to watch for a long time.

There are a couple of things I want to talk about regarding tonight's game. First, is there any doubt that Gregg Popovich's ability to make game-to-game and in-game adjustments is unmatched among current coaches and possibly of all time? Again, he just seems to always make the right call, the right substitution, at the right time. Tonight it was starting Manu Ginobili instead of Finley and making the Hornets pay on Duncan double-teams by using touch passes to reverse the ball and get wide open shots.

Second, I said it before and I say it again, shooting is the great talent equalizer. Even in tonights game, it is undeniable that the Hornets are the more talented team. So, the Spurs had to find ways to get open shots, then make them. They did that tonight by first scoring in the paint, then when the Hornets packed the lane, they found the open shooters in the corner. Bowen and Finley were the difference in this game making those big shots from the corner, 7-for-14 combined 3-point shooting. That is something the Hornets must make an adjustment to for Game 4.

Thirdly, the idea of closing out quarters and halves. This is critical, because it sets the tone for subsequent quarters and halves. If you were the Spurs, it gave you life after a lacklustre first half. If you were the Hornets, it made you feel sick, to know that you could have had the defending champs on the ropes on their home floor heading into the locker room but instead squandered a 7 point lead down to 2. This is the final seconds of the first half,

2.7 seconds - Bowen hits an open corner 3-pointer
1.6 seconds - Over and back TO by Morris Peterson
0.8 seconds - Ginobili hits an open turnaround 2-pointer

Drive and Kick:

The Spurs did a fantastic job of getting the ball into the lane, either with a Duncan post-up, or with a dribble drive by Parker. Then they swung the ball to their open shooters. In this clip, it was just 1 pass, from Parker to Bowen in the corner. Notice, the defensive alignment. Due to the Spurs spreading the weakside of the floor, the Hornets had a hard time covering that large open area,

Hornets Triangle-and-2:

On inbounds plays, I've never been a fan of playing any kind of zone or junk. Especially on last second BLOBs or SLOBs. I much prefer a switching M2M, I'd rather have a hand in the face of every player than 5 guys protecting the basket but allowing an open 3-pointer. The Hornets decided to use a triangle-and-2 with the triangle protecting against the lob to alley-oop. Then David West is supposed to be splitting both Ginobili and inbounder. West does neither, and allows Ginobili to come across the court to receive the bounce pass to catch and shoot,

I cannot overstate the importance of closing out quarters/halves well. I coached a team once where we played the state's top team. For 19 minutes we played great and were within 5 points. A few sloppy passes, bad defense, and bad shot selection cost us 7 points in the final minute of the half. You were just about to congratulate your team on a well played half, but instead you go into the locker room and you're livid. All of a sudden it's a 12 point deficit and it's incredibly frustrating for both coach and player. It's like the whole 19 minutes didn't mean a damn thing.


I wrote last week about how Pop is one of my fave five NBA coaches of all time. The Hornets have more talent and should win this series, but if it is at all possible that there is a way the Spurs can tactically win this series, you can count on Pop to find it.

If you're a fan of the Spurs like me, you'll want to watch Gregg Popovich's DVD on his favorite plays and drills. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this or any of your other favorite basketball topics.