Follow the team all season long with the 20-Second Timeout blog by Bill Schoening, The Radio Voice of the Spurs for the past 10 years. Bill has over 30 years of play-by-play experience including broadcasting Major League Baseball, the NFL and the NBA.
A Little Manu Voodoo
by Bill Schoening | May 29, 2012
(Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty)
It was a subtle move that you might not have caught until you saw the replay. Spurs guard Manu Ginobili, in the fourth quarter of game one of the Western Conference Finals, starts a drive from the right wing. As he's approaching the paint he fakes a pass to the right corner and Thunder forward Kevin Durant drifts out to cover a corner three but the ball is still in the hands of Ginobili, who completes the drive with a layup, drawing a foul from Russell Westbrook.
It's the type of play we have come to expect from Ginobili in crunch time of a playoff game. I like to call it "Manu Voodoo."
Ginobili's crafty move typified the Spurs play down the stretch in the 101-98 victory. If the Spurs are to knock off a very hungry and athletic Thunder team, they will need Manu to continue have his impact on the game. It might not be 26 points like he scored in game one, but perhaps a deflected pass or steal or a long lead pass to an open teammate on a fastbreak.
Ginobili is often called the Spurs' "X" factor, and there's a reason for that. He consistently produces plays at both ends of the floor that make it tougher for the opposing team. Ginobili's contributions in the conference finals will be an important factor in determining which team represpents the West in the NBA finals.
Youth is Served
by Bill Schoening | May 23, 2012
(D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty)
There are many reasons the Spurs are headed to the Western Conference Finals, but it's fairly safe to say that the contributions by a couple of young wings has been of paramount importance.
Heading into the season, Kawhi Leonard was a raw 20 year old rookie who did not have an opportunity to work with his new NBA coaches because of the lockout. There was no chance to refine his skills in the Vegas Summer League, where the Spurs one year earlier had unearthed another gem in Gary Neal.
Danny Green, like Leonard, was an unknown commodity heading into an abbreviated training camp in December. A second round draft choice of the Cleveland Cavaliers in '09, Green was too young to be a journeyman, but was certainly well traveled in his two previous seasons, which included a stint with the Reno Bighorns of the D League. His NBA experience totaled 28 games, and he averaged 2.9 points and 1.1 rebounds.
Fast forward to the present, and Green and Leonard are starters on a team that has won a franchise record 18 straight games, including 8 playoff games. Green's knack for being in the right place at the time has been uncanny. He has given the Spurs flexibility at the defensive end with his ability to guard multiple positions, as evidenced by the solid job he did on Chris Paul at times during the Clippers' series.
In the playoffs, Green is hitting 50 percent of his shots from the floor, and 46 percent from three point range. He never seems to get rattled, perhaps a testament to his four years playing in a major program like North Carolina.
Leonard's length and athletic ability have made him a natural at the defensive end, and his quiet demeanor belies a competitive nature that is apparent in how hard he plays. Leonard was named this week to the all rookie first team, and was deserving of the honor.
Like Green, he is hitting 46 percent beyond the arc in the playoffs, and he has put in countless hours with development coaches Chad Forcier and Chip Engelland to improve all aspects of his game.
As the Thunder series approaches, the Spurs can be thankful that these two young players have turned question marks into exclamation points.
How Deep Can You Go?
by Bill Schoening | May 14, 2012
(Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty)
By now it is no secret that the Spurs rely on their reserves. . . a lot. Throughout the course of the regular season and in the opening round against the Jazz, the Spurs' bench played an integral role in the team's success. This was never more apparent than in Game 4 at Salt lake City, as the Spurs' bench outscored Utah's 57-10, the most bench points ever scored by a Spurs team in the postseason.
The opponent in the Western Conference Semifinals also knows how to go deep. The Los Angeles Clippers' second unit may have been the difference in their first round seven game triumph over the Memphis Grizzlies. Point guard Eric Bledsoe, shooting guard Mo Williams, (who can also run the point) smalll forward Nick Young, and bigs Kenyon Martin and Reggie Evans all had shining moments in the opening round.
Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has a great deal of respect for the Clippers reserves. "They are physical, push the pace, and play good defense. They have been important all year and will be in this series", says Pop, who also knows Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro very well, having coached him in the late '90s.
With a back to back coming up in games 3 and 4 at Staples Center, the second units for each club and the production they provide may be even more apparent.
Road Success Shows Focus
by Bill Schoening | May 9, 2012
It's hard to believe but when the compressed 66 game regular season schedule began back in late December, the Spurs were not a good road team.
Like many teams around the NBA, the accelerated training camp and preseason was not conducive to early road success for the Silver and Black. The Spurs lost their first five road games and eight of their first ten away from the friendly confines of the AT&T Center.
The Spurs lost to non-playoff teams like Minnesota (twice) and Milwaukee. It was a road loss at Dallas in overtime that may have been the spark for future road success and given a huge boost of confidence to the Spurs' ultra successful bench.
The Spurs second unit that evening was responsible for getting the Spurs a late fourth quarter lead after the Mavs led by 17 late in the 3rd quarter. Even though Dallas won that game, the next night the Spurs won a physical battle at Memphis. It was the start of an eleven game winning streak, with eight of those wins coming on the road.
The Spurs were on their way to a 22-11 road record during the regular season. The Spurs were victorious in 20 of their last 23 road games in the regular season, showing grit, teamwork and poise. A constantly improving bench had a lot to do with it.
The Spurs had developed a quiet confidence as their roster got bolstered with the addition of Boris Diaw, Patty Mills and Stephen Jackson. The Spurs went on the road and captured their first two road playoff games.
Chemistry, experience and a sharp focus have all been important factors in the Spurs' dazzling performance wearing the road black uniforms this season. Those ingredients will come in handy as the Spurs advance to Western Conference semifinals.
Schoening and Schoening
by Bill Schoening | May 5, 2012
(Photo courtesy of Bill Schoening)
While many of my fellow Spurs radio and television broadcasters were hoping for a first round matchup with Phoenix, I had my reasons to pull for Utah to earn the 8th seed and oppose the Spurs in the opening round.
My statistician in Salt Lake City is the best one I've had on the road in the NBA. It's uncanny the way he knows what I need and when I need it. It's like he has been listening to me do games his whole life.
Well actually, he has.
Eric Schoening is a 28 year old meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Salt Lake City. With his degree in Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Washington, he began his career in forecasting in Salt Lake in early 2007.
Through the years, Eric has provided a helping hand for me in the booth. At the ripe age of 14, he began serving as my main spotter during Longhorn football broadcasts. He was very adept at singling out tacklers and seeing penalty flags. As football play by play guys get older, they rely more and more on their spotters to be another set of eyes on the field. He has been my stats guy in Seattle (when he was in college) and Salt Lake ever since.
Basketball statistics to a weather forecaster is pretty simple stuff, but Eric enjoys it. He gets me the info accurately and on time. He has a very thorough knowledge of the game and that is helpful too. He should be good at math. His wife Anna just completed her doctorate in Mathematics from the University of Utah.
Here's hoping that Eric gives me lots of good Spurs numbers over the next two games in Salt Lake City.
Spurs Playoff Depth
by Bill Schoening | May 1, 2012
(D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty Images)
It was legendary University of Texas football coach Darrel K Royal who famously said, "Dance With Who Brung Ya. " When it comes to using his deep and talented bench, it looks like Gregg Popovich adheres to the same philosophy.
Playoff rotations are often shortened by coaches who will rely on their top players to play extended minutes in the postseason. For Pop, one of the main reasons his team is in Position A in the Western Conference is because of his reserves.
In game 1 against the Jazz, the Spurs second unit accounted for 44 points, shot 6 of 12 from three point range, and outscored the Utah bench by 13. It is what the Spurs bench has routinely done all season.
Stephen Jackson played his usual brand of tough defense in game one, and scored 14 points. Matt Bonner hit three of four shots beyond the arc, and while Manu Ginobili hit only 3 of 10 shots, he dished out four assists and recorded two steals that fueled fastbreaks. His energy level and intensity were on display.
As the series continues, don't be surprised if DeJuan Blair, Tiago Splitter (when his sprained left wrist allows) or Gary Neal also have positive impact moments. In the playoffs, it is quite a luxury to have a second unit that can come in and not only hold a lead, but extend it, and that's exactly what the Spurs have.