The thesis of Mike D’antoni’s post-game press conference after his Rockets were eliminated 114-75 was that his team simply did not have the juice.
In that case, the Spurs, who won without their best player Kawhi Leonard, must have been blaring Chance the Rappers Juice in their post-game celebratory locker room.
“I got the juice. I got the juice.”
The Spurs organizational metaphor is famously a Jacob Riis poem called Pounding the Rock.
It’s a poem about the journey and not the result.
Riis writes: “Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich talks all the time about not skipping steps.
One major step in this process is instilling a level of confidence throughout the team’s roster. All season, Pop will depend on guys throughout the team’s roster. Pop doesn’t just empty his bench in thirty point blowouts, he goes deep down his roster in close games and adverse situations all season.
In some ways, Pop is losing a battle to win a war. It’s not as if he’s trying to lose, but rather he’s not worried about the outcome of the game. Pop is more concerned with empowering his roster.
In doing this, Pop provides a baseline of confidence in his entire roster.
This process puts the Spurs in better position to handle adversity, like having to play without Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard.
Let me pose this a different way. Was the Oklahoma City supporting cast that bad this season? Or, did OKC skip steps? They took shortcuts all year, using the Russell Westbrook cheat code to win games. They didn’t empower their roster in the same way the Spurs do. How can the Thunder then expect the team’s supporting cast to perform when they haven’t been asked to all year?
The Spurs now advance to the Western Conference Finals in their first season in the post-Duncan era.
Regardless of the outcome, the Spurs are back in the Conference Finals the year after Tim Duncan retired, and without Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard.
Maybe Gregg Popovich really is the great Spur of all time.
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