Spurs’ Focus Starts with One Man


Anyone have Kawhi Leonard going off in Game Three for the Spurs at Miami on Tuesday night? (No, Mrs. Leonard, anyone but you?).

A career-high 29 points on 10-of-13 shooting, including 3-of-6 from three-point range, Leonard led the Spurs to a big win that was really over in the first 20 minutes. San Antonio missed just two of their first 21 shots. Yes, that’s right – 19 of them went in.

“That’ll never happen again. That’s crazy,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich after the game.

Well, probably not. At least the hot shooting start. The overall clinic the Spurs put on? That’s a result of team basketball – something San Antonio excels at.

The Spurs came out with a focus. Not just the starters, but the entire team. Heck, I thought I saw the massage therapist on the bench staring daggers at his Miami counterpart across the way. Word is the Spurs won that post-game match-up as well (he really does know how to use that dominant hand on the shoulder blades).

pop5112You can point to one person for this focus that resonates throughout the entire organization – Popovich.

I consider him one of the top-five coaches in NBA history, right up there with Phil Jackson, Red Auerbach, Lenny Wilkins and Dr. Jack Ramsay.

Exhibit A was Tuesday’s first half. No, not the NBA-record 75.8 percent shooting in the first 24 minutes for 71 points; it was the execution that led to good shots. Not only was San Antonio moving the ball well, they were moving without the ball to perfection.

This was preparation at its finest. It starts and ends with Pop. And when ABC was able to reveal some choice positive words between Tony Parker and Pop, the nation got a taste of the mutual respect that exists with all of the players and the head coach.

As for the best player in the world, LeBron James — he had good numbers (22 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 5 steals), but he also had his NBA Finals all-time high with 7 turnovers. Chris Bosh took only four shots and scored nine points for the Heat, who for the second straight year will have to overcome a 2-1 finals deficit after being blown out in Game Three.

This one came on their home floor, where they had been 8-0 in the postseason and had won a franchise-record 11 in a row since the Spurs beat them in Game One last year.

More good news for the Spurs – when the road team wins Game Three in the NBA Finals, they have gone on to win the series 90 percent of the time. Oh, and there’s this – the NBA has finally scrapped the 2-3-2 format for the Finals and have gone back to the 2-2-1-1-1 schedule, meaning that the Spurs will return to San Antonio no worse than tied at 2-2 in the series.

The Spurs have been waiting a full year for this, with a focus on the task at hand. It’s one game at a time for this crew, and the adjustments made from game-to-game are downright impressive.

What will happen in Game Four? Will the Heat bounce back? Or will the Spurs’ relentless team attack bring a 3-1 lead and a possibility to close things out at home?

All I know is this – I wouldn’t bet against Pop.

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Rob Scichili (shick-lee) has worked in professional sports for over 24 years in PR and communications, including time with the Dallas Stars, Anaheim Ducks, MLB.com, Minnesota Timberwolves and Dallas Mavericks. A journalism graduate of Texas A&M, he is co-owner and editor at ScoreboardTx, principal at Shick Communications and VP at Franchise Sports & Entertainment while serving on the board of the Mike Modano Foundation.


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