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The Tipping Point
Jack McCallum
June 20, 2005
In a championship matchup of well-balanced and hard-nosed teams, the Spurs came to play early with a ferociousness that dominated the Pistons
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June 20, 2005

The Tipping Point

In a championship matchup of well-balanced and hard-nosed teams, the Spurs came to play early with a ferociousness that dominated the Pistons

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San Antonio's camaraderie is grounded most of all in the relationship between Popovich and Duncan, who was his usual dependable self in Games 1 and 2, piling up 42 points and 28 rebounds. The coach lets it be known in little ways that his superstar is special--he talks to the press about Duncan's intellect, and in private he frequently takes Duncan's suggestions about practice times and travel schedules. But by and large he treats Duncan like any other player, getting in his face when he does something wrong. "The most negative message a coach can send is when he says nothing to his superstar but yells all kinds of stuff at the 12th man on the team," says sixth man Robert Horry, who won championships with the Houston Rockets and the Lakers. Did that happen in L.A.? "Oh, man," says Horry, "don't make me go there."

San Antonio's 12th man agrees. "When Pop gets in the face of Tim, Manu and Tony, it sends an important message," says forward Tony Massenburg. "It says that the team, not the individual, is the only thing that matters. When you're right, you're right, and when you're wrong, you're wrong." Ginobili knew he was wrong in the first quarter on Sunday when he botched a play called Strong Hold, posting up and demanding the ball instead of cutting through to the other side. Popovich yelled and stomped his foot, and Ginobili could only spread his hands and look sheepish.

Judging by Games 1 and 2, San Antonio is clearly a team in full; Detroit a team in disarray. Both had relied on the same formula to reach the Finals--tough defense, the extra pass, veteran leadership--but last week one was superior in all phases of execution. The outside world may not have been watching their brilliance, but the Spurs clearly had the attention of the reigning champs.

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