Spurs defend Popovich decisions late in Game 6

Spurs defend Popovich decisions late in Game 6
June 19, 2013, 4:30 pm
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MIAMI —  It was a frantic time of the game, those final 28 seconds of Miami's come-from-behind 103-100 win over San Antonio Tuesday night.

As is the case with most close games, the final seconds of play have been sliced and dice apart. In this one, people have tried to make sense of how the Spurs blew a 10-point lead to start the fourth. Many believe it was a senseless loss that may have cost the Spurs a fifth NBA title.

In those final 28.2 seconds, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich subbed out Tim Duncan on two occasions, with each possession leading to a made three-pointer for the Heat.

It would be a moot point if the Spurs held on for the victory. But they didn't.

And because of that, Popovich finds himself explaining what happened down the stretch, which is something Pops seldom does because the Spurs more often than not, win these kind of games.

As Popovich explained, the absence of Duncan during those key moments was not the reason for those six points scored by Miami, which included a game-tying three-pointer from Ray Allen with five seconds to play.

With Duncan on the bench, LeBron James shot an air ball three, but Mike Miller got the offensive rebound and got it back to James whose second three-point attempt was good, cutting the Spurs lead to 94-92.

"On an offensive rebound, it's one of the toughest things in the NBA, to pick up on people," Popovich said. "They got the rebound, they got it back to (James), and he knocked it down."

San Antonio called a time-out with 20.1 seconds to play, and Popovich put Duncan back in the game.

Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard was fouled, and made one of two free throws that made it a 95-92 game with 19.4 seconds to play.

In between free throws, Popovich took Duncan out and put Boris Diaw back in. At the same time, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra took out Miller and put in Chris Bosh.

This is where the second-guessing begins.

Bosh's re-insertion into the game was to give Miami another three-point shooter who could also rebound.

But as Popovich explained, it made more sense to have Diaw on the floor at that particular time than Duncan.

"We were switching at the three-point line to take away the three, " Popovich said. "And Boris Diaw has a little more speed than Tim Duncan, so it makes sense to have him out there reading at the three-point line. Unfortunately, we had two guys that went to LeBron and didn't switch with Bosh, and (Bosh) went right to the hole. He's the guy who got the rebound. So it has nothing to do with Duncan."

Still, that won't stop the second-guessing that has come Popovich's way since the Tuesday night loss.

Not surprisingly, his players quickly came to his defense.

"When he subbed Timmy, it was probably to switch everything," said Manu Ginobili. "Believe me, he had many more reasons to make that sub than for any of you to question him."

Duncan echoed Ginobili's sentiments.

"It's what we've done all year," said Duncan who had 30 points and 17 rebounds. "In a situation where we were going to switch a lot of things, and just unfortunate the way it happened. We got a stop, and we got a bad bounce, and right out to Ray Allen for a three; just situational.

"But there's no questions there," Duncan added. "It's the plays we've been making all season long."