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San Antonio Spurs One Game From Winning Fifth NBA Title


The pendulum of this year's NBA finals has swung again. The first win in the series went to the San Antonio Spurs, the next to the Miami heat, then Spurs, then Heat. And last night, the Spurs won game five. That puts them one game away from winning their fifth NBA title, all with Gregg Popovich as their coach and all with Tim Duncan as one of their key players. But the series reverts to Miami tomorrow night. NPR's Mike Pesca will be there, and he joins us now. Hi, Mike.


SIEGEL: Let's talk about, first, the play of Spurs' guard Danny Green who's already set an NBA record with 25 three-pointers in this series. We expect greatness from Tim Duncan or Tony Parker, but Danny Green?

PESCA: Danny Green. And only 13 misses. He's shooting the lights out in volume and in quality. Few things about Danny Green: one, the Heat aren't guarding him well. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra admits this. He's saying that he's getting some open looks, and he's getting some contested looks. But the open looks are killing us. Now the stat to back that up is that Danny Green is seven of 14 on contested threes, 18 of 34 on open threes. So he has taken more open threes, but he's shooting pretty well on all of them.

The other thing I'd say about Danny Green is that he's pretty good at defense. And if you look at these guys who are three-point specialists, they're often a defensive liability. So that being, very good and not a liability on defense, is why he's been able to stick around the Spurs so long. And we know that he could shoot it, though he hasn't had a five-game stretch like this in his entire NBA career. Great for him that he's doing it in the finals.

SIEGEL: Last night, it wasn't just Green. Manu Ginobili, 36-years-old, who had been given up on it seemed, scored 24 points and 10 assists. He was a star out there.

PESCA: Yeah. Now, those 10 assists, the assists haven't really fallen off or the quality of the assists. Spurs players say you always have to keep your eye open. This guy will get you the ball and put a spin on it and do things with the ball like a billiards player does. But one of the reasons he was able to do so well is he started. He usually doesn't start. He didn't start all season.

It's actually the first time in like 14 years that a player started in the NBA finals without starting all year. So that was, once again, Gregg Popovich pushing a right button and Manu Ginobili, a prideful veteran, responding.

SIEGEL: On the other side, the Heat have been inconsistent over the past 12 playoff games. They've won a game, lost a game, won a game, lost a game. It's been a pattern. What's going on there?

PESCA: Yeah. And you could set a clock to their inconsistency. They don't exactly know why it's happened. LeBron James does not like getting the question, but how could you not ask it? They all say of we knew. We'd do better on those games where we lost. Best explanation I got was from Shane Battier who says that it's something to do with getting the wax out of their ears, listening to coaches. They seem to play more organized and better coached after a loss.

That might be it. You know, who knows? The intensity is usually almost at full throttle. Maybe after a loss, it's the old 110 percent that the physicist tell us you can't give but players all sometimes think you can.

SIEGEL: Well, Tuesday night is game six, and if the pattern holds, it's the Heat's game.

PESCA: Yeah. It should be. And it would be shocking for them to lose because they've been winning by 20-plus points after they lose these playoffs. And they are going home and their back is against the wall. But, you know, the Spurs are 14 and two on the road when they could clinch a playoff series over the last decade. You know, the Spurs have a lot to say about this Heat pattern of wins and losses. It will probably come down to a game seven, and then who knows who will be able to give the 108, 9 or even, yes, 10 percent.

SIEGEL: Thank you, Mike.

PESCA: You're welcome.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Mike Pesca talking about the NBA championship series between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat. Game six is tomorrow night in Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.