The spontaneous smile on the otherwise stoic Gregg Popovich (in victory) said it all. Antonio McDyess' 0.2 tip-in as time expired snatched victory from the jaws of defeat as the Spurs topped their perennial top rival, Lakers, 89-88 in a closely fought encounter — of the meaningless regular season kind. Coach Pop isn’t one to give into emotion of satisfaction or happiness during games, anger and passion is quite a different story. But even he could not restrain himself from giving a guffaw of immense satisfaction after seeing his veteran free agent signing of 2009 outwork the lengthy Laker frontcourt and grab yet another offensive rebound to tip victory into the Spurs favor.
The interesting aspect about McDyess' final tip was that, it wasn't surprising. As Buck Harvey of San Antonio Express points out, he had provided key offensive rebounds in the final possessions after misses by Ginobili, Parker and finally Duncan. And it fit the pattern that has become of the Spurs’ season — no longer are they a three horse, one stallion team. The Spurs are beating their competition by committee with a rejuvenated Richard Jefferson, a meteoric McDyess and the lesser but equally effective play of the gangling George Hill and gunning Gary Neal. And the final possession epitomised it — misses by the Big 3 in recent history would have been curtains for the Spurs, but not necessarily this season.
Because the Spurs were threatening by committee, McDyess was able to find the right position and opportunity to tip in the game-winning basket. As this excellent breakdown by Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook points out, the threat offered by a clutch shooter in Manu Ginobili and the efforts of his committee members Richard Jefferson and McDyess to set him free, actually predicated the Lakers' defensive strategy of off ball screens to allow Ron Artest the ability to keep pace with Manu. Only this led to McDyess getting space away from his defender, Odom, and allowed him to avoid being boxed out from prime rebounding position.
In many ways, the final possession was symptomatic of the Spurs' success this season. Last season Coach Pop was insistent that things were not falling into place as expected or as smoothly as hope with the additions of Jefferson and McDyess because of the lack of "corporate knowledge". Graduating to becoming (veteran) sophomores within the team oriented Spurs system, gave these newcomers enough time to gain that knowledge and it showed in the final possession. The lineup: Parker, Manu, Jefferson, McDyess and Duncan is now officially announced the Spurs’ crunch time playoff lineup.
No wonder, coach Pop was chuffed at the committee’s execution. The corporate president of basketball operations had finally seen the high rate potential net returns from investments made last year. That was why even he could not resist displaying the emotions of triumph in an otherwise meaningless regular season game. This was yet another page added to the "boring" tome written on the Spurs' longish success story. Expectations of a similar team-performance in the playoffs are now quite high.