Things like this aren't supposed to happen. For most of the last decade, the Spurs have been defined by their "Big 3" of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker; as they go, so go the Spurs. And things have generally gone well for Gregg Popovich's vaunted trio, to the tune of three titles in the past seven years.
But on Sunday night, as SB Nation's Pounding the Rock explains, the Spurs' Big 3 was off -- badly -- and, this time, it didn't matter:
Two seasons ago a game like tonight's would've been unthinkable. Manu was 4-16, and only got his 17 points because he was a warrior willing to throw his body into the fray despite his busted nose, his bald spot and the zillion years weighing his body down. Tony went 4-9 for 10 points, and had 5 TOs to go with his 5 assists. Our franchise, Tim Duncan, hit 1 of the 9 shots he attempted, and had only 4 points to show for it. Everything that could go wrong with our Big Three did so.
And yet we won.
While airtight defense kept the Spurs in the game and keyed their devastating third-quarter run that turned a 15-point deficit into an 11-point lead, Gregg Popovich has two youngster to thank for gutting out their pivotal Game 4 win: George Hill and DeJuan Blair. Again from Pounding the Rock:
I truly believe we're witnessing George Hill's metamorphosis into an All-Star caliber player. It might not happen in the next month, but the signs are there. 10 point games have turned into 20 point games. As March was winding down he reached the 30-point milestone, becoming our second most-reliable player of the last stretch of the regular season, and the sky was the limit for this kid. [...] George Hill is now the main reason we won the most difficult game of the 2009-10 season. He stepped up when no one else could, made the corner (that corner, Bruce's corner) his home and hounded Terry and Barea, two players who give us fits. [...] DeJuan Blair also showed up tonight, and he was everything we expected him to be: the spark, the relentless rebounder. He hustled the Mavericks into exhaustion, and I was able to quickly forget his poor showings in the series so far.
The Spurs: younger and more athletic. Now that's a scary combination.