Pop has an almost mystical reputation.
We’re all aware of Gregg Popovich. Sometimes we love him, sometimes we can’t decide how we feel about him. Pop gets the best out of everyone that plays for the Spurs. He accomplishes things that shouldn’t be possible with his teams. He’s continued to keep the Spurs relevant despite the loss of the core of his 5-championship Spurs career. He doesn’t have Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili or Tony Parker but he’s still Pop.
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That’s how the story goes, right?
Popovich also “invented” the hack-a-Shaq tactic that threatened to render playoff basketball unwatchable. While there’s no denying his resume, Gregg Popovich is not a superhero and the Denver Nuggets aren’t under some voodoo spell that keeps them unable to solve the standout coach.
Yes, Pop has an absurd playoff record against the Nuggets but that as largely built on first-round demolitions of seventh or eighth-seeded Nuggets while the juggernaut Spurs were cruising toward Finals appearances. Nothing about those playoff routs relates to this season’s matchup.
He is a brilliant coach but if the Nuggets shoot even 30% from three, well below even their down-the-stretch numbers, they win game one with ease. If they made free-throws, they are in a position to win. Two examples of minor, easily attained factors that would have led to a Nuggets victory.
It’s going to sound like a broken record but we weren’t bamboozled by the wizardry of Gregg Popovich, we just didn’t shoot the ball very well. It’s not mysterious or mystical. It’s something Denver has completely within their control. There’s no adjustment Pop can make that will make them shoot worse than they did on Saturday and if he does?
Well, then the Nuggets don’t deserve to win.