Posts Tagged ‘Cory Joseph’

Spurs Need To Get Healthy On Rodeo Trip


VIDEO: Tim Duncan has 23 points and 17 rebounds as the Spurs beat the Kings

In one way, the 2014 edition of the Spurs’ Rodeo Trip is like all the others. It’s a time for coming together.

Usually that means bonding as a team, forging a closeness in spirit, identity and execution on the court.

This time it simply means picking up the pieces and trying to glue them all together.

As they open the nine-game, 8,989 mile odyssey tonight in New Orleans, the Spurs would appear to be about as fragile as Peyton Manning’s Super Bowl legacy. They good news is they’ll face only four teams with records above .500 on the trip. They bad news is they’ll do it with a roster that has Manu Ginobili (hamstring), Kawhi Leonard (hand) and Danny Green (hand) all in various stages of injury rehabilitation and Tiago Splitter (shoulder) just getting back into the rotation after more than three weeks on the shelf.

“We’ve still got to go play all the games,” coach Gregg Popovich told reporters before Saturday’s home win over Sacramento. “When the game is over nobody cares. Nobody says, ‘Well, who was out for that team?’ You either won or you lost and you got better or you didn’t. So it’s all the same stuff. We want to concentrate on all the same things offensively and defensively, the things we want to get better at, and just go.”

Despite their current position tied for the No. 2 seed in the West, the Spurs do have a need to get better quickly, having lost three of their last four games and five out of eight since the middle of January. After a stellar 35-6 home record a year ago, they have also lost eight games already this season at the AT&T Center. Perhaps most telling, the Spurs are just 1-11 against opponents with the top six records in the NBA this season — Pacers, Thunder, Blazers, Heat, Clippers and Rockets.

It would then hardly seem a good time for a team to embark on a lengthy All-Star break-straddling road trip that will take them from coast to coast and playing games in four time zones before their next home game on Feb. 26.

However, the Spurs have traditionally used the period they have to vacate their own stable for the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo as time to solidify their standing in the conference and make a push for elite playoff seeding.

Since the beginning of the tradition in 2003, the Spurs have an overall mark of 65-26 on 11 rodeo trips and have posting a losing record. In the past three seasons, they are 21-6.

According to Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News, while the Spurs have the best winning percentage (70.5) in North American professional sports since Tim Duncan joined the team in 1997, they are actually better on the rodeo trip (71.4).

A year ago the Spurs went 7-2 on their trek, even though they played the first five games without the injured Duncan and Ginobili.

But this might be a more difficult challenge. In their final home game before departing, a narrow 95-93 escape past the Kings, the Spurs started a deep backup point guard Cory Joseph at the shooting guard spot and started at small forward with Shannon Brown, a player who’d just been signed to a 10-day contract and never had time for a practice.

With Splitter getting back onto the floor briefly against Sacramento, Green is expected to be the next to return, maybe playing by the end of the week. Leonard is a possible addition by the time the Spurs hit the West Coast after the All-Star break, while Ginobili could miss the entire journey.

“They’re trickling in,” Duncan said. “It’s great to have bodies back out there, great to start getting everyone healthy. Now it’s about getting their rhythm back, their wind back and get into game shape.”

FIBA Update: Three More Earn Bids

Luis Scola, now with the Pacers, had a major impact on Argentina's win over Canada.

Luis Scola, now with the Pacers, had a major impact on Argentina’s win over Canada.

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Three more teams punched their tickets to next year’s World Cup of Basketball on Sunday. The Dominican Republic, Argentina and Mexico will be in Spain next summer, thanks to the results of the first two games at the FIBA Americas tournament in Caracas.

In the first game on Sunday, the Dominican used a 9-0 run spanning the third and fourth quarters to take control against Uruguay. They held on for their fifth straight win, earning the country its first berth in a major international hoops tournament since 1978. Al Horford didn’t play this summer, but he could join Francisco Garcia and company next summer in Spain. He certainly seems excited about the possibility…

In the second game, Argentina finished the third quarter on a 20-6 run to turn a nine-point deficit into a five-point lead. Behind a huge game (28 points and seven rebounds) from Luis Scola, they held on to beat Canada and get back to the world stage. And it will be interesting to see if veterans like Manu Ginobili, Carlos Delfino and Pablo Prigioni will join them for one more run next summer in Spain.

For Canada, this was a brutal end to the tournament. They won four of their first five games, but then lost their last three (by an average of six points) to get sent home. When Argentina made its third-quarter run, the Canadians simply couldn’t handle the pressure.

Cory Joseph (16.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists), Andrew Nicholson (15.0 points on 53 percent shooting) and Tristan Thompson (11.6 points and 10.0 rebounds) all had their moments during the tournament, but consistency was an issue.

If they finished in the top four, the trio (along with Joel Anthony) could have been joined by Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Kelly Olynyk at the World Cup next summer. With four wild card invitations to be handed out later this year, that possibility still exists, but there’s already a strong list of wild card candidates — including Brazil, China and Nigeria — who will be joined by a few solid European teams.

The Argentina win also clinched a spot for Mexico, who owned the tiebreaker over Venezuela. Mexico went on to make things doubly official with a win over Puerto Rico, who rested Carlos Arroyo, Renaldo Balkman and J.J. Barea, having clinched a top-four spot on Saturday. So we should be seeing the the Hawks’ Gustavo Ayon (averaging 16.4 points and 8.0 rebounds) next summer in Spain.

The FIBA Americas semifinals, which will be largely ceremonial, take place Tuesday.

Eurobasket field thins out after Monday

After Day 5 of Eurobasket, only one team remains unbeaten and, surprise, it’s Italy. Led by 42 combined points from the Spurs’ Marco Belinelli (23) and the Pistons’ Luigi Datome (19), the Italians beat Greece in a matchup of 3-0 teams on Sunday. Both teams, along with Finland (3-1) are on their way to the second round as Group D’s three representatives.

The other unbeaten teams going into Sunday’s action were host Slovenia and Mike Fratello‘s Ukraine squad. Slovenia held a 13-point lead in the third quarter over Croatia. But Croatia came back and won in overtime to join Spain and Slovenia at 3-1 in Group C. The Czech Republic has a shot to crash the party if they can beat Croatia on Monday.

Ukraine was knocked off by France (Tony Parker had 28 points), leaving things still up in the air in Group A, where Ukraine-Great Britain will be Monday’s big game. Similarly, Bosnia-Lithuania could shake things up in Group B.

Eurobasket top offenses (points scored per 100 possessions) through Sunday (4 games):
1. Greece – 115.6
2. Italy – 114.2
3. Georgia – 112.2
4. France – 111.2
5. Germany – 105.4

Eurobasket top defenses (points allowed per 100 possessions) through Sunday (4 games):
1. Spain – 76.0
2. Finland – 86.3
3. Lithuania – 90.6
4. Czech Republic – 92.2
5. Italy – 95.2

2014 World Cup of Basketball field

No. Team Qualified
1 Spain Host
2 USA 2012 Olympic champion
3 Iran FIBA Asia champion
4 Philippines FIBA Asia 2nd place
5 Korea FIBA Asia 3rd place
6 Australia FIBA Oceania champion
7 New Zealand FIBA Oceania 2nd place
8 Angola FIBA Africa champion
9 Egypt FIBA Africa 2nd place
10 Senegal FIBA Africa 3rd place
11 Argentina FIBA Americas top four
12 Dominican Republic FIBA Americas top four
13 Mexico FIBA Americas top four
14 Puerto Rico FIBA Americas top four
15 Eurobasket champion*
16 Eurobasket 2nd place*
17 Eurobasket 3rd place*
18 Eurobasket 4th place*
19 Eurobasket 5th place*
20 Eurobasket 6th place*
21 Wildcard
22 Wildcard
23 Wildcard
24 Wildcard

* If Spain finishes in the top six, the seventh place team will qualify.

FIBA Update: Spain Upset, Puerto Rico Stays Unbeaten

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Thursday was a big day in FIBA qualifications, with the second round of FIBA Americas getting started and Day 2 at Eurobasket seeing a thrilling upset.

Down goes Spain

The story of the day was Slovenia coming back from 10 points down to beat Eurobasket favorite Spain. The Suns’ Goran Dragic led the way for the tournament’s hosts, registering 18 points, six rebounds, seven assists and two steals.

The game was more important for Slovenia, who now looks like a strong candidate to earn one of Europe’s six automatic berths to next year’s World Cup, than Spain. The two-time defending Euro champs have finished first (2011 Eurobasket, 2009 Eurobasket, 2006 World Championship) or second (2012 Olympics, 2008 Olympics, 2007 Eurobasket) in six of their last seven international competitions (the exception being the 2010 World Championship), despite losing preliminary-round games in almost all of them.

But there wasn’t any clear gamesmanship on Spain’s part. Marc Gasol played all but three minutes on Thursday.

Down to the wire

Slovenia-Spain was a great game, and it wasn’t the only thriller on Thursday. Latvia edged Montenegro on a jumper by Kristaps Janicenoks in the final seconds, Croatia beat Georgia on a Ante Tomic, pick-and-roll layup, and Belgium outlasted Germany in overtime.

The ends of these FIBA games can be really fun, because there are fewer timeouts in the final possessions. You’re not allowed to call a timeout on a live ball.

What happened to Turkey?

As someone who witnessed Turkey’s magical run to the 2010 World Championship gold medal game first-hand, it’s disappointing to see how much they’ve fallen off. They’ve been a mess offensively without long-time point guard Kerem Tunceri (whose absence on the roster was the coach’s decision, according to my Turkish friends on twitter) and with Hedo Turkoglu and Ersan Ilyasova combining to shoot 11-for-38 (29 percent).

More disappointing is the Turkish defense, which was dominant in 2010 and has allowed about 108 points per 100 possessions in their two games this week. With their size, they can extend their 2-3 zone out beyond the 3-point line, but they didn’t really go to it until the third quarter on Thursday. And when they did, Italy just picked it apart.

The good news for Turkey is that Hedo’s tan looks fabulous.

Greece back on top

The bad news for Turkey is that, after a day off, they next face Greece, who has the tournament’s best point differential after two games. Greece had a couple of down years (they didn’t qualify for last year’s Olympics), but has looked strong in wins over Sweden and Russia.

Greece is one of seven unbeaten teams. The most surprising of the seven has to be Finland, who has been led by former first-round pick Petteri Koponen. Also unbeaten is the Ukraine, coached by TNT’s Mike Fratello.

Big wins for Canada, Puerto Rico

While Spain can brush off Thursday’s loss, every game at the FIBA Americas tournament is critical right now, because the top four teams after this round of games will earn the automatic bids to next year’s World Cup of Basketball.

So Canada’s 89-67 win over Mexico, putting them in second place with three games to play, was huge. The Spurs’ Cory Joseph, now averaging 16.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists, has been one of the best players in the tournament.

Also big was Puerto Rico’s win over Argentina. Puerto Rico trailed by 16 midway through the second quarter, but came back and took control with a 13-0 run late in the third. They haven’t clinched a top-four spot just yet, but as the only undefeated team in the tournament, they’re in great shape.

Former Knick and Nugget Renaldo Balkman has been huge for P.R., averaging 20.6 points and 8.4 boards through five games.

Action in FIBA Americas and Eurobasket continues Friday.

2014 World Cup of Basketball field

No. Team Qualified
1 Spain Host
2 USA 2012 Olympic champion
3 Iran FIBA Asia champion
4 Philippines FIBA Asia 2nd place
5 Korea FIBA Asia 3rd place
6 Australia FIBA Oceania champion
7 New Zealand FIBA Oceania 2nd place
8 Angola FIBA Africa champion
9 Egypt FIBA Africa 2nd place
10 Senegal FIBA Africa 3rd place
11 FIBA Americas champion
12 FIBA Americas 2nd place
13 FIBA Americas 3rd place
14 FIBA Americas 4th place
15 Eurobasket champion*
16 Eurobasket 2nd place*
17 Eurobasket 3rd place*
18 Eurobasket 4th place*
19 Eurobasket 5th place*
20 Eurobasket 6th place*
21 Wildcard
22 Wildcard
23 Wildcard
24 Wildcard

* If Spain finishes in the top six, the seventh place team will qualify.

Spurs’ Joseph Keeps Eye On Unsigned Neal

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LAS VEGAS – Corey Joseph left Vegas with the San Antonio Spurs’ Summer League team while still keeping close watch on perhaps the team’s last bit of offseason roster business, but not for the reason you might think.

“I’m watching it pretty close,” Joseph said of teammate Gary Neal, a restricted free agent who remains unsigned. “Gary is one of my close friends on the team. Hopefully he comes back. We hope we get him. That’s all I really want because Gary is a big piece of our team.”

All that might be true, but if the combo guard who has rewarded the Spurs for giving him a shot three years ago in Vegas, does return, then Joseph will again find himself in a tight minutes competition behind Tony Parker with Neal and 2009 second-round pick Nando de Colo.

Joseph, 21, last season famously phoned San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich asking to be assigned back to the club’s D-League affiliate in nearby Austin. Joseph figured he could either sit on the pine with the big team or play and improve with the minor-league club. It paid off as Joseph starting winning backcourt minutes late in the season while playing in just 28 games.

Neal emerged as Popovich’s top reserve behind Parker in the playoffs and Neal’s six 3-pointers and 24 points pushed the Spurs to a Game 3 victory over Miami in the NBA Finals. Neal scored just 12 points in the final three games, which might prove to be his last in a Spurs uniform.

When the club signed 6-foot-5 free agent veteran shooting guard Marco Belinelli, it seemed to signal that San Antonio — which did extend a qualifying offer of $1.1 million that prevented Neal from becoming an unrestricted free agent — likely would not match another team’s offer sheet.

Earlier this month, Neal was reportedly receiving offers from teams higher than the Spurs were willing to match. With July moving to a close and teams finalizing their rosters, Neal has yet to make a move.

“I feel like I’ve come a far way, but I know there’s still far to come, so I just keep on working countless hours at the gym because I know that’s what it takes,” Joseph said. “I don’t want to feel comfortable. The backup point guard spot, in my mind, is still open. We have a lot of great point guards on our team, so I’ve still got to prove myself.”

The battle for 2013-14 minutes started began in earnest in Summer League. He and De Colo both played four of the team’s five games and they finished with near-identical stats. Joseph averaged 10.3 ppg, 4.5 apg and 3.3 turnovers per game in 28.3 mpg. He shot 38.9 percent from the floor and 27.3 percent from 3-point range. De Colo, 26, averaged 11.3 ppg, 4.0 apg and 3.3 turnovers per game in 31.8 mpg. He shot 34 percent from the floor and 22.2 percent from beyond the arc.

A native of Toronto, Joseph played one season at Texas before the Spurs drafted him with the 29th overall pick in 2011. He’s played 57 total games with San Antonio. He will earn $1.1 million in 2013-14 and the Spurs hold a team option for the 2014-15 season.

Report: Spurs Bring In Belinelli

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The San Antonio Spurs have added yet another 3-point shooter to their arsenal, agreeing to a two-year deal with Marco Belinelli, according to reports.

Yahoo! Sports reports the deal is worth $6 million.

So the team with more international players than any other adds the Italian Belinelli, who averaged 9.6 ppg and made 35.7 percent of his 3-point attempts last season playing for the Chicago Bulls. The 6-foot-5 Belinelli will begin his seventh NBA season with his fifth team.

The Spurs already have agreed to terms with restricted free-agent center Tiago Splitter on a four-year, $36 million deal and on a two-year, $14 million deal to keep 35-year-old Manu Ginobili. With Danny Green under contract, the odd man out might be restricted free agent Gary Neal. Neal had an up-and-down season and lost minutes to Cory Joseph, but Neal could be in line to cash in on a more lucrative deal elsewhere after his performance off the bench in The Finals against the Miami Heat.

The Spurs made a qualifying offer to the restricted free agent, but by agreeing to a deal with Belinelli, 27, it could signal that San Antonio believes Neal will receive an offer from another team that they are unwilling to match. Neal, 28, played the last three seasons with the Spurs, who plucked the all-time leading scorer at Towson University out of Europe.

Belinelli gives the Spurs additional size on the perimeter and is a 38.7 percent career shooter from beyond the arc. Last season was his first shooting below 37.7 percent from deep. He averaged 11.1 ppg and 2.6 apg during the Bulls’ gutsy playoff run that ended in the second round to the Heat.

Spurs Big Three Has Two Years Left

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HANG TIME, Texas — Try to imagine Santa coming down the chimney wearing a glen plaid suit with a natty pocket square and maybe a jaunty beret on his head. Or Queen Elizabeth showing up at the next royal function sporting a pair of Uggs.

Certainly those sights would have been no more jarring than the thought of Manu Ginobili in something other than a San Antonio Spurs jersey.

El Contusion made any speculation that he might leave moot by tweeting that he has agreed to a new contract that will keep him with the club for two more years. Terms of the deal were not available, but it’s safe to say Ginobili will not get anywhere close to the $14.1 million from last season that made him the highest paid player on the team. It should be noted that when Tim Duncan agreed to his new deal last summer, he took a paycut from $21.15 million to $9.6 million.

While Ginobili’s contract obviously keeps together the core of the lineup that went to Game 7 of The Finals against the Heat last month, it is also safe to say it stamped an expiration date on the Spurs as we know them.

Assuming Duncan exercises his player option for the third year of his deal, the Spurs entire Big Three with have their contracts expire at the end of the 2014-15 season. Duncan will be 39, Ginobili will be 38 and point guard Tony Parker will be 33. At that point, the Spurs will have only three players on the books for the following season — Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter and Cory Joseph.

In other words, it will be time to start over, and most likely with a new coach, since Gregg Popovich has long vowed to walk out the door with Duncan.

But until that time we can count on the Spurs continuing to make the predictions about their impending demise look foolish. As Popovich mentioned after the loss to Miami, what’s not to like about a team that won 58 games and came within 28 seconds in Game 6 of knocking off the defending champs?

A top priority for the Spurs in October will be to get Ginobili back on track following a 2012-13 season that was often ugly. With his breakneck style, durability has never been his strength and Ginobili missed 22 games with a variety of ailments. When he did play, he averaged 11.8 points per game, shot just 42.5 percent overall and 35.3 percent from 3-point range, all figures that were near worsts for his 11-year career. He also committed 2.2 turnovers per game, including an abysmal eight times in the galling Game 6 and four times in Game 7.

Those problems aside, there was never a doubt that the Spurs wanted and needed him back to continue being the Spurs as we know them. It is still that lightning bolt streak of unpredictability Ginobili brings that can make him virtually impossible to plan for or defend. With the seemingly ageless Duncan extending his Hall of Fame career with an All-NBA first team season and Parker continuing to expand his skills and press his case as the league’s best point guard, the trio that has won three NBA championships together does not seem ready to back down.

The Spurs are reportedly in the running for free agent forward Andrei Kirilenko, who could get them another wing defender and attacker of the basket, along with veteran Kyle Korver, who could possibly supplant free agent Gary Neal as sharpshooter off the bench.

The grapevine also has San Antonio considering the idea of pursuing perpetually rehabilitating center Greg Oden. That’s the kind of chance you can take when you’re strong at the core, which is the case now that El Contusion is safely back in the fold.

With Ginobili on board, the Spurs are still the Spurs. But over the next two years get a good look at Tim, Tony, Manu and Pop. Because this contract stamps the end date and the clock is ticking.

If Parker Sits, Ginobili Must Rise Up




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SAN ANTONIO – Manu Ginobili is on notice.

The slumping shooting guard will serve as the San Antonio Spurs’ primary ballhandler in Game 4 if point guard Tony Parker is unable to play. Parker is in a holding pattern after an MRI on Wednesday revealed a mild hamstring strain. He attended the Spurs’ light workout at the AT&T Center, but did not participate in any drills.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he will wait until Thursday to determine Parker’s readiness to play against the Miami Heat. San Antonio, blowout winners in Game 3, holds a 2-1 lead over the defending champs.

“Coach Pop always prefers the rest to avoid injury,” Parker said. “If it was the regular season I would definitely rest, I would not play. And same thing here, it’s an injury and so we’ll see. We’ll see how I feel [Thursday]. Obviously, it’s the Finals, you know? I know Pop is always going to prefer we take no risk.”

If Parker can’t go, Ginobili will likely remain the sixth man with either Cory Joseph, who begged for an NBA D-League assignment this season to get some work, or 3-point bomber Gary Neal, replacing Parker in the starting lineup.

But there’s no doubt that Ginobili will have to play better than he has throughout this postseason and particularly this series in which he’s averaging 8.3 ppg and shooting 37.5 percent while playing 23.7 mpg, or about what Neal is logging. Ginobili has four total rebounds and six turnovers — twice the number of 3-pointers he’s made in the series — alarmingly throwing the ball away during routine halfcourt sets.

The Spurs went 11-5 without Parker during the regular season, but no one’s kidding themselves. This isn’t February.

“At this stage, at this time,” Tim Duncan said, “it would be obviously a huge loss for us.”

Perhaps if the 35-year-old Ginobili was in a better flow, the potential blow of playing without Parker would be lessened. But just as Ginobili’s performances have slipped, Parker has excelled as the Spurs’ do-it-all floor general. The Spurs’ offensive efficiency begins in his hands and the Heat’s defense has targeted Parker as the primary weapon.

“If he’s limited, it’s going to be hard because we know we need his speed, his judgment, his pick-and-rolls,” Ginobili said. “Because from that we create a lot of offense. And if we don’t have him, or if we have him limited, it’s going to be very, very difficult. But we’ll have to figure it out and find other answers.”

Ginobili got off to an inspired start in his first few minutes of Game 3, twice taking Dwyane Wade off the dribble for a layup followed by a rousing two-handed dunk. He’d make just one more bucket the rest of the way, finishing 3-for-7 from the floor for seven points, his eighth single-digit output of the playoffs, plus a couple of turnovers in 23 minutes.

He missed all four of his 3-point attempts and is now 3-for-13 in the series from beyond the arc and is shooting 30.9 percent from downtown throughout the postseason. Ginobili is a career 37.2-percent shooter from 3-point range.

If Parker sits, Ginobili must figure out his game and come to the rescue.

As of now, he is on notice.

Spurs’ Joseph Prepared For His Close-up

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SAN ANTONIO — If a strained hamstring keeps Tony Parker out of the lineup for Game 4, Cory Joseph won’t be thrown into a totally new experience.

When Parker sprained his ankle and missed eight games in March, Joseph moved into the starting lineup and the Spurs won six times.

“I’ve got confidence from that other time when Tony was out and confidence from all the work I’ve put in to get to here,” said the second-year point guard. “At this point, I haven’t heard anything. But no matter how much time I get, I’m just gonna go out there and play hard and try to bring my team energy, because that’s what I do.

Joseph had volunteered several times early in the season to go down to NBA D League Austin Toros to get playing time and work on his game.

“I could have just sat here and worked in practice,” he said. “But playing 1-on-1 and 3-on-3 is not the same as real playing time. You can’t simulate game action. So I have nothing but high praise for everything about the D-League that helped me improve and put myself in this situation.”

In those eight games that Joseph started for Parker in March, he averaged more than 20 minutes, 6.9 points and 3.3 assists per game.

“I can’t tell you how much or how little he’s going to play (in Game 4),” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. “I can always count on him being a competitor in every way, shape and form every night. That’s what we like about him.”

Neal Putting His Mark On Finals




SAN ANTONIO – As he bombarded the Miami Heat with one 3-pointer after another, goose bumps surfaced some 1,600 miles away just as they had that February night in 2000 when the entire town of tiny Aberdeen, Md., roared as one for the amazing Gary Neal.

“On my way to work today I checked my Facebook and saw that he [Neal] had just updated his page and so I sent him a post,” said Neal’s Aberdeen High School basketball coach Richard Hart, who still coaches there today. “I wrote, ‘Gary Neal comes through when the spotlight is on. Anyone surprised? Not me.’

“Obviously, that was a reference to the championship game.”

A sophomore guard for the Aberdeen Eagles, Neal led the school to its first boys basketball state championship since 1976 in dramatic fashion. He’s been a legend there ever since.

“It came down to a timeout and a tie game with less than a minute to play,” Hart said, replaying the moment as if it happened last night rather than Neal’s playoff-high 24-point Game 3 of the NBA Finals gave the San Antonio Spurs to a 2-1 series lead. “It got tense with 10 seconds to go and Gary, you saw a look in his eye. He had the ball at halfcourt and he decided to take charge. He couldn’t finish at the rim so he threw up a four-or-five foot jump hook over [the defender's] hand, and the whole town of Aberdeen exploded.”

Aberdeen is a town of some 15,000 close-knit residents — “kind of like Mayberry,” said Aberdeen High administrative assistant Diana Jackson – and located about 30 miles northeast of Baltimore.

Jackson’s four sons grew up playing basketball with Neal in the neighborhood and her television, her sons’ televisions and many, many others in the town were tuned in to Tuesday night’s Game 3 as the unheralded Neal poured in six 3-pointers, and a crucial one that beat the halftime buzzer and carried the momentum into a devastating second half.

While Twitter exploded during and after the game with “Who’s Gary Neal?” tweets — some sent tongue-in-cheek while others were dead serious — Aberdeen, Md., is both full-fledged Gary Neal territory and Spurs country.

“Our principal had on [Neal's] jersey yesterday during announcements,” Jackson said, “so I would say so.” (more…)

Wounded Warriors Running On Empty

SAN ANTONIO – When asked about the prospects of his band of wounded Warriors getting up off the floor following a 109-91 haymaker to win two straight games, Golden State coach Mark Jackson didn’t blink.

“It’s doable,” he said.

So is juggling chainsaws while walking across a greased high wire.

The trick now for the Warriors, darlings of the 2013 playoffs, is not just to reignite the shooting spark in their backcourt, rediscover the offensive harmony that comes from sharing the ball, cutting down on turnovers and restart the defensive intensity that cuts off penetration into the lane, but to do it all while limping.

Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut have been like sculpted sand castles at the beach in this Western Conference semifinal series, their games steadily eroding with the passage of time. It’s not a failure or shortage of will, but reality when a couple of bum ankles limit Curry to 4-for-14 shooting and Bogut to just 19 1/2 minutes of playing time in Game 5.

With Bogut’s motion and ability to pound away on the inside limited, the Warriors are missing the rim protector, shot alterer and jostler who kept the Spurs away from the basket in the first two games.

With Curry’s left ankle weakened, the Spurs have gone on the attack offensively, trying to run the ball right at him and through him, which has worn him out and cut into his effectiveness at the offensive end.

Toss in David Lee making a reappearance in the rotation with a torn hip flexor and you have a big man who was never known for his defensive skills being even more of a liability on the floor.

So it is that Harrison Barnes and Jarrett Jack have had to shoulder more of the load and it is taking a toll, along with the defense of San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard on Klay Thompson.

Things got so bad on Tuesday night that in a series that has been known for unexpected and improbable last comebacks, Jackson chose to play the final 8-plus minutes with Curry and Bogut sitting on the bench.

“It got to a point where they had made plays and we hadn’t, and I had to look toward Game 6,” Jackson said. “It was just being smart, that’s all.”

But practically bites.

This is a veteran Spurs team that smelled blood in Game 5, and reacted like sharks in a feeding frenzy. Tony Parker pulled up at the rim like he’d been delivered in a stretch limo. Tim Duncan kept right on attacking even though he can’t find his shooting touch. Leonard, Tiago Splitter, Boris Diaw, Danny Green and Cory Joseph rarely missed a chance to make something happen. And the often inexplicable Manu Ginobili poked at the Warriors wound until it burst open.

Over in the Eastern Conference bracket, the injuries piled up high enough on the Bulls until what’s left of the disparate parts could muster up only 65 points on Tuesday night. The Warriors are not that broken, but the cracks are evident and sometimes you just come to the end of the road.

The Warriors, who are 4-0 after losses in these playoffs, will be back at home Thursday night at the earsplitting Oracle to face elimination for the first time this spring. But for the first time in their entertaining and inspirational run, the Warriors also looked worn down if not worn out in Game 5.

“You hope not,” Curry said. “I don’t think that’s in anybody’s head right now.”

It’s not the heads that should worry the Warriors, but those sore ankles and other aching body parts that seem to be finally leading to an inevitable end.

Series hub: Spurs vs. Warriors