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On biggest stage, Popovich, Spurs come up very small

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All the chatter in the world couldn’t save Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs from the thrashing the Warriors inflicted upon them in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday night. (Emma Marie Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Just when you thought the NBA playoffs couldn’t get any more non-competitive, who should rear their ugly heads than Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs.

We’ve witnessed a slew of JV performances in the Association this season. Too many of them. But there hasn’t been a more complete and utter embarrassment than the one at Oracle Arena on Tuesday, when the Spurs choked, 136-100, against the Warriors in front of national audience.

Lack of energy. Mindless plays. Blown assignments. Lazy defense. You name it, the Spurs did it.

Oh, and what does LaMarcus Aldridge do for a living, anyway?

Yeah, Balls knows. The Spurs were without Kawhi Leonard, their best player.

The Spurs have been spindled 147-64 since Pachulia took out Leonard in the series opener. That’s an 83-point difference in little more than five quarters. No player can make that much of a difference alone.

REST OF THE STORY: Isn’t Popovich supposed to have all the answers? Isn’t he the greatest coach in the history of history, as his cronies would have us believe?

Fact is, Popovich has had no answers since Leonard went down. Zero. Zilch. Zippo. Why, Popovich even acted civil in the postgame news conference, a sure sign that he had lost it. Where was the disrespect for the media? Where were wise-butt remarks? Couldn’t he at least dump the whole thing on Donald Trump?

Worse yet, the Spurs had the look of losers from the start, a bunch of has-beens in serious need of a leader.

“I don’t think they started the game with a belief,” Popovich groused. “And it showed in the lack of edge, intensity, grunts, all that sort of thing. That was disappointing.”

Gee, wonder why that happened.

One day earlier, Popovich bemoaned Pachulia, went on and on about his dirty deed. Mr. Happy correctly pointed out that Pachulia has a history of that sort of thing, but his entire tone was negative. Wasn’t that the time to pump up his players publicly, not drag them down? Instead, he reminded the world that “9.75 people out of 10 would figure the Warriors will beat the Spurs.”

Then, the Spurs went out and proved their coach to be right.   

SAME OLD(ER) SPURS: The series didn’t turn on one cheap shot. It was decided 10 months ago.

Popovich has had two years to figure out how to beat the Warriors, not that he had to think too hard. More than anything, his team needed to get younger and more athletic.

What did Popovich do last summer? He traded 35-year-old Boris Diaw for some nobody, re-signed 78-year-old fossil Manu Ginoboli and donated $31.7 million to free agent Pau Gasol, who, at 36, could barely run up and down the floor more than once last season. So, a team that was old and slow got older and slower yet.

Can’t wait for Tim Duncan to come out of retirement this summer …

CONNECT THE DOTS: Only hours after Pachulia pleaded not guilty, he bruised his right heel on a dunk seven minutes into the game and didn’t return. Didn’t take the basketball gods very long to hand down their verdict, did it?

STEPH HAPPENS: In the first two games, Stephen Curry scored 69 points in 70 minutes. Truth is, he could have named his total. Because if there was a matchup for him to be at his ballistic best, this is the one.

The Spurs conceded the 3-point line, where the nearest defender was in Lot B. They also couldn’t contain the drive-and-dish game, which spoke to their lack of depth and athleticism. (Here’s lookin’ at you, Patty Mills.) That left Curry to do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted to do it.

Let’s see if Curry can do the same on the road, where he has canned only 36 percent of his 3-balls this season. 

MOVIN’ ON UP: If reserve Patrick McCaw (18 points, plus-19, 27 minutes) hasn’t moved ahead of Matt Barnes (two points, minus-6, 15 minutes) on the depth chart, then he should be on his tail pipe at the very least.

An even better endorsement: Consultant Jerry West likes the kid. A lot.

CRUISE CONTROL: Warriors interim boss Mike Brown arrived late to the game after a misunderstanding with local police, yet his team still won by 36 points, another indication that this team doesn’t need no stinkin’ coach.

KING’S RANSOM: The Sacramento Kings landed the third pick in the draft lottery. Except that it was for the Philadelphia 76ers, who stole it in a trade in 2015. In return, the Kings acquired three jamokes and cap space, which they used to sign nobody of any importance.

As a parting gift, the Kings received a pick (No. 5) three spots higher than their lottery status, which they likely will use to take another player of zero importance.

BALL OF CONFUSION: Meanwhile, the NBA rigged the lottery so … um, in real shocker, Los Angeles Lakers came away with the second overall pick.

The good news is new operations honcho Magic Johnson will be in position to take to UCLA star Lonzo Ball. The not-so-good news is he’ll be stuck with daddy LaVar, too.


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