MIAMI – Spurs coach Gregg Popovich substituted Boris Diaw for Tim Duncan twice in the final 28.2 seconds of regulation of the 103-100 overtime loss to the Heat in Game 6 Tuesday night.
With Duncan, who grabbed a game-high 17 rebounds, on the bench, the Heat snagged an offensive rebound on both possessions that led to a 3-pointer – first by LeBron James, then by Ray Allen.
But The Big Fundamental’s absence wasn’t the reason for that, Popovich said Wednesday.
“It’s not that simple. That’s not why they got the 3s,” he said. “We were up five [points] when they got their first three. And so reading and switching makes sense just to take away the 3.
“But on an offensive rebound, it’s one of the toughest things in the NBA, to pick up people. And we had one guy who didn’t pick up. LeBron shot an air ball, they got the rebound, got it back to him and he knocked it down.
“And then on the last possession, we were switching at the 3-point line to take away the 3, and Boris Diaw has a little more speed than Tim Duncan, so it makes sense to have him out there reading at the 3-point line. Unfortunately, we had two guys that went to LeBron and didn’t switch with [Chris] Bosh, and he went right to the hole. He’s the guy who got the [second offensive] rebound. So it has nothing to do with Duncan.”
Duncan said Tuesday’s substitutions were nothing new, that Popovich took him out in similar situations regularly throughout the season.
“Obviously, we were trying to protect the 3-point line,” Duncan said. “We had a lot of bodies in there to switch and get up on our shooters. Two bad bounces off a rebound – we actually get the stops on the 3s, and bad bounces right back out for 3s.
“It is what it is,” he continued. “Obviously, I want to be in there every minute of the game. That’s just how we’re built. But we’ve done it all year long. We’ve been successful with it. And if it comes down to it again, Pop will make the call again.”
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