The Spurs' 84-82 win over the Lakers came down to a pair of plays in the waning seconds. San Antonio's relied on the element of surprise, an unlikely shooter, everyone knowing their roles. Los Angeles's consisted of Pau Gasol shooting a three. This is what happens when your respective court generals are Tim Duncan and Metta World Peace.
Duncan's the man to keep an eye on above, because he's the key to the play Gregg Popovich drew up with 20 seconds left and the Spurs down one. He takes the ball at the top of the circle and hands off to Kawhi Leonard, while Danny Green sets a screen on Pau Gasol under the basket. Green peels off as Duncan, never breaking stride after his handoff, pulls up short, planting Dwight Howard in place at the edge of the lane. Bryant, pursuing Green, runs into Howard, leaving Green wide open for the pass from Leonard and the open three.
The play required a number of moving parts, the sort of thing the Lakers have been struggling to grasp. It relied on perfect placement and footwork from Duncan and Green, and knowing the Lakers' defensive tendencies.
"It was a great call because you know Kobe always has a tendency to stay in the paint," Tony Parker said, "thinking it's a play for me or Timmy." But more than that, the Lakers weren't expecting a shot with ten seconds still left on the game clock, and they certainly weren't expecting it from Danny Green, with only one full season under his belt.
"He drew up a play and said, 'If you're open, catch it and shoot it,'" Green said. "When he draws plays for the young guys like myself, it's very rare and very surprising. You don't expect it. It's only my third year here, so for him to draw up a play for me, there was a lot of pressure on me. But you take the shot with the confidence he gives you."
The one drawback was that it left the Lakers with plenty of time for a play of their own. And while it was never executed, it seems like the plan was as basic as it was predictable: Get it to Kobe.
Bryant never touched the ball. Kawhi Leonard was all over him, forcing Metta World Peace, without an apparently Plan B, to improvise on the inbounds. He gave it to Pau Gasol, Kobe still couldn't get open, and Gasol—27 for 117 in his career from beyond the arc—had to put up a corner three. Here's how World Peace described his audible:
"I designed it," World Peace said. "Well, coach designed it for Kobe and then the guy denied Kobe so I said, 'OK, let me get it to the two-time champion Pau.' The Spaniard almost made the shot."
Good luck, Mike D'Antoni!