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Gregg Popovich: "Our halftime talks are our own business"
Posted: June 7, 2003 - Finals Diary

On TV they said that you kind of blistered your team at halftime and said four of your top five were playing a summer league game, can you give us an idea of what that was about and what the response was?

You don't believe everything you hear, do you?

I believe some of it.

So you want me to respond to that?

Please.

Our halftime talks are our own business. Didn't have much to do with the game. Whether you stroke somebody or get on somebody, and I'll do a little bit of both from time to time and this halftime we got on them a little bit because I didn't think we played very well. But other than that, nothing different than the usual.

The turnovers and the sloppy play, do you think that you had just the wrong mindset coming into this game, maybe a little bit too relaxed?

I don't know how you quantify that. You hope you don't, when you play like that, you assume that's what you had, why did you have that? Well, I don't know. What I do know is the two weaknesses that we've had all years, turnovers and free throws, if we have 20 turnovers and we miss 11 free throws, that puts a lot of pressure on our defense. And both those things cropped up tonight. That's the ball game.

The third area I thought we were very sloppy, at times I was very disappointed when I was watching, I think that we showed a real lack of respect for the situation tonight for three quarters, and then finally when it got critical, it looked like the basketball team that I've watched play all year long. But you can't play like that in an NBA Finals series. We almost got lucky at the end, but they deserved to win the ballgame. They were focused all night long. They did a good job.

Did they do anything schematically, or any adjustments they made that caused you to make turnovers or throw you off?

No. We do that on our own quite often.

You know you can't read the minds of your players, but the game started and you come off a good win and the first eight or nine possessions you're just going into the basket every time, do you think they relaxed a little bit?

It could be. I don't know how to answer those questions. They obviously got sloppy, so they relaxed. They didn't take it seriously, I don't know. I won't spend a whole lot of time wondering about it. Just go and play the next one.

Can you talk about the impact of Deke and if he's changed the complexion of the series at all now that he's playing?

I thought did he a good job tonight. I thought he was active. I thought he took up some space in the middle. I thought he did a good all-around job. Whether it changes the series, I don't know, but I thought he did a fine job.

Tim Duncan: "We didn't take anybody lightly "

Was that their defense or were you just off tonight? Was that their defense or were you just struggling?

A little bit of both. They did a great job of playing between guys and they just found a way to kind of cut off the lanes. I thought they were a very good defense.

You and David after the game were saying you were surprised Dikembe did not play more, but he played 20 minutes tonight. Can you talk about his impact?

I thought he played very well. I thought he does what he usually does. He affects shots around the basket. I thought he was solid on the offensive end and I thought it was a big boost for him. He came out and played with a lot of energy.

Did you guys take them a little lightly for this Game 2?

We didn't take anybody lightly. We didn't play a very good game and they played very well.

Just on the free throw line, was there anything going on in your head tonight, and is that the weakness that the Nets exposed tonight?

Yeah, our weakness is our free throws and our turnovers, and we did both of those tonight. When it came down to it, I missed seven free throws. I make a couple of those, it's a whole different ball game.

What was the strategy after Jason misses the free throw, and is the 3 point the first option or is that just a shot?

It was a shot. I thought it was a great read by Tony to get the ball to him. Jack says if he looked at the clock a little better he would have pumped it but I thought he made a quick decision, he made a very good shot, he just hit one in the corner and he had been going on a good run there, been feeling it, and I was happy with the shot.

Do you think you need to be a little more aggressive earlier?

It's easy to say that. It's easy to go out there and say, be aggressive. But when they are sagging in the lanes, four shots isn't being aggressive. I need to find a way to get to the middle, draw the defense a little bit more and get my teammates a little more open.

Going to New Jersey, no team has ever won all three in a 2-3-2 format, what kind of confidence do you think the Nets have now gained and where are you guys headed to Jersey?

I think they have some great confidence right now. They are on a high right now, just as we were after Game 1. But we are confident going on the road. We are a very good road team and we feel good on the road. So our focus is to get this first game here on Sunday and regain home court, or hypothetically and go from there.

You said yesterday that you didn't expect Jason to play that way; you thought he would attack and also shoot better. Just talk about his night.

He was huge tonight. He was just real aggressive. The ball went up in the air and I remember him getting a couple offensive rebounds, getting a couple second shots for him and he was all over the place. On the other end of things, I thought Tony went out very well. I thought he didn't neutralize him but I thought he attacked him well enough to kind of keep him on his heels.

Emanuel Ginobili: "It's normal than you don't get the same respect as Kidd"

What was the key for them tonight?

Their key was Jason Kidd being inspired. They hit a couple of big shots, when we were playing hard and coming back. We also weren’t as aggressive as we need to be.

Why does this team do everything the hard way?

It’s always like that. Nothing is easy for us. I’ve said it many times and I’ll say it again. If we won’t play our best games, especially as far as toughness, aggressiveness and all that, we aren’t going to win. We’re not the most athletic team in the league. We don’t have that instinct, that killer instinct that other teams have, so we have to work so much to get the victories. We were close, but we made a couple of bad decisions, rushed shots. I don’t think we deserved it tonight. They did a better job than us.

Are the referees giving you a hard time personally because you’re a rookie?

It’s kind of normal. When you’re new, you have to get adjusted to everything. It’s normal that you don’t get the same respect as Jason Kidd, Tim Duncan, the All-Stars of the league. I accept it. Once you’re on the court, you’d like to get more calls. I have to accept it, keep working hard and move on.

Stephen Jackson: "I could have knocked the shot down"

What happened on that last play?

I think I could have pump-faked, and Tony (Parker) gave me a great pass, but Jason Kidd did a great job of contesting it, and he kind of got a finger or two on it. Tony made a great pass and I could have knocked it down.

How big was Kidd in the fourth quarter?

He was big the whole game. He took this game over from start to finish. He did what he needed to do. We kind of knew he wasn’t going to play like he did in Game 1. He wanted to win this game and did what he needed to do. He’s a competitor. He won this game for them today.

Is this the type of game you expect from New Jersey?

We expect it to be like this. We’re upset with ourselves for not coming to play for three quarters in the Finals. Coach (Popovich) is real upset at that fact. How many teams get a chance to play in the Finals, and then we don’t come to play. That’s just uncalled for. We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and come to play Sunday.

What changes do you make for Game 3?

None. Just be ready to play. You have to be ready to play them from the start. They run and their transition game is even better at home, so we got to be ready to play defense and be on our toes.

Tony Parker: "Pop was mad at halftime"

How do you explain the overall team sloppiness tonight, do you think it was the wrong mindset coming in or was it their adjustments that through you off?

I don't know. We're professional and we need to play better, especially in the beginning. Coach talked to us this morning in practice, and in the fourth quarter, we started playing in the fourth quarter when we was down ten.

Was it frustrating putting together those runs?

Definitely. You know, when we're down and we try to make runs and try to come back on New Jersey, you know, they are a solid team and when they make some big baskets, some guys get down the clock, two seconds left and so those shots hurt. If you leave New Jersey to hang around, they can hurt us and we lost the game.

What happened on the last play, you were down by 2 and the play before that you took it to the rim and you scored the basket and then Stephen Jackson takes the 3. Was it something Popovich wanted?

He just asked me to attack. Stephen Jackson just scored a 3 just before, so Jason tried to stall the ball so I was coming and I saw Stephen Jackson wide open and he just made one just before so I thought it was a good pass and it was wide open and we went for the win.

What did Pop say this morning about fear and what was he talking about?

He was a little bit scared that we don't respect New Jersey. He said that they are going to come out very strong and Jason, they are going to go after me, Kenyon Martin, everybody. He was right, in the beginning of the game, we were not ready.

What did Pop tell you at halftime, the team?

What did he say at halftime? He was mad. He was mad at us, screaming, just to get more aggressive. In the first game he did the same thing, we played poorly in the first half and then we wake up until the second half and it's not going to always work like that. New Jersey played very good in the second half.

How is it going with playing against Jason? I noticed at one point in the game you fouled him and he turned around and said something and you looked at him and wondered what he said to you. Is he talking to you during the game?

It was a hard foul, that's it. It's San Antonio Spurs against New Jersey Nets, that's the main thing; it's not just Tony Parker against Jason Kidd, it's the San Antonio Spurs against the New Jersey Nets.

Standing on the sidelines a little bit, what's going through your mind as the other guys are going to the free throw line and you missed a few down the stretch?

I don't know, it's just like I think we wasted a game. We did that a lot in the playoffs, against Phoenix, against the Lakers, against Dallas. Every time we lose a game it's because of free throws and tonight we missed some key free throws at the end of the game.

David Robinson: "They were more aggressive"

Seemed like the turnovers and the missed free throws really did you guys in tonight?

Yeah. It was a one of those games where we didn’t have a lot of guys play well. We normally count on about five or six guys to play well and for our team to play well together, but we didn’t do that tonight. We did a decent job the first five minutes, but during the meat of the game we really didn’t play our basketball. I’m a little bit disappointed with that, and like I said, the free throws, you don’t always have control over that stuff. But there are a lot of things you do have control over, like turnovers, playing a little bit smarter, those are the things we have to do to win games.

Did Dikembe Mutombo disrupt you guys a little bit?

You kind of have to expect it. Tonight they switched up a bit, trying to go a little bigger, but I don’t think it affected us all that much. Us turning that ball over, we just didn’t play smart. You look at that first half, we drive, we try to throw it through three guys. We were just giving the ball away. It was just stupid stuff. That’s not the way we play basketball. It’s a little frustrating to come to this point and kind of revert back to some of the stuff we did at the beginning of the year. That’s stupid basketball. We don’t have to push the ball three guys. We can move the ball around, and once it gets into Tim Duncan’s hands or our hands, we’re gonna score with it.

Why do so many turnovers and missed free throws happen at this point?

I don’t know. It shouldn’t. We should be a lot smarter by now. The one thing we should understand about ourselves is that we have to play 48 minutes. We’ve been talking about this for four series now. You can’t go out there for five minutes and think the other team is going to lay down. Go play. We’re a little frustrated with that. Our concentration level has to stay solid.

Were they more physical with you guys tonight?

They were definitely more aggressive. They did a lot of things they wanted to do and they made shots. That was probably the number one thing. They made shots. They made a lot of big shots, and that helped them kind of hang in there. We made some runs at them, but they had answers.

Byron Scott: "Deke did a heck of a job"

Can you talk about your decision to use Deke as you did, Collins, also on Duncan, and what your intent was?

I thought we did a much better job defensively, obviously. I thought Kenyon knew when he got into early foul trouble, I thought Deke did a good job. Like I said before, the defensive scheme was the same, basically. We wanted to make sure when he got close to the basket we wanted to try to get it out of his hands. That's what we do to any great post-up player. We were just more effective tonight with it.

This franchise has never won an NBA Finals game, you've never one won as a coach, can you just talk about this as a problem for the Nets?

We've never accomplished anything, but now that we have home court advantage, that's it. The object is to win a championship. Both teams have one win. We are not looking at this as being a problem because we won our first NBA Finals game. All we did today was tie it up and we took home court advantage.

How effective do you think Deke was this evening?

I thought he was really effective. I thought he did a great job on blocking shots. The shots he did block, he changed. For a guy who had not played a long time, played six minutes and then 20 minutes tonight, I thought he did a heck of a job.

As this game got late, did you sense it was one of those guys where you sensed Jason was not going to let you guys lose?

He was on the attack mode all night long. He did a heck of a job offensively aggressive and in a game with Jason like that it pretty much makes everybody on our team better. You know, we knew in the later part of the game he was going to make shots. We just tried to get him some opportunities where he had a lane, had an opening and again he made some good shots for us tonight.

When you sent Deke in at the start of the second, did you plan on leaving him in or just wait to go see what happened?

Just wait to see what happened. I'm a go by feel type of coach and if he's doing his job, the team is doing well, I leave guys in. That's what Deke did, he came in the second quarter did a heck of a job and same thing in the fourth quarter. He was doing a great job of blocking shots, taking up space and that's what we needed to him and we got the W.

Can you talk about your team's resolve, in the fourth quarter when things were unraveling they kept with it?

We've had that type of team all season long. We never panicked. No matter what the situation; we keep our poise and keep our exposure and just keep quiet. At times like that you know you have to tighten screws on the offensive ends and the defensive ends and I think we did both. So did the Spurs, they were down eight, nine, 10 points, they tightened it up defensively. They got some baskets on the offensive ends. You're just looking at two teams that have a will to win and tonight we just got the job done.

Jackson's 3 is in the air, what's in your head?

Well I thought Jason did a good job of getting it contested. I really wasn't worried when he shot that one. The one he shot in the corner was the one that worried me more than anything.

That was a defensive screw-up?

Blown assignment, big time.

Lucious Harris: "We got into a grove"

How did it feel winning your first game in the Finals?

It was good for us to come out and get that win. We still have a long way to play, but we played very well and supplied great teamwork down the stretch to come away with the victory tonight. I think it was good for us to get the win tonight, but I don’t think that our confidence has lacked at all during this whole series. We just had a lot of guys contribute and we were more aggressive on the defensive end tonight. It was nice winning, and hopefully we can keep carrying this momentum for the rest of the series.

How did you feel about the effort of Mutombo?

Deke came out and really played hard and was an anchor inside. He was a presence on the offensive end and also on the defensive end. He helped us get out and really establish the kind of effort that we needed to establish throughout the game. He really supplied a big effort for us on the defensive end tonight and really made the effort that we needed to make. Deke was big for us tonight.

What did you feel about your team’s cohesiveness?

We just really came out and played together even throughout the end of the game. I was very impressed with the way we were able to play as a unit both on the defensive and the offensive end. Great win for us tonight and more important we were just able to play the way that we have all season. We just really got in a grove tonight and showed a lot of heart.

Richard Jefferson: "Jason is our MVP"

What was the difference from Game 1 to Game 2?

We did a better job of keeping our aggressiveness more consistent and did a much better job of making Tim Duncan work for the ball and also work for what he got. It was a great team effort tonight on both the offensive and the defensive end. We came out as a unit, scoring defending and just playing our style of basketball. Playing as a unit is what allows us to get into a rhythm and get into a position to win a basketball game.

What did you think of the effort of Jason Kidd?

Jason really came out and set the tone like he does for us every game. He is our MVP. I think the rest of us did a great job of helping him score and helping him on the defensive end. Jason is just the backbone of this team and tonight we did a much better job of feeding off his energy. The energy I think allowed us to counter San Antonio’s big run down the stretch and allowed us to seize this victory.

On San Antonio’s second-half comeback.

They have been in that position all year in many games. The Spurs have a lot of guys that can hurt you and really supply energy. Stephen (Jackson) did a great job of shooting their way back into the ball game. I think that we did a great job of countering their energy tonight, but you have to give them credit for making the effort to come back, but I am proud of the energy that our guys showed tonight and the effort we made to get back into the game.

Jason Kidd: "We stopped the streak"

It seemed like Byron Scott really listened to you and Kenyon Martin, and you seemed to be asking for more playing time for Mutombo and Martin wanted more double teams on Duncan; is there some real communication going on between the staff and the players?

Well, in this league, the players can only suggest and we go out and try to execute the game plan from the coaching staff. You know, we talk about different things, and Coach felt comfortable trying to maybe change up our philosophy and maybe doubling a little bit more. I thought, again, we executed our game plan in the first half and then we kind of got a little hesitant there in the third.

But the big thing is we kept our composure and Deke gave us a big lift again. We couldn't ask any more from Deke than what he gave us tonight and hopefully he can continue to do that throughout the series.

All of the talk about how dominant the West is over the East, can you speak specifically to what it means for you guys to handle all of those runs that they made against you guys when you had big leads, smaller leads, being able to respond on their floor?

Well, this team has been through a lot, no matter if we are playing the Eastern Conference, we have been through some close games in the playoffs. There's always somebody who steps up to make up a shot.

I thought Lucious made a big shot with the momentum slipping out of our hands and making a big shot with the shot clock running down. But the big thing is we always believe in one another and it's something special that this team has is, we have confidence in one another.

But the big thing, we stopped the streak. We knew we couldn't lose 8 in a row in the Finals so we finally won a game in the Finals. We want to go out there and compete, and if the game is close we hope we can make a shot.

Can you talk about your performance tonight and what does it feel like to get your first Finals win?

Just going back to the two times that we've played here, I thought I came out a little bit trying to shoot at times and being out of character. I tried to get my teammates going tonight and let the game come to me. Once I made a couple shots, I felt a little bit more comfortable. I just tried to, again, let the game come to me and when shots presented themselves, to take them. I finally made a couple.

You guys have been bigger with Deke and with Jason, and you didn't run again like you'd like to run; is that a good enough trade-off, if you can neutralize Duncan like you did and still play the halfcourt game, will you take that?

Yeah. Sometimes you have to give up a little to be successful. If that means we don't have to run, make it as tough as possible on Duncan. Again, you are not going to stop him. If we can just keep throwing big guys at him to wear him down, maybe that will help. That doesn't mean that you can't still try to get easy baskets.

What goes through your minds, you made five or six free throws in the last minute, what goes through your mind when you go time and time again to the line? And what did you think when Stephen Jackson had that 3-pointer, wide-open 3-pointer, to win the game?

Well, I was confident. After I made four in a row, I thought, let me just try to do the same thing that I've done previous, and I threw a little curveball up there. I said, well, I've got to make this one so that it doesn't go into overtime. That play helped me out because I tried to jump Tony Parker to try to eat up some of the clock and Tony just went right past me. So my job was to try to track down Stephen Jackson and hope to try to get a deflection or try to make him rush it. He just made a wide-open 3 so we got very fortunate.

What do you guys know about the Spurs free throw problems do you guys know anything about that, or just the last couple of games?

We're not worried about the Spurs free throw problems. We're just trying to execute our game plan. As a whole, we have to box out so that if they do miss them, we have to be able to capitalize on that. They didn't shoot their free throws well today, but that's not on us. Part of our game plan is to go out there and try to execute and again, we have to make our free throws if we're going to have a chance to compete against the mighty West.

Can you talk about Tony's game and the run that he had in the fourth quarter, the way he kept the Spurs in the game?

He did a wonderful job. He made some tough shots. He found the open guy and he's a competitor. He's not going to quit. It's a battle of the point guards, but the big thing is both, we're both, no matter how bad we shoot the ball, it comes down to winning the ball game. Again, he made some tough shots. You know, he put himself in that position; he wants the ball and I thought he did a wonderful job.

The first game you scored 10 points and there was talk about the matchup between Jason Kidd and Tony Parker and then you came here today and scored 30 points. Did you feel that you had to make a point?

No, I just wanted to let the game come to me. I didn't shoot the ball extremely well in Game 1 but the other aspects of the game, finding the open guy, rebounding, I thought I did a good job. The big thing, I don't have to score 30 points for our team to be successful. That's not my game, but tonight the ball went in for me.

So if your team needs 20 rebounds are you going to grab them?

I'm just going to take what the defense gives me. That was the opportunity, I made some shots tonight, and my teammates -- my job is to get them going.

Could you talk a little bit about establishing your own offense and how you decide to do that philosophically versus what you usually do?

My job, I try to just be patient. Sometimes it's hard to be patient, but to try to let the game come to me and keep the guys going, because the game becomes so much easier, so much fun when the other guys are putting the ball in the basket and then I can do what I like to do best, and that's to find the open guys.

But my teammates have called on me to be aggressive and take the ball to the baskets, so I'm learning how to do that, too.

When Ginobili was going at you, did you plan to take it to the basket?

He's a great defender. He's very aggressive. You just try to take what he gives you and that's very little. You've got to be quick with him. If you play around with the ball, you can end up losing it.

I just try to be aggressive in making a decision and trying to get Tim to slide over to try to contest my shots so I can find an open guy.

How different are you defensively when Deke can play behind Tim and Kenyon, and can be the help guy?

We're not used to that, but finally Deke is playing, so we have to get used to Deke back there. We had some silly fouls because Deke can change shots. It changes the whole outlook of our defense. Deke can be more aggressive and they have to contend with Mt. Mutombo. So it gives a hidden weapon in the sense of somebody that is 7-2. We need Deke to play like he is and we have to get comfortable with Deke back there because we haven't had him throughout these playoffs.

Kerry Kittles: "We contained Duncan better than in Game 1"

It seemed like you put energy into this game and sustained energy?

Yeah, we played better for longer periods of time. We felt as though in Game 1, it had been a while since we had played, but we came out again. We’re pretty competitive, but the third quarter kind of put us behind the eight ball. Tonight we were able to sustain it for 48 minutes.

Jason Kidd dominated tonight and you were able to control Duncan.

We tried to control Duncan. He really had it going in the second half in Game 1, so obviously coming into the game we were going to try to not let him get 30 points again. So it was a very good team effort against him. Dikembe came in and did a great job for us contesting shots. Kenyon Martin was able to contain Duncan more. Everybody that got a chance at him did a pretty good job. He’s going to score his points, but overall we contained him better than we did in Game 1.

Talk about Dikembe and his contribution.

Very, very helpful for us. They have guys that drive in the paint and Tony Parker was making those baskets around him, so now you have a guy 7-2 that you have to try and get the ball over. He did a good job of blocking some shots and changing some shots. He really helped us on the defensive end tonight.

Real unconventional win for you tonight. You guys don’t dominate in fast break points yet you dominate them in points in the paint, was that the thing, to attack the basket?

Coming into the series, you can’t forget about how San Antonio scores in transition. They’re a sneaky team in the open court. Tony Parker’s pretty good when he has the ball, he’s driving, penetrating and making those plays. So, overall we did a pretty good job of containing him even though he got some baskets later on.

Kenyon Martin: "Dikembe played great tonight"

Kenyon, it seemed like tonight you guys had a lead for just about most of the game and then you put up like four big guns against guys, can you talk about your ability to respond tonight to every single one of those runs?

In basketball, it's we made ours, just trying to counter, if they make a run, I hold our head down, just bounce back from it. We did an excellent job, like when they made their run in the third we bounced back from it and we did an excellent job tonight.

Talk about Dikembe Mutombo, it seemed like with him on defense tonight, you were suddenly almost as big as the Spurs are.

He played great tonight. Deke gave us energy, he gave us a couple baskets, a couple blocks. That's what we need from him. Whenever he's on the court he can be effective. He gave us a lot of size. At one point, we played Deke at the same time and that's great to have extra size.

At the shootaround today Coach Popovich warned his team not to disrespect the other team, did you have a sense that they were doing that?

No. Somebody said that but I couldn't tell. They played an excellent game. We knew we was going to bounce back from it so we wasn't worried about it. We were going to come out with the same focus and a lot more energy than we did in Game 1. Whether they disrespected us or not, it's irrelevant. Still got to play the game.

Did Coach Scott mention anything to you before the game that he was going to give Dikembe some big-time minutes tonight?

No, that's coach's decisions, man. He didn't tell us anything about it, but I'm glad he did. He helped us out a lot.

You guys have been thriving on the fast break all season long but it seems this that they have decided to take that away from you guys. How have you managed to get the ball in the basket?

They do a great job of getting back, first on defense, you have to get back on defense, they have done a great job at it. Hopefully going home we can run it a little more, our fast break game. But we can also score on the halfcourt. A lot of people don't give us credit for that but if the fast break game is not working we'll do something else and we did an excellent job of that.

You did a much better job on Duncan today, was it just better team defense or something did you different?

Just better team defense. Guys held up, digging down, we switched the team up, put Deke on him, a bigger guy, give him a different look. We were trying to give him different looks and not give him a steady diet of the same thing. Guys did an excellent job of digging down and making him guess.

Dikembe Mutombo: "I felt so good"

How did it feel to get in there and finally make a real big impact in a playoff game?

It was great. It kind of gave the coaches a lot of confidence that I can come out and contribute so much for this ballclub, and tonight, I knew that I was going to get more minutes than I did the night before and I was more prepared mentally, and physically, as well.

Does this change the perception of the whole series, because the Nets were supposed to be the smaller team and now with you, you can matchup with Duncan or Robinson.

I knew that it -- we came in here trying to win these first two games and we let the first game slip away and then we felt that tonight was our night. We jumped on them from the beginning and we didn't give them the chance to breathe. We knew that we played against a great team that got the league's Most Valuable Player. It's a matter of just being aggressive and that's what they did tonight.

Is there any guarantee now that you are going to get more minutes or is it going to be game by game?

(Laughs). I haven't got a chance to talk to no coaches, the assistant or the head coach. Hopefully maybe we are going to sit down and talk about that. There's no guarantee whether that's going to happen but I'm just glad that they are just giving me a chance to play the game again.

How does it feel, whenever you do something positive, it seemed to really energize the players, how does it feel for you to see your teammates react that way?

I think one thing we do is we support each other, despite who is playing, five, ten, 20 minutes or 30 minutes, every time that person is coming off the court, everybody needs to stand up and be very supportive. That's something that we did up there and we showed the world that we've got all character on our team, we are unselfish and we want to play as a group and we want to accomplish something big. These are moments for us. This is the year that we can do it.

We haven't seen the finger wag in a while?

Maybe you missed it. (Laughter).

Why did you break it out tonight?

Finger wagging is something that I do just automatically. It's not like I plan to do it, even though the league asked me to not do it no more, but I was able to do it, I don't know what made me do it tonight. I hope they don't fine me. (Laughter).

What did you guys show and prove to the Spurs tonight after winning this game?

I think our defensive ability. One thing we understand coming in this series is that everything they do is going to go through Tim Duncan. He is their playmaker and how he goes is how the Spurs go. We cannot stop him but if we can find a way to slow him down, we are going to have great success in this series, and tonight was that night. We were kind of slowing him down. We made him think twice, sometimes three times, before he did any move up there, and we challenged him every time when he was going to the basket. Then we was able to win this game.

You're a very proud guy and this year has been tough for you. How have you dealt with this season mentally?

I think a lot had to do with praying. For some reason, I've just been praying more than I have done in my life. I felt that I haven't seen so many things happen in my life before this as happened to me this year, not just the injury, when I have to spend four months with not playing and then when I try to come back after long therapy, things happen in my family, my brother passing away just before the playoffs start. It was very tough. It was very tough. I'm glad that spiritually I've been much stronger to be able to hold myself and don't lose focus on what we are trying to accomplish here.

I knew that my team would lead me down the road, despite our success, but it was a long time to come out and play.

Was this the first time that you felt like you've been a contributor in the playoffs?

I felt so good. Two nights ago, I was very good for a few minutes, I got my feet wet in there. But tonight, I think I showed so many things up there, in a positive way, and I think -- I hope the coaches will take a good note of that and maybe give me a chance to play more. I'm not asking to start. I'm just saying that the young kids, they played extremely well during my absence, and I'm not trying to dominate and try to push nobody away. I just want to feel like I'm part of this group, and I was not feeling it for a moment. It was hard for me. But that's the world that we are living in.

Do you feel like this team is stronger than the team that you played on with the 76ers, and do you have a better chance of winning this time?

I would not compare our series to the Final against the Lakers. It's a different matchup. You have Kobe Bryant, who is one of the Most Valuable Players in this league and you've got Shaq, one of the most dominant centers in this league; that was a different matchup.

Coming against San Antonio, we knew that there's one man that we need to slow down, which is Tim Duncan. If we can do it and continue to do it properly and work on the rest of the guys, and also Tony Parker who is playing very well for them, and I think in Game 3 we are going to find a way to have a good answer for him.

The transcription of the press conference is provided by the NBA

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