If you’re looking for a reason why Game 3 got away from Miami, look no further than Kawhi Leonard’s 10-of-13 shooting for 29 points. If you’re looking for a reason why Miami was never able to truly get back into it, look no further than Boris Diaw’s team-leading +20 plus/minus.
Diaw, just inserted into the starting lineup, played 37 minutes on Tuesday, more than anyone not named Kawhi, and his +20 was the best the Spurs had, including Kawhi.
Despite making just three field goals and posting just nine points, five rebounds, three assists, a steal, and a block, Diaw was key in creating space on the offensive front and strong as ever on the defensive front.
Of course, this was the case in San Antonio’s Game 1 win as well. Despite coming off the bench, Diaw played 33 minutes, second only to Tony Parker, and posted a +30 that was by far the team’s best. He only contributed two points in that one, but his defense, coupled with his 10 rebounds and six assists, made a huge difference that went largely unseen on the score sheet.
Even in his worst plus/minus game in Game 2, Diaw still contributed 10 rebounds, five assists, and a steal over 32 minutes of court time.
His playoff production is hardly a surprise. His numbers on the season show a 12-year veteran who just had one of the best seasons of his career playing under Gregg Popovich, even on paper.
His 13.1 points per 36 minutes is his third highest of his career. His six rebounds per 36 is his fourth best season average. His 5.5 field goals per 36 is the third best season rate of his career. His 52 percent shooting is his fourth-best seasonal output yet. His 40 percent three point shooting is the second-best seasonal rate he’s had.
In other words, here’s a 31-year-old that no one felt they had much use for just a couple of seasons ago, playing some of his best minutes in some of the most important games of his career.
But as noted above, the numbers don’t even come close to representing how much Diaw has helped the Spurs.
“He’s a very versatile, versatile player,” Popovich said this week. “Some players have a feel for the game that is better than others. And he’s one of those. He can pass the basketball. He sees the floor in a spatial relationship sort of way. He knows where people are. He knows where the ball should go. He anticipates. On defense, although he’s carrying around a little bit of luggage, he does his work early and positions himself pretty well. He allows us to play big and play small at the same time, is what it amounts to.”
The guy does everything and many might miss it if you’re just watching the ball. Whether it’s lunging into four defenders to open up a shot for another player, keeping the right amount of space to avoid a defensive misstep, or ripping down a rebound over three other big men, Diaw has evolved into one of the most solid veterans in the game.
In fact, on defense, the Spurs were over 30 points per 100 possessions better with Diaw on the floor in Game 1 than without him.
Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan, and Tony Parker show their efforts on the score sheet. Diaw’s efforts are perhaps best seen on the other team’s score sheet.