Popovich tells troops: Get nasty

SAN ANTONIO — If there is one certainty about the next couple of days, it is that in various areas of free market trade in the greater San Antonio area, t-shirts emblazoned with “I Want Some Nasty” will be available for purchase.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich provided a one-liner that will follow this series the rest of the way, and will continue following the Spurs franchise into the next days, weeks and, well, maybe even years – although Popovich would settle for about a month.

By then, the NBA champion will be determined, and if it is to be the Spurs – who certainly are the favorites right now – then Game 1 of the Western Conference finals will undoubtedly be a focal point.

That’s because the Spurs overcame a gallant effort by the Oklahoma City Thunder to take a 1-0 lead in the series with a 101-98 victory Sunday night. (Boxscore here).

The Thunder battled evenly for a half, asserted themselves throughout the third and early in the fourth period and were playing confident, free-flowing basketball. They entered the last quarter with a nine-point lead and it seemed Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and a strong group of role players was coming of age.

In growing up, the young team with its core players all 23 or younger, was poised to end the Spurs 18-game winning streak, steal home court advantage and take a giant step towards advancing to the NBA Finals.

But then Popovich addressed the situation. He was unhappy because the Spurs had not played with the same passion or energy of the Thunder. He asked the players if they thought winning was going to be easy. He reminded them that each round was more difficult.

And then he uttered a line that will become a permanent part of Spurs lore, “I want some nasty.”

And he got it – well, as much nasty as a nice group of guys like the Spurs can muster. A minute into the fourth quarter, the Spurs began playing their regular game.

They trailed 73-64 with 11:19 left. They responded with nine consecutive points. And get this – four by Gary Neal, three by Tiago Splitter and two by Tony Parker. They took control of the game. They disrupted the OKC offense. They stifled Durant, who had 27 points in the game but was 0-of-2 from the field in the fourth period.

And after three periods of difficult, grinding basketball, the Spurs breezed to the victory, which was more convincing than the final three-point margin suggested. San Antonio was nine points ahead with 22.1 seconds left but OKC made several desperation shots. But the outcome was never in doubt at the end.

After the game, Popovich was able to laugh at himself for “I Want Some Nasty,” which has all sorts of commercial possibilities – Hip Hop, Country & Western, Heavy Metal, Triple-X rated and, very importantly from a cultural perspective, Jersey Shore.

(To see original column that appeared on Sheridanhoops.com, click here.)

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