Game 5 will be a pivotal game for both teams as the series now becomes a best-of-three. He'd be the one to open the game's scoring.
It could be if the Silver and Black don't play better than they did Sunday night in a 21-point road loss to the Houston Rockets in Game 4 of their Western Conference semifinal series. Maybe not mathematically, but psychologically.
But after that disastrous outing, in which the Rockets knocked down 22 of 50 shots from 3-point range to set an National Basketball Association postseason record for the most 3s attempted and made against San Antonio, the Spurs switched up the way they defended the pick-and-roll.
Thankfully, it doesn't need to. Nene had averaged 10.8 points and 5.3 rebounds in 19.9 minutes during the playoffs before Sunday's injury. Thoughts and prayers to Patrick Beverley.
"He's pretty much on the flawless team for the way they play and what their goals are offensively". The Thunder weren't always able to make the Rockets pay for being smaller, but the Spurs aren't the Thunder. "Whoever it is, we've got to try to fill that role". Kawhi Leonard has an incredibly elite interior game, along with the athleticism of Dejounte Murray and Jonathon Simmons, there is a need for more drives to the paint in game 5.
For the Spurs, a winning formula has been more complicated up until now; more dependent on individual personalities and performances, on what lineups happen to work game to game, and, ultimately, on the incidental fortunes of their opponents from three-point range. The fact that he went to the University of Houston is extra salt in the wound.
For the Spurs, their elite regular season defense has been no match at times for the Rockets' long distance strategy, and paid the price again in Game 4.
Beverley played regardless, scoring 10 points and six assists - including the game-opening three-pointer to kickoff the scoring.
Seriously, can you recall an NBA Playoffs that have been so barren of drama and bereft of any real buzz through the first two rounds like we're experiencing this year? As outlined earlier, they could have de facto sewn up the series. It's going to be my ninth time in 14 years. In fact, this was a theme for the Spurs frontcourt throughout the game. The Spurs shot 49.4 percent from the floor yet never led. When they do that, the Spurs look like they belong. We have to do everything you want them to do, anyway, but it's imperative that we play even harder.
As Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post elegantly put it: If the Rockets shoot well from three, they're going to win.
A couple of Rockets off the bench who've contributed plenty lately failed to do so in Game 3, as Nene was 0-for-5 and Lou Williams also missed all four of his attempts. Nene was pulled his left groin in the first quarter and didn't return. It makes life tougher for a Spurs defense that typically features at least one slower-footed big man. It can not be understated how important Nene has been and is for this team.
Losing a backup big man might not seem like a huge deal, but Nene's presence inside and the club's lack of depth means the news will have a huge impact on the Rockets' frontcourt.