The Scouting Report: San Antonio Spurs, Game 1
Projected starting line-up: Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter
After 62-wins and being pushed to the brink of elimination the Spurs looked like their machine-like selves demolishing the eighth-seeded Dallas Mavericks to win Game 7 and their first round series.
The defending Western Conference champions looked the part in the Game 7 win by playing suffocating defense and Tony Parker slicing through the Mavericks defense with surgeon like precision.
Parker finished with 32 and looked to have found his stride halfway through the Dallas series. Although his regular season number against the Blazers in three games weren’t great, shooting 36 percent from the field, I expect him to be much better against the Blazers in the postseason.
The Blazers did a great job of forcing Houston’s James Harden into the midrange but playing Parker is a very different animal. Parker feasts off getting into the paint and hitting shots in the midrange. He’s taken very few three-pointers by comparison so the Blazers will have to find ways to bother Parker different from how they defended Harden.
Parker loves running downhill on offense but one similarity to Harden is that Parker isn’t a very good defender. He’s certainly not as bad as Harden but he can be taken advantage of because of the burden he carries for the Spurs offense.
Still, Parker in the postseason is as tough as they come in the league. The other issue that the Spurs present is how many playmakers they have and how they play as a unit. They almost always find the best shot and they are extremely good at playing together.
They have multiple playmakers and they almost always make the right play. The Rockets often times got bogged down but the Spurs system and their dedication to it won’t let them.
In a match-up similarly billed as this one, with the young Golden State Warriors facing the seasoned Spurs, Popovich didn’t do one single thing against Stephen Curry. He did multiple things and I suspect Lillard will receive the same treatment.
He covered Curry with Parker, had Danny Green pick up him full court and also brought in reserve guard Cory Joseph who stayed in Curry’s hip pocket for the minutes he was in the game. Patty Mills has earned playing time over Joseph this postseason but if Lillard goes off early, it wouldn’t shock me to see Pop pull Joseph off the bench to bother the All-Star.
Danny Green started to find his NBA Finals three-point stroke in the middle of the Dallas series and Kawhi Leonard is still a major problem on the defense end and on the glass. Both he and Nicolas Batum carry big loads on the glass for their respective teams.
Batum and Wesley Matthews both carried major loads on both ends of the court for the Blazers in their first round victory and their reliance on a total team effort won’t stop now.
Batum and Matthews needed to step up at various times to create offense, as did Robin Lopez, and how they perform on the wings against the plethora of wings the Spurs have could be a major factor.
Nicolas Batum averaged 43 mintues per game against Houston and Wesley Matthews is averaging nearly 40 while Leonard plays the most minutes of any San Antonio wing player with 32.7 in the playoffs.
Ginobili averaged 27 while Green averaged 21 minutes per game but one Spurs player that I think we’ll see more of is Marco Belinelli.
The Spurs did have a lot of injuries but Belinelli played exceptionally well against the Blazers in the regular season, scoring 15.5 points per game on 56 percent shooting and 55 percent shooting from three.
Also, we can’t forget Aldridge.
The Spurs just gave Dirk Nowitzki fits for seven games while Aldridge elevated his level of play in the first round against Houston. The Spurs defended Nowitzki primarily with Tiago Splitter, who wasn’t match-up a lot with Aldridge in the regular season.
According to NBA.com/stats, Boris Diaw guarded Aldridge most of the time in the regular season with Duncan getting his share as well.
The Spurs have already shown some ways they might try to get the ball out of Aldridge’s hands.
There he gets the double from Belinelli and Diaw. While I hesitate to compare Nowitzki with Aldridge, Splitter is going to be guarding him.
Here are a couple of looks of how Splitter and the Spurs guarded Dirk:
As you can see, Splitter is giving Dirk the baseline on the right block much like the Rockets gave Aldridge the baseline on the left block.
Then Dirk goes baseline and every Spurs player has an eye on him.
We’re likely going to see similar attention paid to Aldridge by the Spurs and this will be a fantastic challenge. The Spurs have been known to make things tough on guys like Dirk and LeBron and after Aldridge’s performance against Houston they’ll likely offer him the same respect.
But, as we know all too well, everything can change after Game 1.