Blog Entry

NBA Playoffs Spurs-Grizzlies: Bring the walls up

Posted on: April 21, 2011 2:39 am
Edited on: April 21, 2011 3:51 am
Manu was fine. The Spurs' defense? It was great.
Posted by Matt Moore

The popular story will be Manu Ginobili. Ginobili, returning from an elbow injury, scoring a game-high 17 points and grabbing seven rebounds! Hero! In reality, Ginobili had a decent 17 points on 13 shots, but had five turnovers. There was some rust there. And if we want to look at the change that improved from Game 1 to Game 2, it wasn't the offensive output from Ginobili. It wasn't their offense at all.

Game 1 was a slower, methodical affair, with a pace of 89 possessions versus 95 in Game 2. But the efficiencies were higher on both sides. Basically, the Grizzlies benefited from a slower, more efficient game. Game 2 was an ugly, brutal affair. Even when the Grizzlies were able to convert turnovers at a higher rate than in Game 1, things bogged down on offense for Memphis. Particularly inside. 

In Game 1, the Spurs' largely went one-on-one in defense, trying to rely on their individual defenders to prevent cuts and open shots. The result was largely Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph killing them softly. In Game 2, the Spurs shifted their strategy completely. Instead, the Spurs sent everyone to collapse once the ball entered the paint. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph combined for just 23 points on 23 shots Wednesday night. In the block, the Spurs would wait until either post player made their move to the paint, then bring an aggressive double, swiping at the ball from a wing. Often, Richard Jefferson did the job. Instead of swinging baseline and nailing hooks or fadeaways as they did in Game 1, the two found themselves turning the ball over, or unable to get a clean shot. When the two beasts inside turned face-up to the basket, three defenders would close to shut off any chance of a clean shot, even with the size advantages. 

San Antonio also threw a whole world of effort at denying the entry pass. By keeping the ball out of the block, the Grizzlies tried more interior passing. That didn't work. The result was a slew of awkward possessions, most often resulting in a poor pull-up jumper by a wing. Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Sam Young, O.J. Mayo and Shane Battier combined for 59 shots in Game 2, versus just 37 in Game 1. The Spurs set the tone, the wings would have to beat them in Game 2, and Memphis couldn't get it done. 

Matt Bonner was the one weak point the Grizzlies actually attacked, and Darrell Arthur finished 4-5 for 8 points, mostly from destroying Bonner. But, again, the Grizzlies didn't commit to exposing Bonner, and the result means Bonner hangs around to hit threes on the other end. 

The Spurs set the tone in Game 2, playing the kind of defense they haven't all year. Memphis was more than happy to play into it. Going forward, the shot distribution between the paint and the wing is going to go a long way in determining if Memphis can make this a series.

Since: May 16, 2007
Posted on: April 21, 2011 3:16 pm

NBA Playoffs Spurs-Grizzlies: Bring the walls up

The Spurs are a very complete team when Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili are all healthy.  The Spurs are among the best in the NBA (best record in the west this year).  I really don't give the Grizzlies much of a chance in this series now that Ginobili is back and playing at a high level.  The upcoming game in Memphis is going to tell us alot about where this series really stands.  I think most of us already have some  pretty strong ideas where we are.  This is a mismatch the Grizzlies can do precious little about.  San Antonio probably has only this year remaining to add another championship in the Tim Duncan era.  I think they well know this, and there be that additional motivation to close this whole thing out.

Since: Dec 11, 2006
Posted on: April 21, 2011 1:31 pm

NBA Playoffs Spurs-Grizzlies: Bring the walls up

The stats for Ginobili were good, but not spectacular as pointed out.  But Ginobili's total impact on the Spurs can't be remotely guaged by stats alone.  The confidence level of the entire team, including Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, simply soared.  They played game 2 like the team with the best record in the NBA this year.  You can't measure that very completely by analyzing the numbers by themselves.  With the big three healthy for the Spurs, they will be very tough every game in these playoffs.  Sure, schemes will be changed as conditions warrant, but the Spurs' confidence level will be the most determining factor in their success.  I sure would like to see a statistic that will accurately measure this, other than wins and losses.  Ginobili, as well as the other big 3, provide the intangibles that make this team special and very tough to beat.  The Grizzlies are now facing a very steep uphill journey now.

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