Tag:2011 WC First-Round
Posted on: April 23, 2011 11:05 pm
Edited on: April 24, 2011 12:42 am
 

NBA Playoffs Grizzlies-Spurs: A mystifying end

The Spurs do what they always do, fail to execute in the key moments of the game and surrender a 2-1 edge to the Memphis... wait, what? 
Posted by Matt Moore

Update 11:56 p.m.: Some interesting stuff here. Here's video of the final possession from the Spurs. 


Now let's look at it frame by frame. Tim Duncan is trucking down the floor trying to call time. Here's the halfcourt set before Duncan reaches the Spurs' side of the floor. 




You'll see Bonner up top calling for the Ball to hit an open three, not calling time. Pay attention to the clock in the upper right, not the broadcast clock. There's time remaining, but no one on this side of the floor is calling time. You'll see George Hill bottom left also calling for the ball, not calling for time. 




You'll see here, the red light is NOT on, and though the image of the clock is fuzzy, that tells us time is left on the clock. That certainly looks like .1 seconds. On the left, you'll see Tim Duncan racing in, screaming for a timeout. The official at the top of the screen, though, is watching the action and doesn't see and can't hear Duncan screaming. None of the other Spurs realize until after Duncan gets there that they need to be calling time. 




The buzzer sounds as the clock expires, Duncan is frantically calling for time. The broadcast clock says .2, but the game clock above the goal says .00. George Hill is still calling for the ball. Matt Bonner is pointing at Tim Duncan. And the Grizzlies are going up 2-1 in this best of seven series. 

Now, there's a world of things that can be talked about here. 1: the Spurs should have called time when they got possession. 2: Bonner, closest to the official, or Ginobili, or Hill need to be calling time once the ball crosses the timeline. 3: Even if the officials had seen Duncan motioning, there may not have been time for the Spurs to get a shot off. 4: The player has the responsibility to alert the official. 

But the fact remains that before time expires, Tim Duncan is calling timeout. 

-------------------

Original post: The truth is, they've always been, well, the Spurs. 

The Spurs have been the model of execution for over a decade. They're a -- pardon the term --- "grizzled" veteran squad that does everything right, knows how to extend or speed up the game, makes the right pass, delivers the right play, works it down to the nub and pulls out the win more often than not. And all of that crashed and burned on their final possession in a pivotal Game 3 loss to the 8th seeded Memphis Grizzlies Sunday night, 91-88. 

The Spurs managed to survive a final possession from Memphis which would have ended things right there. Zach Randolph missed a pull-up jumper just minutes after sinking a 3-pointer (yes, a 3-pointer), and the Spurs grabbed the rebound. That's when the hijinks began. 

George Hill grabbed the rebound, but instead of calling timeout, which would have progressed the ball to halfcourt, allowing the Spurs to set up a final possession, Hill took off like a rocket, trying to push. The Spurs did have a timeout remaining. Without the timeout, a rushed, hurried possession resulted in Manu Ginobili nearly getting the ball stripped in a trap, unable to get a shot off, and time expired. 

Memphis 91, Spurs 88. The 8th seed now has a 2-1 edge and maintains homecourt advantage in the best of seven series, with a chance to put the veteran Spurs on the cliffs of insanity Monday night in Memphis. 

There's some discussion that Tim Duncan may have been calling for time on the final play. The minute Hill elected to dribble, the opportunity to advance the ball was lost. However, the Spurs still would have been awarded a timeout and gotten the ball inbounds from under the Grizzlies' basket. But without the timeout, a Spurs team that looked out of sync and overwhelmed for much of the game, barring a stellar third quarter was unable to get the set they wanted. The result was an out-of-sync play and Ginobili, who was a hurricane in Game 3, was unable to pull out the miracle.

Questions will abound as to whether the Spurs did call time, and if they didn't, why in the name of George Gervin they didn't. In a series that has shown that records don't always show the difference between teams, Memphis has gained the advantage in the most unexpected of ways. 

By the Spurs not being the Spurs. 
Posted on: April 23, 2011 4:22 pm
Edited on: April 23, 2011 4:57 pm
 

Series Reset: Backs to the mountain for Nuggets

Posted by Royce Young



The Narrative:
Not only have the Thunder taken an all important 2-0 lead, but they did it while sort of crushing the Nuggets' spirits as well. Oklahoma City completely dominated Game 2, leading by as much as 26 while never letting the lead get under 10 in the second half. Postgame, Denver did not appear to have much confidence as it prepared to go back home.

The Hook: This is it for the Nuggets. Not only has no team ever come back from a 3-0 deficit, but this team looks ready to lay down if things go bad tonight. I don't think they will because George Karl doesn't tend to let that happen and the way they rallied together after the Melo trade really speaks to their resiliancy.

But this is their first crack in front of their home fans. That type of thing makes a big, big difference. Not only is there a good jolt of energy from the arena, but the Nuggets have the added advantage of playing a mile above sea level. Kendrick Perkins admitted after Game 2 that you definitely feel the difference for at least a quarter. The Nuggets need to use that and jump out to a good start on the Thunder, energize their arena and build some confidence.

The Adjustment: At this point, just forget about adjusting on Kevin Durant. The Nuggets tried doubling in Game 2, but that just opened the floor for OKC's role players who lit Denver up.

The main adjustment I see the Nuggets making is figuring out a way to unstuff the paint. The Thunder did a terrific job completely plugging holes in Game 2, forcing Denver to take all contested jumpshots. The Nuggets really thrive on inside-out play between Nene and the guards as well as penetration and kickouts from Ty Lawson.

OKC's defensive strategy is to turn you into a jumpshooting team. The Nuggets can survive in that regard if they're hitting -- like they did in Game 1 -- but if they aren't, it turns into ugly offensive basketball like in Game 2. Denver has to figure out a way to get players like Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari going (just 3-14 combined in Game 2) as well as Nene, J.R. Smith and the "little guys," as Karl calls Lawson and Ray Felton.

The X-Factor: I went with J.R. Smith for Game 2. He was a major disappointment, playing just a few minutes and none in the second half. He's the constant X-factor for Denver though. If he gets going, he can carry them offensively at any point in the game.

But one player I see the Nuggets really relying on tonight is Danilo Galliinari. He just hasn't made a big offensive impact yet in the series and is the kind of player the Nuggets need to get going. He can score in bunches and carry them offensively in stretches.

Here's the guy the Nuggets are counting on though: Arron Afflalo. He missed the first two games and is someone that the team the Denver fans seem to really be trusting to make a difference. And he certainly can. He's a good shooter and a long defender to try on Durant. Question is how healthy he is.

The Sticking Point: My initial pick for this series was the Thunder in five games and everything is on track for that. And this is the game I see OKC having trouble winning. The arena will be fired up and emotional and the Thunder could have trouble finding a win on the road. This Thunder group needs to figure out how to win away from home at some point, but I just get the sense the Nuggets are going to find a little confidence tonight.

This is OKC's series to lose still and one win for the Nuggets could inject them with a bit of life and potentially push them to steal another game. A loss for Denver and this thing is entirely over. This game could swing the series a bit. Either the Nuggets will get back in it, or it's pretty much all over.
Posted on: April 23, 2011 11:37 am
Edited on: April 23, 2011 3:11 pm
 

Series Reset Grizzlies-Spurs: Rhythm and blues

So... no pressure, guys, but, uh... this game probably decides the series. 
Posted by Matt Moore




The Narrative: The series will either right itself in terms of the logical order of the universe, where the No.1 seed takes control of the series, disheartening the home team in their first playoff game in five seasons... or, the inmates run the asylum for another few days and may just have a chance to break out. How big is Game 3? The Duncan-era Spurs have never won a series in which they lost two of the first three games when they had homecourt advantage. They've only lost one series in which they won two of the first three (Lakers). So this is kind of a big deal. Will Memphis' fans show up? Will Manu Ginobili have an even bigger impact in Game 3 than he did in Game 2 (when he had five turnovers)? There's a lot of uncertainty about this game, but a Spurs win will calm the waters and restore some order to our chaotic universe. 

The Hook: The Spurs' 3-point barrage broke out a little big in Game 2, but hasn't fully gotten loose. The corner three was available, especially late, helping the Spurs to put Memphis away.  That's got to continue. Matt Bonner has to make big shots to justify his floor time considering he's a defensive liability that calls for a clearout every time he's on the floor. George Hill can destroy the Grizzlies if he can pull defenders and then hit when they collapse. And Manu Ginobili can just straight up pull-up and nail big shots. 3-pointers are often affected by homecourt advantage, there's a weird energy that affects those plays, being the big momentum swingers they are. How the Spurs respond will be a big deciding factor. In the regular season, the Spurs shot 5 percentage points worse from the perimeter on the road than they did at home. There are some playoff veterans on this team, and some inexperienced shooters. If the Spurs get hot from the outside, Memphis may drown defensively. They've done a good job running them off in this series. Keeping them off is another matter. 

The Adjustment: The Grizzlies gotta get space, man. In Game 2, the Spurs collapsed the lane, daring the Grizzlies to beat them with mid-range jumpers. The correct response here is to spread the Spurs out using spacing and continue to attack the rim. Instead, Memphis obliged and the result was control of the paint for San Antonio. The Grizzlies have to clear things out and that means hitting a few mid-range jumpers. But instead of the off-dribble pull-ups they went to in Game 2, the Grizzlies need to utilize the space created by the pick and roll. They have reliable spot-up shooters in Darrel Arthur and Marc Gasol, and on the perimeter with O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley, and Shane Battier. If they use ball movement to create open looks, their offense looks much better. Off the dribble, it's an abject mess, and that's before you factor in San Antonio's penchant for creating turnovers out of such situations using their trap-and-swipe. If those shots open up the floor, the Spurs' defense will adjust which opens up interior passing to Randolph and Gasol, who can score, even if they're slightly out of position as long as they're not blanketed. How that adjustment fairs will determine if Memphis can carry any efficiency offensively at all. 

The X-Factor: O.J. Mayo has had decent, but not great games in the first two of this series. In Game 2, he went hero mode, trying to attack off the dribble and forcing shots while still drawing bad fouls. Mayo is a phenomenal streak shooter. When he works off the catch-and-shoot, or when Lionel Hollins uses him as such, Mayo can burn a defense and leave them shaking their heads. When he tries to produce off the dribble against bigger and longer defenders like George Hill, he gets swallowed alive and his bad decision making compounds it. The Grizzlies' bench unit is much better than it was at the start of the year, but still needs some form in order to function. Called plays for Mayo off-screen and catch-and-shoot could hurt the Spurs and frustrate them. Running improvisational sets with Mayo as ball handler or working with Greivis Vasquez at point will lead to more of the wasted possessions we saw in Game 2. Mayo has to get his if Memphis wants to take the advantage in this series. 

The Sticking Point: If you're talking about talent, outside of the Big 3, you could make the argument the Grizzlies have looked like the more talented team in this series. Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Tony Allen, O.J. Mayo, Shane Battier, Mike Conley, the list goes on. It's not a runaway by any means, but you could make the argument. It's been close these first two games. But championship caliber teams know when to take control of the wheel.  The Spurs function better than the Grizzlies systemically, and that's why Game 1 was so tight, and Game 2 was a win for the favorites. That's what this series really comes down to. Individual efforts vesus group think. And in those situations, group think usually wins when they have the strength and ability the Spurs do. That said, a loss would unravel that system somewhat, and create self-doubt. Once that's introudced, it's a whole new ballgame and Memphis will be riding a surge of momentum going into Game 4. Game 3's are always pivotal. Most playoff games after the first two are pivotal. But you get the sense that this game really will decide the  series. 
Posted on: April 21, 2011 3:56 pm
Edited on: April 21, 2011 4:21 pm
 

Are the Nuggets fading and is Smith ready to go?

Posted by Royce Young



Maybe hearing the "94 percent of teams down 0-2 end up losing" stat last night shook the Nuggets a bit. Who knows. But they definitely have taken a pretty big blow to their confidence. A team that had bonded together and rode some serious us-against-everyone swagger post-Melo seems to be losing some steam.

Last night's whipping dealt to them by the Thunder certainly doesn't help, but postgame, there was a clear change in the way the team spoke and acted, starting at the top with George Karl. In his postgame comments, Karl was very quiet and let out a statement I found interesting.

"For me, it's Saturday night. We've got to worry about Saturday night. Win that game. Thinking about other stuff is goofy. Two days is good enough time to regroup and re-energize and get our confidence back in to a better place."

It's really just that last phrase that stuck out. Karl seemed to admit the team's confidence has been rattled. It's a little hard to blame them tough. In the past 20 days, his team has dropped four games to the Thunder by an average margin of 10.7 points. Plus one of them coming in their building.

Add to that J.R. Smith today via Ben Hochman of the Denver Post :

The Nuggets had a team meeting on Thursday and Smith said the team didn't have "a pulse" as they regrouped at Pepsi Center.

"Just frustration, just really didn't have any life in there," Smith said. "No one was really into it."

Smith though was either so downtrodden about the psyche of the team or the fact he didn't play in the second half last night (or both) that he made a bold statement that he wouldn't be coming back to the Nuggets next year.

"There's a strong possibility as of right now," Smith told the Denver Post. "It's not going the way I planned it to go. It's a tough situation. I want to be here, I love the fans and everything about the city. It's just maybe not my fit."

Now I realize you can't necessarily take things J.R. Smith says to heart, because he's J.R. Smith but his comments today really kind of followed up the feeling I got last night. Momentum and confidence are about two of the most important things there are when it comes to postseason basketball. A belief in yourself, your team, your gameplan and your ability to win in any circumstance is vital. It's the lifeblood to winning in the playoffs.

And a lot of that seemed to change when Kendrick Perkins was gifted two points in Game 1. Karl admitted he should've called a timeout because his team was rattled by the no call. Since that moment, the Nuggets haven't looked like themselves. There's probably being more made about this than is actually real, but the Nuggets have some of their players beat up and two of their best scorers dropped duds in Game 2 (Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari were a combined 3-14 for 11 points).

Perkins talked last night about taking it to an opponent when it's down. He was referring to the 26-point lead, but I think it applies just as much to OKC's 2-0 one.

"That's the time you're supposed to just start smelling blood and keep going. I think when you're up by that many points that's the time you're supposed to step on their throats and not give them a chance and go up 'bout 40 or 50. I ain't been there before and I know what team's are capable of doing. It just takes one 10-0 run or one 15-0 run and they're right back in the game."

Give the Nuggets a game and you're going to find a team that's re-discovered its confidence. You're going to find a team ready to fight again and one that has a pulse. The Nuggets that rattled off all those wins post-Melo was one that had swagger, confidence and belief in each other oozing out of their ears.

The Thunder has the enemy down right now. As Perk said, time to stomp on their face, or something. Give Denver a game and you're about to give them a series too.
Posted on: April 21, 2011 2:39 am
Edited on: April 21, 2011 3:51 am
 

NBA Playoffs Spurs-Grizzlies: Bring the walls up

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.
Posted on: April 20, 2011 4:32 pm
Edited on: April 20, 2011 5:28 pm
 

Playoffs Thunder-Nuggets: What worked vs. Durant?

Kevin Durant dropped 41 points in Game 1. Is there anything Denver can do to slow down Durantula? 
Posted by Matt Moore




So Kevin Durant had a pretty good Game 1. 41 points on 13-22 shooting, 9 rebounds, and 2 assists . You know, not bad. It was one of those games where you just have no idea how to guard Durant. Nailing heavily-contested pull-up threes, getting free off a pick and rising up, knocking down shot after shot after shot. It was a stunning performance, and proof that Durant probably should have had higher consideration for the MVP this season. It was assumed that Denver would have no way of guarding him, but few expected it to be that bad. 

Still, Denver has to come up with something in Game 2. Usually, in these types of situations, a team will opt to let the superstar beat them and focus on shutting down everyone else. Except, in Game 1, Durant and Westbrook combined for close to 70 percent of the Thunder's total offensive output, and they still won. So if they're going to try and at least make Durant's success marginally less efficient, they have to come up with a plan. After rewatching some things using Synergy Sports, there are some patterns.

The Nuggets tried everything against Durant. Here's a list of players who defended Durant at one point or another, and this doesn't even count switches off the pick-and-roll: Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Al Harrington, Kenyon Martin, and Raymond Felton. Nothing worked, but some things worked less than others. The objective isn't to stop Durant. It's simply to put him in a position to have to make the toughest shot possible, consistently. Here they are in reverse order of effectiveness.

Kenyon Martin: This was a single possession for a reason. Martin is a big, and has no chance of sticking with Durant. He showed hard, Durant went around. Game over. 

Raymond Felton: The idea's not bad, right? Try and guard Durant on the perimeter with a guard who can apply ball pressure. Durant easily posted him and scored over him. Felton simply doesn't have the size to combat Durant's frame. That one's a non-starter. 

Al Harrington: Similar to Kenyon Martin, but not as much of an issue. Still, Harrington was frozen when Durant blew by him, once off a pick, once in isolation. Harrington, again, seems  like a good plan. A bigger forward to body KD, with some length and a little bit of quickness to hang on the step back. But this just goes to show you Durant's underrated speed. One pump and Durant blew by him. Harrington's a bad defender, which is obviously an issue, but even physically, he doesn't hang. 

Danilo Gallinari: So close. Gallinari very nearly had Durant a few times. His spacing in ISO was solid, he played him well into help defense, and Gallo's big enough to handle Durant in the post. The issue comes in off-ball movement. Gallinari gets caught looking to find the ball, and in that tiny time frame, Durant would create just enough room to catch-and-shoot. Twice Durant came off the screen so fast Gallo was still catching up to the strong side by the time Durant had peeled into the lane. Gallo might be able to guard Durant in three to four years. But, right now, he doesn't have the awareness to stick with him.

Wilson Chandler: This is the guy. Chandler gave up points to Durant. You know why? Because he's Kevin Durant. But of Durant's nine misses, four can be attributed to Chandler's defensive effort. Three are thanks to Durant just missing, and two were good help defense. On Chandler's first possession guarding Durant on a shot opportunity, he jumped the passing lane and nearly created a steal. The Thunder recovered the ball on a scramble, but Durant was forced to shoot a last-second heave with Nene closing. Miss. Chandler has the explosion to catch Durant enough on the step back, as he did in the second quarter, forcing a bad, backboard-only miss. And twice, Chandler recovered off the pick-and-roll and blocked Durant's jumper, which is nearly impossible. Chandler keeps his positioning, plays hard to Durant's shooting hand, stays with him off-ball, and in a big, big adjustment, overplays him to drive him to help defense. It makes it hard for the back screen to close right, the front screen remains open for the supporting defense to help. If you're not going to trap, this is what has to happen consistently. Durant shot 15 free throws. Chandler only granted four of those, despite being the primary defender. 

This isn't a roadmap to slowing Durant. There isn't one, unless you are able to physically put him under water. But the Nuggets do have things they can do to try and make it as hard as possible for KD. Bringing more aggressive traps is a really dangerous maneuver considering the guards Oklahoma City has, and they have the finishers for the easy dish in Perkins and Ibaka. But that, combined with primarily sticking with Wilson Chandler may be Denver's best bet. At some point, though, you're dealing with what happened to Chandler multiple times. Great spacing, good contest, tight defense, and Kevin Durant just hits the shot.


Because he's incredible. 

And that's what incredible does. 
Posted on: April 20, 2011 1:06 pm
Edited on: April 20, 2011 1:42 pm
 

Series Reset: Changing course on Durant

Posted by Royce Young



The Narrative: Does anybody really feel like they have a good handle on the direction of Game 2 tonight? I definitely don't. After the drama of Game 1, it's hard to have any idea which way this thing is going to turn.

Of course, there are two major storylines coming in: 1) How do the Nuggets guard Kevin Durant and 2) can they bounce back from a devastating Game 1 loss?

With the first one, Kenyon Martin already talked yesterday about the Nuggets needing to adjust on Durant. I'm expecting to see him being doubled more often. Denver tried that once, back in December, after Durant dropped 21 in a quarter on them. He entered the fourth with 40 points, and I guess you could say the double worked, because he only finished with 44. Except the Thunder won comfortably because Durant did well passing out of that double-team.

For the second, that's up to George Karl. With his laid back demeanor and seemingly carefree attitude, he's a terrific coach for this Nuggets team. I think that'll come in handy tonight when he tries to get his guys to forget about Tip-In Gate.

The Hook: I agree with George Karl. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook aren't going to average 70 points a game together for this series. They're really good, but not that good.

But here's news to Karl: James Harden isn't going to average just five a game, either.

That was the Thunder sixth man's output from Game 1, where he went 0-4 from 3 and 1-5 from the field. Since the trade that sent Jeff Green to Boston, Harden averaged more than 16 points per game and almost 20 the last couple weeks of the season. He's a legit third scorer for the Thunder and a player Scott Brooks can turn to when in need of extra offense. But shutting down Durant is priority one for Denver. Westbrook is second. And then Harden. The Nuggets caught a break with him being off in Game 1. Don't count on that happening again.

The Adjustment:
I already mentioned it, and while the Nuggets adjustment on Durant is the biggest key, there's another question they need to answer: How do they score in the last five minutes?

Denver really had no idea where to go with the ball in late in Game 1. They tried Danilo Gallinari. Then J.R. Smith. Then Raymond Felton. There was just no good sense of where to put the ball. George Karl didn't sound concerned about it postgame, but I can promise you it's something he's been thinking about the last two days.

The X-Factor:
Where, oh where, was J.R. Smith in Game 1? He's likely the key to the series and he was virtually non-existent. He can make Nuggets fans pull their hair out sometimes, but he didn't do that once. He tried too hard to fit in to the flow of the game, and when Denver needed points late, he didn't seem to be willing to pull the trigger.

Denver has scorers, but the one that can truly isolate and score on his own is Smith. He's capable of lighting up OKC for 15 in a quarter if he gets going. And I can almost promise you, if Smith scores 20 tonight, the Nuggets win.

The Sticking Point: Both teams shot the ball extremely well in Game 1. Durant and Westbrook combined to go 18-25 on jumpshots. Can these teams keep it up? Both teams are gifted offensively and have scorers all over the floor, but maintaining a 50 percent clip, in the playoffs no less, is difficult. Will it continue? I say no. Which means this game will likely be more about defense and rebounding. Who has the edge there? Probably the Thunder.

Posted on: April 20, 2011 12:22 pm
Edited on: April 20, 2011 1:21 pm
 

Series Reset: Manu Ginobili and the Memphis fits

Can the Spurs get back on track now that Manu Ginobili returns? Will Marc Gasol keep up his production? What about all the fouls? 
Posted by Matt Moore




The Narrative: Manu Ginobili's going to help. A lot. That's why he's Manu Ginobili. The Spurs very nearly beat the Memphis Grizzlies without Ginobili, and since he's the Spurs best/second-best/third-best player (depending on who you talk to), it's not arrogance for a Spurs fan to feel like all will be well once Manu hits the floor for Game 2. The Grizzlies have two of the best perimeter defenders in the league in Tony Allen and Shane Battier. Allen will try and body Ginobili, to wear him down physically, specifically on that sore elbow. Battier will try and distract and frustrate him with precision and consistency. 

Neither is likely to succeed. 

Ginobili has a wide range of basketball talents. Shooting, driving, particularly to his left, and a hesitation dribble followed by a burst where applicable. The Euro-step. But also among those talents is flopping -- the art of drawing the foul. Allen has a reputation for falling for the pump-fake. Combine the two and you've got a recipe for three quick fouls in the first half on Allen, and five by the 10-minute mark in the fourth. Battier will do better in avoiding said fouls, but he also doesn't have the speed anymore to stick with Ginobili on the drive. Considering the Grizzlies' notoriously slow rotations in the paint, Ginobili could have a big game in his return. 

The Hook: And all of Ginobili's wiles won't help with the biggest problem the Spurs had in Game 1. He can't guard Marc Gasol nor Zach Randolph. More than one Spurs fan remarked after Game 1, "There's no way Marc Gasol goes off for 24 points again!" Then they guffaw. There's much general guffawing. This is likely due to their not being aware that Gasol was one of the league leaders in field goal percentage last season. He shot 53 percent from the field this season, and it was a down year for him. He struggled with his shot for most of the year before correcting it in the last two months of the season, and shooting 56 percent. As for why his point totals never got that high? He's not often asked to be a big scorer in the Grizzlies' offense. His responsibilities are more focused on facilitating ball movement at the pinch post, working the offensive glass, and setting screens. But to confuse his versatility with an inability to convert his opportunities into buckets is to short-change Gasol. Tim Duncan said after Game 1 than he didn't focus on Gasol because he was concentrating on Randolph. That's going to be key in this game. Antonio McDyes can't check him, Gasol has too much quickness. DeJuan Blair can't, Gasol has too much length and agility. Matt Bonner can't because... well, he's Matt Bonner. So it comes down to whether Duncan can shut down Gasol. Zach Randolph's going to get his. But if Duncan can shut down Gasol, it will put the Spurs in a much better position. If he can't, it's going to be an issue for San Antonio.

The Adjustment: The Grizzlies did what they do in Game 1, not sending help on perimeter penetration, letting the Spurs get where they wanted and picking up about seventeen hundred fouls. It worked out in some ways for Memphis, they avoided the Spurs' perimeter shooters daggering them to death.  But giving up so many free throws is not a sustainable approach.  Part of that will fluctuate from officiating crew to officiating crew. But I've yet to see a crew who doesn't give Tony Parker the benefit of the doubt when he launches himself to the floor following contact. Memphis has to be able to defend without fouling, which means smarter, better rotations and help defense, which the Grizzlies have not done well all season. If the free throw disparity keeps up in this series, Memphis' hopes for an upset are dashed. 

The X-Factor: George Hill was aggressive in Game 1, but eventually became frustrated as the Grizzlies switched off on him and Tony Allen got his legs under him. Allen may spend more time defending Parker in Game 2, and going forward. But more confusing was the solid defensive work O.J. Mayo did on Hill in Game 1. Mayo is not a great defender, but his lack of size isn't compromised against Hill, and Hill was unable to shake Mayo. Hill is the superior athlete and player, however, and could have a big impact if he shakes off his frustrations from the second half of Game 1 and gets back to the damage he did in the first half. The Grizzlies' bench is thick offensively to begin with. The Spurs can deliver a knockout blow if Hill leads a charge off the bench with Manu Ginobili back in starter rotations. 

The Sticking Point: How do you defend the drive-and-kick, ball-movement-led corner 3-pointer in the NBA? The traditional model is to "run it off." Close as hard as you can off the help defense, swinging your arms wildly and praying to distract the shooter enough to get his aim off. The Grizzlies did a fair amount of that in Game 1, but also threw in another element. Memphis' best defensive element is their ability to create turnovers by playing the passing lanes. The Spurs did a great job in Game 1 of avoiding turnovers, winning that battle 16-10. But the Grizzlies impact was in preventing opportunities, as the Spurs were cautious with those passes, and when they did make them, they were often adjusted to avoid interception. This strategy usually led to struggled catch-and-shoot situations, forcing a reset. The Grizzlies can't let the Spurs kill them with the corner three. If that happens, Memphis will drown under a tidal wave of the Spurs' biggest strength: their offense. 
 
 
 
 
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