On Tap: The San Antonio Spurs

Kurt —  November 29, 2005

Looking for the advantages in this match up as a Laker fan is not easy.

But here’s one — the best place to attack the Spurs offensively is from the midrange. San Antonio is good at defending inside and at the arc, but their middle is softer. Dean Oliver of Seattle talks about noticing that statistically last season in a Sports Illustrated article (in this season’s basketball preview issue), and that info was good enough to get the overmatched Sonics two wins against the Spurs in the playoffs. Detroit, on top of playing good defense, also has one of the league’s better three point shooting teams, and they pushed the Spurs to seven games in the finals.

The triangle should get the Lakers good midrange looks — it did the first few games of the season. If they can do anything with them is another question all together. These Lakers should not be confused with last year’s Sonics on offense, maybe not even last season’s Pistons.

So far this season, only two Lakers who play regular large chunks of minutes can talk proudly of their Roland Rating (a +/- number for how a team does with a player on or off the court per 48 minutes): Kobe Bryant (+11.3) and Brian Cook (+12.9). Odom is at -3.1.

The Spurs on the other hand the Spurs have guys like Tony Parker (+19.1) and Tim Duncan (+14.6) looking strong. Even Manu Ginobili, who has been “off” this season, is +4.9.

The Spurs remain a defensive force, allowing just 100.4 points per 100 opponent possessions this season (second best in the league). Teams are only shooting 45.9% (eFG%) against them, which is low but would be a step up from what the Lakers did Sunday against New Jersey. The advantage San Antonio has is they can sick Bruce Bowen on Kobe with the occasional double team, maybe slowing Kobe some but shutting down everyone else (insert your own “how hard is that?” joke here). This is a simple but fundamentally sound defense played by San Antonio.

Offensively they are sixth in the league with a rating of 108.7. Of course there is Duncan (25 points per 40 minutes, shooting 53.6% eFG%). Tony Parker has stepped up his scoring this season, scoring 23.6 per 40 minutes and shooting 56.6%. As I said there was some early talk about Ginobili having taken a step back, but he is still averaging 19.7 per 40 while shooting 48.9% (down from 21.3 and 53.3% last season). He started slow with a couple injuries but now is healthy and back to form.

That said, the Chicago Bulls had some success the other night by collapsing the defense in and daring the Spurs in general (and Tony Parker in particular) to beat them with jump shots (according to Pounding the Rock, the Spurs blog). Chris Mihm is not Tyson Chandler, but this strategy might have some success.

Mihm and Odom need to hit the boards hard because the Spurs will. Duncan remains a rebounding force, but so are Rasho Nesterovic and Nazr Mohammed, and those two are each playing about 25 minutes per game.

The Spurs are the best team in the league, but they can lose on any given night. The Lakers, and Kobe, have a way of rising up to challenges. Whether that will be enough, well, um, we can hope. That’s what being a fan is about.

Kurt

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10 responses to On Tap: The San Antonio Spurs

  1. I’d like to see both Cook and Walton get meaningful minutes tonight. let’s see if this unit gels and let’s give it some time, especially with Kwame out, because when he comes back, look for the usual confusion and lack of hustle. using Cook and Walton would also allow Odum to play down under the basket, where I think he’s more comfortable and thus more productive. we need to see a unit with a higher Basketball IQ and some HUSTLE.
    San Antonio can be beat, and this would do a great deal for our guys belief in themselves. (just like the old days when a losing team would consider it a season if they could just beat the LAKERS)

  2. I agree about Walton and Cook.

    John, you posted in the comments to my CourtsideTimes piece that it sound’s like I lost faith in this team. I haven’t, in large part because I think Walton, George and Cook together can provide some of the depth and lack of scoring the Lakers have faced so far. Odom I’ve got questions about, but I wouldn’t talk of making any changes until the season was over — with better triangle guys around him Odom may start to thrive.

    Plus, these Lakers are playing defense and that will keep them in games and in the season if they keep it up.

  3. i’m hoping the triangle still gives cook the same looks after teams realize they should play him close and make him drive. although some of his moves in the post, and not to mention his offensive rebounding last game looked promising.

    walton didn’t look too bad in the post either, he made a move down there last game and got called for the offensive foul, but maybe he’ll be able to take advantage of the height descrepancy when he plays point guard.

    at the very least as far as offensive tinkering goes, i think phil should try to make sure the ball is in lamar’s hands more often. if that happens i’d bet my money that’s when the team offense will start to flow better.

    kobe seems like he would be a damn good off-ball player, anyway. what happened to those rip hamilton-type running and shooting over a screen deals he was getting at the start of the season?

  4. Thanks for the link!

    Odom should have the ball in his hands more than usual tonight. The Spurs have nobody who matches up well with him other than maybe Bowen. And, uh, he has to worry about that other guy.

    You might see more Manu on Kobe than usual. Which scares me as a Spurs fan because Ginobili hasn’t been near himself this season, especially on the defensive end.

  5. Well it is very hard for me to comment on anything because the majority of the games that I “watch” I can only do so by watching the live updates on espn.com or something similiar. I will say that I was very impressed with the win over Seattle (which I was able to see live on TV) and also with the 4th quarter effort that was put forth two days ago. (I don’t even wanna talk about the first 2 and a half quarters…lol) I can’t tell if kobe is taking too many shots or if he is working in the flow of the game but sometimes I can’t blame him for shooting so much when it seems as though everyone else on the floor expects him to pull it through for them. I really hope that the Lakers play to the best of their abilities tonight win or lose. I just want to see them hustle and play hard D and see Cook keep contributing like he is. Oh yeah one last thing… does anyone know when Phil is going to call out Lamar for not steping up? I think that someone needs to because he definatly isn’t playing as he needs to be.

  6. sorry i didn’t put my name in the last post.

  7. phil called out lamar after the jersey game, christian. he seems to be content with the scoring he gets from lamar [around the 15 point range], he just wants him to be more reliable and consistent. although the things reported in today’s paper about what phil is saying lamar needs to improve on– [not getting down when calls go against him, not being passive when looking to make a pass] sounds like they could help tweak his mindset a bit.

    the way he’s been talking it looks like phil might try to get 20+ from him now, since he didn’t ballhog at all to do it during the seattle game. next to lamar stepping up and saying he wanted to be that 2nd scorer, it was the best laker report i’ve read. nearly wept.

    odom’s practicing his O like crazy…

    if you go to the lakers ground link on the side here christian and go into the forum, you can get all sorts of laker articles in local, national, and other team’s newspapers.

  8. thank you very much. (I hate not being home in Los Angeles, but I am also proud to serve my country over here in Japan.) Thanks John

  9. well, thank you.

    it must suck not being able to see the games. i’d probably go AWOL.

    i hope phil told the team after the game that he was proud of them.

  10. After watching the game, I have one thing to say: Bynum is the TRUTH!!!