(Editor’s note: I’d like to welcome a special guest to the Spurs Roundtable. Robby Lim runs the excellent site Spurs on Fire and he was generous enough to help out with this piece. This table wouldn’t be as round without him, if that makes any sense.)
What should Spurs fans take away from their sweep against Utah?
Joe Bendiez: Fans should be satisfied and feel a bit of relief. Satisfied in the fact the Spurs dominated a team they should dominate, and relieved Utah was never able to put together any kind of momentum. The Jazz aren’t horrible, and if they would’ve played every game like an elimination game, they could have made this one closer. I’m not ready to call the Spurs the world champs, but San Antonio fans interested in NBA Finals tickets may want to refrain from making any June vacation plans this early.
Robby Lim: The Spurs must realize that their inside game is better than most people expect. In four games against the Jazz, they where able to outscore Utah 200-142. Also, they should stay focused and play for a full 48 minutes every game. Game 4’s near collapse should serve as reminder.
Quixem Ramirez: What I’m taking away from this sweep is A) the Spurs aren’t going to give any games because of complacency, B) our depth will still be an important asset down the stretch regardless of what the national media believes and C) I love this team more than ever.
Oklahoma City Thunder disposed of the Dallas Mavericks pretty quickly. Are you legitimately afraid of the Thunder now?
JB: What the Thunder did is impressive for a team with their lack of experience, but they struggled in that Dallas series. San Antonio has been a consistent thorn in the side of the Thunder, so I’m not really afraid about Oklahoma City. Experience goes along way in these playoffs, and I don’t think the Thunder have the tools to knock out the Spurs in a seven game series. Also, San Antonio has won in OKC multiple times, so the Thunder may be kicking themselves they weren’t able to hold on to the one-seed.
RL: No. The Thunder a young and dynamic team, and they are actually the favorites to win the West. But San Antonio’s success against them in the regular season should give hope, plus the Spurs’ experience should come in handy if both teams happen to meet in the Western Conference Finals.
QR: Yup. Oklahoma City, for all the criticism their fourth quarter offense receives, is second in offensive rating with an impressive — but not quite Spurs level — 109.8 points per 100 possessions. Their defense is in the top third of basketball just like the Spurs. Their turnover rate is extremely high for an offense of their caliber and they rely on a bit too many isolations but they have a unique luxury, three legitimate players that are more than capable of creating for themselves off the dribble. They are a legitimate team that, quite frankly, I rather avoid at all costs.
Do you think that Manu Ginobili — he averaged eight points in the first round — absolutely has to pick up the scoring load or are the Spurs fine with a do-everything-else kind of Manu?
JB: I like this do-everything-else Manu. The Spurs already have guys who purely shoot, and Manu is not one of them. He is a versatile player, and if he can get points, great. However, he does not need to be sacrificing himself every time he steps in to the paint, because his passing abilities and defensive skill set will make up for what some of the other guys lack. Manu needs to be a spark plug, but as long as he’s finding guys open who can knock down shots, the Spurs will be fine.
RL: No. The Spurs are not wired that way, and Ginobili knows when to defer or to force the issue. Tony Parker and Tim Duncan has provided the scoring load in the first round, but as we see in the close out game, Manu can be still be relied upon on offense if needed.
QR: I wrote about Manu Ginobili’s interesting year earlier but I’ll more than gladly expound on my assertion, again. To summarize, Manu is enjoying a career year in efficiency across the board. His PER this season is the third highest number of his career and his true shooting percentage (the best shooting efficiency metric we have) is at a career high. He’s allocated his scoring load for the slashing Tony Parker and, instead, has increased his passing proficiency. His assist percentage is also a career high and while his turnover rate has spiraled, Manu’s turnovers are almost always productive. In other words, his turnovers are a result of Manu’s innate desire to alter our perception of basketball as we know it. Occasionally, that results in a mistake. Regardless, I’m definitely fine with the new Manu. In fact, I actually prefer the new Manu.
What adjustments do you think the Spurs will/should make for their next opponent (whoever that may be)?
JB: Assuming it is the Clippers, the Spurs guards need to make Chris Paul a non-factor. If they can get him out of his comfort zone, force him to make poor decisions, the Spurs will be golden. Both the Clips and Grizzlies have size, so San Antonio has to block out better, and make sure every man is boxed out. Other than that, the Spurs just need to keep winning and maintain their status as the best in the conference. They can not afford to play down to the Clippers or Grizzlies’ level.
RL: The Jazz did not give the Spurs much resistance, so it’s hard to figure out what adjustments they should make. The only glaring one however, is to keep their opponents from going to much to the foul line. In their four-game series against the Jazz, the Spurs allowed Utah to 105 trips to the freethrow line.
QR: I’m just going to assume the Spurs will face the Clippers barring an incredible comeback from Memphis. That being the case, I would attempt to isolate Blake Griffin on the defensive side of the ball. Per MySynergySports, Griffin ranks 337th in PPP on spot up possessions. And this isn’t merely a sample size anomaly because spot ups represent 29 percent of Griffin’s defensive possessions either. So, naturally, the perfect counter for Griffin’s athleticism would be Matt Bonner. Yes, that Matt Bonner. Bonner, intuitively, excels in spot up situations considering they represent the vast majority of his possessions. Bonner’s shooting ability would take away Griffin from his comfort zone and simultaneously exploit his primary defensive deficiency. Not only that but Bonner is also above-average in defending post ups, ranking 22nd in the entire league. Bonner averaged 16.3 minutes against Utah. I would prefer that number to reach at least 20 against the Clippers.
Sweeping the Jazz allows the Spurs to rest and prepare for their next opponent. Regardless of the Spurs’ success so far, what areas concern you, if any?
JB: My biggest concern is always that the Spurs stay healthy. However, they have done a great job of managing each player’s minutes, so the key here is shooting the ball effectively. The Spurs haven’t lost a game in a month, so it is vitale they don’t fall in to a slump right in the middle of their title chase.
RL: The Spurs did not have a competitive first-round series so the only thing to worry right now is complacency and staying healthy. Other than that none.
QR: Other than getting on time for the Spurs’ Championship parade? Nope. (Gosh, I really hope I’m not jinxing them here.)