The San Antonio Spurs defeated the Los Angeles Clippers by 16 points in Game 1 but they were far from perfect. The Clippers were far from decent. Here are some adjustments that should be made tonight.
Los Angeles Clippers
Post defense. Tim Duncan exploded out of the gates with 26 points and 10 rebounds. For the game, the Spurs scored 0.89 points per possession on post-ups with a decent amount of those points coming from Duncan down low. The Spurs don’t typically run plays that result in post ups — pick-and-rolls and spot-ups are more naturally prevalent in their Motion “Weak” offense — and that was usually a sound decision because they ranked 26th in PPP on post-ups. Tuesday night, however, they gave Duncan a lot of options and, most importantly, space to operate down low. If the Spurs’ are able to rely on Duncan’s post game as an essential crutch whenever the game gets tight, that will make it a lot tougher on the Clippers.
Pick-and-roll coverage. The Clippers were so preoccupied with the Spurs pick-and-roll attack (the Spurs ran the pick-and-roll 30.6% in Game 1) that, on many occasions, they watched the ball handler without maintaining their defensive position. As a result, the Spurs were able to take advantage and found Danny Green and Manu Ginobili on the weak side for considerably easier shots. The Spurs scored 1.75 PPP on cuts predominately because the Clippers never really obstructed the ball handler’s passing lanes which put them in a difficult bind.
Penetration. The Clippers need to prevent penetration which almost always leads to openings in the perimeter for the No. 1 ranked 3-point shooting team. Parker, alone, dished out 11 assists. It’s impossible to outrun the ball when the Spurs are making crisp passes on the perimeter; defensive mishaps are inevitable.
San Antonio Spurs
Combating the Clippers’ small ball. The Spurs seemed likely to break the game open after their 30 point third quarter. Instead, Vinny Del Negro went to an unorthodox lineup — Paul-Williams-Bledsoe-Young-Martin — to alleviate the deficit. The lineup combination was interesting because the 6’7″ Young was pressed into the power forward spot, a position he is not accustomed to. Gregg Popovich responded with a small, agile lineup as well. But, in a battle of small ball lineups, the Clippers cut the Spurs’ 15 point lead to eight in about five minutes of action. Their athleticism and knack for getting into the passing lane — the lineup, as a whole, averages 5.9 steals per game — created four turnovers that resulted in six points. For the Spurs to attack this lineup combination, they must prevent turnovers and continue to execute efficiently.
Information courtesy of mySynergy Sports.com.