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NBA Playoffs: Keys for San Antonio Spurs to Win Game 2

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Apr 20, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Monta Ellis (11) dribbles the ball past San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) during the second half in game one during the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. The Spurs defeated the Mavericks 90-85. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

1)      Feed Kawhi Leonard in the post

Rick Carlisle and his staff decided that they were not going to let the Spurs long-range bombers go bonkers from outside the three-point line like they did throughout the regular season series.  Instead, Carlisle opted to switch every screen involving Tony Parker so that Mavs defenders could stay home on their assigned man and in effect take away the lethal three ball that San Antonio relies extensively on.  This strategy seemed to pay dividends for the sieve-like Mavs defense by only allowing 90 points and three three pointers (out of 17 attempts) to a Spurs team that averaged a gaudy 105.4 points per game and shot 39.7% behind the three-point line during the regular season.

Although both Parker and Duncan had their way with the Mavs, it will also be vital for the Spurs to feed Kawhi Leonard the ball down in the post.  The Spurs tried doing this early in the game when the not so defensive savvy Monta Ellis was manning up against Leonard, but they seemingly shied away from it afterwards and relied heavily on the old strategy of throwing Timmy the ball on the low block and letting him do his thing (as usual, you can’t argue with the results).

If the Mavs continue to try and take away the three ball, the Spurs must not only continue to feed Duncan but they also should counter by feeding Kawhi’s alien-sized hands with the rock so he can go to work, especially if someone like Monta Ellis or Vince Carter is guarding him.  Leonard is no stranger to playing with his back to the basket, as evidenced by his entire college career, so it would be extremely beneficial for the Spurs to use his post-up ability to exploit some of the Mavs’ “defenders,” particularly Ellis.

If Ellis is the primary defender on Leonard, look for the Spurs to force-feed the ball to Leonard so that he can exploit his match up and in effect force Ellis to exert extra energy on defense and possibly get him into foul trouble.  This extra exerted energy from Ellis could play a huge part in regards to Ellis’ offensive efficiency (or lack thereof), so although it is not imperative for the Spurs to make this adjustment it would greatly increase their chances of heading to Dallas with a 2-0 series lead.

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