Western Conference Semi-Finals: Keys to Victory

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Defending Tony Parker

May 4, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan (21) talks with guard Tony Parker (9) in game seven of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs against the Dallas Mavericks at AT&T Center. The Spurs won 119-96. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

As I previously stated, Parker is the man that orchestrates the Spurs offensive machine.  When Parker is assertive and looking for his shot, the entire floor opens up for his teammates.  When he isn’t, the Spurs have a more difficult time getting the shots they want.  Throughout the Mavs series, the Mavs relied on guarding Parker with the longer and versatile Shawn Marion.  In recent years, other teams have deployed this strategy–the Oklahoma City Thunder with Thabo Sefolosha and the Miami Heat with LeBron James–in an attempt to keep the ball out of Tony’s hands and make him a second option.  It will be interesting to see if the Blazers attempt the same strategy.

Nicholas Batum is a very long and versatile small forward who can truly guard four positions.  I think this is the best option for the Blazers going forward.  Granted, Lillard is a supreme athlete who has the quickness to stay in front of Parker, but why would the Blazers want him to expend his energy chasing Parker around?  Instead, look for the Blazers to put Batum on Parker and shift Lillard over to Danny Green and Matthews on Kawhi.  Now, Matthews is a very good defender as I previously noted, but if this is the match up that is presented then the Spurs need to get the ball into Kawhi’s hands in the post.

On the flip side, who is Tony Parker going to guard?  If he is assigned with guarding Lillard, then he’s going to be the one chasing around the young dynamo.  That really is the only option though.  Parker isn’t big enough to guard Matthews, who has shown the ability to post up (ask James Harden), and he definitely won’t be guarding Batum.  Parker is really going to have to be the best player in this series in order for the Spurs to advance.  If the Spurs get the passive and inconsistent Parker, then the Blazers will make quick work of the Spurs.  The Spurs have to build off their Game 7 performance and come out of the gates swinging against a young team that is ready to prove to the rest of the NBA that they belong.

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