The Morning Tip-Off


The Morning Tip-Off is where we scour the internet, to bring you all the San Antonio Spurs news from different outlets, all on one page. Here are your links for May 20th:

Morning Rehash: Best Served ColdPounding the Rock

The San Antonio Spurs spent most of that series just picking themselves back up off the glossy hardwood floor.

But 2011 might as well be 1911 because the Spurs team the Grizzlies face this time around are decades apart in both appearance and talent. Tony Parker is now the unquestioned leader of the Spurs offense. Tiago Splitter has emerged into a solid defender alongside Tim Duncan, who somehow figured out how to reverse time (Duncan’s 2012-13 defensive statistics have returned back to his championship years). Boris Diaw has provided the Spurs with even more spacing to operate their motion offense (something that barely existed in 2011). Even Matt Bonner has developed into a dependable player on both ends of the court. The Spurs backcourt improved in youth, size, speed, and athleticism with the additions of Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard. And the young, defensive-minded Cory Joseph has proven that he can confidently operate the Spurs offense under the bright lights of the playoffs.

Not the same, but Spurs see Lakers similarities in GrizzliesProject Spurs

Fronting the post is something this Spurs teams has had experience with dating back to the first round, when they played the post-oriented injury-riddled Los Angeles Lakers whose only two stars were big men Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.

“Of course, it’s a little bit different than the Warriors,” said Splitter of playing the Grizzlies. “Of course playing against those bigs help us enough,” finished Splitter on playing the Lakers.

“They’re different bigs but they’re both post teams with great bigs,” continued Spurs guard Cory Joseph on the Memphis-Lakers comparisons. “It helped us prepare for this series because it’s kind of like the same thing.”

“It helped a lot,” said Spurs guard Danny Green of facing the Lakers in round one. “It’s a very similar type series. A similar type team with inside presence that they have, (but) we’ve got to continue to do the same type of things that we did in the Lakers series but even better, since they’re obviously in this series for a reason.”

Parker, Spurs leave Grizzlies in the mud48 Minutes of Hell

It’s unlikely that 3-pointers will fall like that for an entire series. Just ask the Warriors. But one thing that can remain a constant is the way the offense was humming along, regardless of made shots. And if those open looks keep coming, don’t be surprised if shots do keep falling.

This series is still going to be won on the defensive end, however. You know the Grizzlies will make adjustments in whatever capacity they need to prevent the almost inexcusable number of wide-open attempts they granted one of the best shooting teams in the league. And the one constant in basketball is, after all, defense. It’s the reason both of these teams are still here.

But if Parker goes for 20 points and nine assists every night, if Green and Leonard combine for 34 points and seven 3-pointers, and if two players off the bench can put up double digits, the Spurs will have a hell of a chance to get to Duncan’s fifth NBA Finals.

Memories of last year’s Western Conference Finals are still pretty fresh on the minds of basketball fans, though. The Spurs took a 2-0 lead in that series and seemed to be unstoppable, until they failed to win another game. While there is a cautionary tale in existence, the current storyline is a bit different. This Grizzlies team is not that Thunder team, and the relative lack of offensive firepower beyond their two big men is going to be an issue moving forward against a Spurs defense that is much improved from last season.

This time, there is no Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook or James Harden. But there is a group of players in the Memphis locker room that’s going to do everything they can to make this thing as ugly as it can get.

How the Spurs confused the Grizzlies’ pick and roll defenseSB Nation

 All season, the Memphis Grizzlies‘ defense was the league’s best at being the actor. Led by Marc Gasol’s unbelievable defensive intelligence, the Grizzlies overplayed teams to the point where they couldn’t do anything they wanted to do offensively. When you force any team out of its first option, it is going to struggle.

But in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, the San Antonio Spurs turned the actor vs. reactor concept on its head. How? By disguising their plays.

In particular, their pick and roll plays were beautifully hidden. The Spurs performed a nice trick on a number of them, pretending to set the screen one way, then either declining it or having the screener shift at the last minute to go the other way. Memphis’ big men were caught out of position because they were positioned to shut off what they thought was the initial play, allowing the Spurs to get into the lane and get easy shots.

Spurs shut down Zach Randolph in Western Conference finals’ first major strategic movePro Basketball Talk

In the rare times Memphis actually got the ball inside to Randolph – three of his shots, including his lone make, came directly after offensive rebounds (two of which Randolph got due to San Antonio’s fronting) – the Spurs effectively used double-teams.

After his horrid playoff game, Ray Allen said, “But I never hang my head. [Wednesday] is another opportunity to get right back on track.” Randolph would do well to emulate Allen’s focus, but not necessarily Allen’s vow to keep shooting.

If the Spurs again devote so much defensive attention to Randolph, the Grizzlies shouldn’t keep wasting shot clock to get him the ball. And maybe Memphis should give a few of Tony Allen’s and Tayshaun Prince’s minutes to Quincy Pondexter and Jerryd Bayless, two quality offensive players who will prevent San Antonio from double-teaming Randolph as easily.

Gregg Popovich made this series’ first major strategic move with San Antonio’s defensive gameplan against Randolph. It’s time for Lionel Hollins to respond.

San Antonio’s Masterpiece – Hardwood Paroxysm

Yesterday marked the return of the Spurs we’d grown so used to during the regular season. They sank fourteen three-pointers, but it felt like they connected on every one of their 29 attempts. Though they only scored 10 fast break points, they still moved quicker in both the half court and transition, taking advantage of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph’s lack of speed, something they weren’t able to do against the more athletic likes of Carl Landry, Harrison Barnes and the aforementioned Green and Bogut. San Antonio’s 121.9 points per 100 possessions in game 1 was their third-highest in the playoffs.

Just as their scoring had returned to form, so too had their passing. The assist may not be a perfect measure of passing, especially in the context of an entire team, but San Antonio’s 70% assist percentage is at least somewhat illustrative of how well they moved the ball against the Grizzlies. Once again, the ball zipped and flowed, taking advantage of Memphis’ over-helping and flying to Danny Green or Kawhi Leonard or Matt Bonner. The uncommon effort witnessed in the second round had been replaced by the usual joyful precision.