2014 NBA Playoffs San Antonio Spurs Keys To Victory: Game 7
Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
This first round series match up with the Dallas Mavericks has proved to be more trouble than any San Antonio Spurs‘ fan could have predicted.
Many analysts and fans predicted a gentleman’s sweep of the Mavs (4-1), or even the outright sweep before this series started. From game two onwards, everyone realised how wrong they were.
Having dropped a close game six, that could have eliminated Dallas, the Spurs head back home for game seven for a winner-takes-all showdown. This ‘Texas Tussle’ will decide who advances into the second round to take on the Damian Lillard‘s Portland Trail Blazers.
If the Spurs want to win this game, and avoid the ignominy of being the only top seed to drop more than one series against an 8 seed in NBA history, there are 3 key things they must focus on.
Will the Spurs Win Game 7?
…All Stats Courtesy of ESPN.com…
1. Force Monta Ellis to take jump shots.
Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports
Monta Ellis has made a living by getting to the rim and finishing at a high rate. This is due to his speed and funky dribble-drive game. He uses a lot of hesitation moves and change-of-direction dribbles to get into the teeth of the defence and then uses his excellent athleticism and body-control to launch tough layups and floaters once near the rim. He also excels at drawing fouls and therefore free throws in these situations.
Ellis struggles further away from the basket though. As a career 32 percent shooter from outside the arc the Spurs should make a concerted effort to keep him outside. If that means laying off him and allowing him more space on the pick and roll, that is fine. Force him to beat you with his weakness, not with his strength. If Ellis gets around the screen and has a path to the lane, the Spurs need to immediately send the other big man (especially if he is guarding Shawn Marion – another inconsistent outside threat) to force Ellis to get rid of the ball.
2. Do the opposite for Vince Carter.
Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Vince Carter on the other hand has been the polar opposite of Monta Ellis in this series. He is actually shooting better from downtown than from inside the arc (52 percent vs 48 percent), and almost half of his shots have been threes. Unlike Ellis, Vince has a reputation for being a decent three point shooter especially in his last few years.
Even though he used to be known for his high-flying dunking antics, Vince is no longer the threat around the rim that he used to be. The Spurs can take advantage of this by making sure to close out on him hard every time he has any sort of look at a three. If he pump fakes and manages to dribble around the defender, you live with it because of his (relative) struggles inside the arc.
3. Make DeJuan Blair unplayable.
Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
In the last two games in which DeJuan Blair played, he has absolutely destroyed his former team, to the tune of a double-double in less than 25 minutes per game. His tenacity on the offensive boards, and his ability to score from under the rim makes him a nightly thorn in the side of the Spurs’ big men. He has been the catalyst in every Maverick run in the last few games. Gregg Popovich and the Spurs just don’t seem to have an answer for him (besides get him suspended).
But what Coach Pop does have, in fact, is information about Blair. Having played for the Spurs for the first four years of his career, Pop knows why he never really became more than just a rotation big – for all of his success on offence, he couldn’t even guard my grandmother.
Due to his short arms and less than imposing height, Blair has struggled on the boring side of the ball for most of his professional career. That’s why he never developed into a key part of San Antonio’s system.
The Spurs know that they struggle with containing him on the offensive end, so instead of trying to remedy that problem Pop should just make sure that he has a post threat on the floor to match Blair’s minutes. If Blair is trying to guard any of Tim Duncan, Boris Diaw, or Tiago Splitter down low, then that is a huge advantage to San Antonio.
This will force Rick Carlisle to reconsider whether the offensive fire-power that Blair supplies is worth the trade-off of leaking points in the post time and time again. If he decides to keep DeJuan on the court, the Spurs can just match them point for point on each possession, and if Carlisle avoids playing Blair then the Spurs have just removed their opponent’s biggest (and most unexpected) threat in this series.