Apr 8, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Boris Diaw (33) dribbles against Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love (42) at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Every team has a weakness. The San Antonio Spurs won five NBA titles knowing this. So how do they combat their top competition this season?
Cleveland Cavaliers: Attack Kevin Love
San Antonio has a reputation for diagnosing a weakness and gearing their game plans around how to attack it. If that is the case, they may find that the Cleveland Cavaliers may have a problem on defense. Their primary suspect is blockbuster trade acquisition Kevin Love. For all his prowess on offense, the power forward isn’t an elite athlete and can struggle to defend adequately. So the Spurs would do best to gear their offensive sets around going right at Love as much as they can, because when forced to defend frequently he can get into foul trouble.
Chicago Bulls: Force the offense onto Derrick Rose
Spending their money and draft picks wisely, the Chicago Bulls had one goal in mind for 2014-2015. That was to improve their offense. They did just that by adding an array of shooters like Doug McDermott, Nikola Mirotic and Aaron Brooks along with veteran forward Pau Gasol. Their ability to put the ball in the hoop will do what the Bulls haven’t been able to for years, which is take the offensive burden off Derrick Rose. For all the great defense they play, relying on one player to score hasn’t gotten them very far. That is precisely why the Spurs would have to do whatever it takes to force Chicago to keep feeding Rose, making work hard on the offensive end so by the end of games, he’s too gassed to make a difference.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Keep Serge Ibalka out of the paint
When Serge Ibalka returned from injury in the Western Conference Finals, he very nearly helped the Oklahoma City Thunder pull off a huge comeback in the series. It wasn’t until San Antonio made a critical adjustment that they staved off the rally. The key to it involved getting Ibalka out of where he’s most dangerous, which is around the rim. They accomplished that by forcing him out to the three-point line in order to guard Boris Diaw, a stretch four. As a result Tim Duncan had more room to operate and the Spurs regained control of the series. Depending on whether the Thunder adjust, this plan of attack worked before and will work again until something changes.
Dallas Mavericks: Get more from the bench
People scrambled trying to figure out how in the world the 8th seed Dallas Mavericks were able to come so close to knocking San Antonio out in the first round. There are a number of reasons, but among the biggest was the discrepancy in bench play. For the only time in the playoffs, the Spurs bench of Ginobili, Diaw and Patty Mills were clearly outplayed by Dallas. This in turn gave Dirk Nowitzki and the starters vital rest which they used to mount a relentless assault against a normally stingy Spurs defense. That can’t happen again because the Mavericks look even more dangerous now after adding Chandler Parsons to the mix.