With the plethora of talents surrounding the Spurs finest basketball player in history, Duncan has generally been rather passive as a scorer this season. It’s true that he has still shown the will to takeover when the offense is struggling, but more often than not he’s busy instigating the ball movement and creating openings for his teammates.
Against the Clippers, he’ll need to be a more assertive scorer inside, particularly when Deandre Jordan is challenging him. The seven-foot, 250 pound defensive presence is actually fifth in the NBA in fouls committed, and forcing him into early foul trouble could put the Clippers on crutches. Forcing the Clippers to explore their bench will be a huge tactical victory overall; after sixth man Jamal Crawford, their second tier is built of misfits cut from other teams rosters and veterans who used to be valuable pieces. Even the coaches son is getting some playing time, in cliche high school basketball fashion. Duncan, among our other inside players, would do well to exploit these potential mismatches by being aggressive inside.
UNC VS. DUKE: THE THREE POINT CONTEST
At shooting guard, we find an intriguing face off between ex- Tar Heel Danny Green and the Duke alum, J.J. Redick. Either of these sharpshooters can catch fire and become the unexpected hero in any given game, and in tight playoff battles timely shooting can become the deciding factor. Green will need to stay locked in as he follows Redick around off of screens, and aggressively attack any openings J.J’s sub-par defense allows. These two could play a bit of a wildcard role in the series, as shooters tend to be streaky.
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TONY PARKER’S CONSISTENCY
After earning a reputation for being a reliable star for the Spurs over the last few years, Parker’s had a long season. His performances have ranged from Stephen Curry level to Austin Rivers level, and he recorded his lowest PER since 2004, when he was just 21 years old. In the later months of the season, he was able to reach a relatively stable point, where he wasn’t the focal point of the offense but was still effective enough to score when asked to. This kind of play, along with maybe an occasional offensive explosion, may be necessary to compete with Chris Paul‘s point guard play.
AVOID TURNOVERS/ Fast Break Defemse
It’s important in any given NBA game, but it has to be emphasized here. The Spurs bigs need to be at the rim to stop Griffin on a consistent basis, and Lob City will be looking for a lot of buckets in the fast break to free him up. Also, with CP3’s basketball IQ, you can expect limited turnovers from the Clippers’ end, even with Kawhi Leonard patrolling the passing lanes. The way the Staples Center is ignited by thunderous dunks, it’ll be important to try and win or at least break even in the turnover battle. If nothing else, we’ll need to make fast break defense a priority, so keeping Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green on the perimeter may put them in just the right place to make a play on the other end if needed.