Dion Waiters was a wanted man in the San Antonio area for the stunt he pulled towards the end of game 2, and he’s throwing more gasoline on the fire with recent comments regarding how he feels about the Oklahoma City Thunder’s chances of winning this series.
His shove against Manu Ginobili before his inbounds pass was one of the main notorieties from a hectic final 20 seconds of game 2, but Waiters isn’t stopping there with his antagonistic actions towards the Spurs.
“One man can’t beat you,” Waiters said. “So we’re fine with that. If they want to continue to get out of their offense and throw the ball down there to him, we’re fine with that. One guy can’t beat us, no matter how much he scores.”
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Waiters further emphasized that the Thunder would continue to live with the Spurs running their offense through Aldridge, implying that even with Aldridge looking nearly unstoppable in the first 2 games of the series, the Spurs are taking away from the offensive rhythm of the rest of the lineup by relying too much on him.
“Guys are going to make shots in the NBA and as long as they’re not running the offense and dropping it down to them, we’re living with that.”
Waiters is speaking out of frustration with ulterior motives to try to psychologically affect the Spurs. San Antonio demolished Oklahoma City in game 1, so Waiters must be specifically referring to game 2 when he speaks of how the Spurs’ offense was affected by increased reliance on Aldridge compared to normal.
Aldridge has had a historically great first 2 games of this series, and more shots from him during his hot streak has been justified.
During the regular season, Aldridge took about 17% of his team’s shots. In game 2, that number increased to about 22%, so Waiters is correct in stating that the Spurs are operating more of their offense through Aldridge than what is typical for them. Where he’s wrong, though, are his implications that it is taking away from other key components of the Spurs’ offense.
Kawhi Leonard is the other primary offensive source for the Spurs. He took about 19% of his team’s shots in game 2 after talking 18% of his team’s shots per game during the regular season, which is hardly a significant difference from how the Spurs normally operate regarding Leonard.
For Waiters to insinuate that Aldridge is taking away opportunities for his teammates to contribute is inaccurate. Leonard had a bad game not because of a lack of opportunities, but because he just didn’t make shots. He finished only 7-18 from the field, including 0-3 from 3-point range.
In an uncharacteristically bad shooting performance for one of the league’s best players, it’s telling that the Spurs would be up 2-0 in this series if Leonard makes just one more of those shots in a dismal outing.
Waiters’ comments also hint that the Spurs’ normally team-oriented approach to their offense, predicated on being unselfish and making the extra pass, was negatively affected by Aldridge’s dominance.
Waiters is still slightly off base with this assessment. The numbers that indicate low assist totals may be more of a reflection on the unusually bad shooting performance of the team than the chemistry being skewed by Aldridge being an increased focal point.
The Spurs dished out 19 assists in their game 2 loss. They ranked in the top 5 in the NBA in assists per game during the regular season, averaging about 25 per game.
Of course fewer made shots is going to equal less assists, again going back to the Spurs’ lack of shooting being the main culprit behind their loss. The Spurs shot about 43% in game 2 after shooting about 48% during the regular season. That deviation from the norm is going to result in lower assist totals.
Not only did Leonard struggle from the field, but many Spurs players had bad shooting performances in game 2. Danny Green went 3-11, Patty Mills went 2-9, Tony Parker went 3-9, Tim Duncan went 1-8, and David West went 3-8. There’s plenty of blame to go around for the Spurs not capitalizing on their shots, and it’s not the fault of Aldridge.
Waiters may just be toying with the Spurs to try to force them to over-think their offensive strategy. There’s nothing wrong with continuously feeding a player in the middle of a hot streak. The only way this would become a problem is if Aldridge cooled off, which he definitely hasn’t as of yet this series.
The Spurs shouldn’t change their game plan at all. They should continue to let the game come to them and be flexible enough to go with the flow of what the action dictates. Aldridge isn’t being force-fed the ball to the detriment of the team. The numbers show that his strong game 2 performance was what kept the game as close as it was.
Assuming that Aldridge’s teammates snap out of their shooting funk, the Spurs have a great chance of winning game 3. Waiters is reading too deeply into why the Spurs lost game 2. Sometimes open shoots that are created organically through facilitation simply don’t go in.
If the Thunder are believing what Waiters is implying with his critique of Aldridge’s offensive production relative to the rest of the Spurs’ team, they’re in for a rude awakening when the 2nd best shooting team in the NBA starts making shots at their normal rate.