San Antonio Spurs ball movement can be pretty, when it is working. Their movement on the offensive end can be as well. We are going to look back at three games in which this all came together.
Against the Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns, the San Antonio Spurs displayed the traits that makes them perfect.
We’ll take a look why Spurs dismantled Nets, had good game against Celtics, and struggled a little bit at Phoenix.
After surprisingly bad start at home, the Spurs put out dominant display against Brooklyn Nets at AT&T Center. With season-highs in points, assists, made field goads and 3-pointers, Spurs offense was a beautiful to watch. Although this win came against not so good opponent, it can be a model of how the Spurs should play.
Celtics have best defense of last three Spurs opponents. Never the less, Spurs managed to produce high number of assists. They controlled result of the game almost the entire time, and looked very fluid on offense.
Against Suns there was a little bit of struggle. They committed season-high turnovers, so offensive flow suffered. As a result, the Spurs played most difficult game out of these three. But even though, the finished with comfortable win.
This article’s focus will be on Spurs player and ball movement. And the goal is to show that when Spurs move and pass lie they can, they are at their best. So let’s take a close look at parameters that demonstrate how the Spurs moved in last three games
1. Ball movement
First of all, Spurs have fourth largest number of passes per game in league. But it’s not all about how many passes you have. It’s how efficiently you use them.
The whole idea behind ball movement is forcing defense to move. NBA is highest level of basketball, with best athletes. When your offense is stagnant, defense doesn’t move lot. It’s really hard for offense to create good shots against top athletes in that case.
Prior to Nets game, Spurs were a team with fourth most passes per game in NBA (320 per game). As a result of this passes, Spurs had 102.3 points per game. Against Brooklyn, Spurs scored 130 points out of 322 passes. Against Celtics they had 108 out of 311, and against Suns 107 points from 341 passes.
Assist number is good sign of efficient ball movement. Although they made 341 passes at Phoenix, Spurs had only 19 assists. They had 33 in Celtics game, and season-high 38 in Nets game. Their season average prior to these games was 22.7.
Furthermore, in Nets game Spurs created 90 points out of assists, 74 vs Celtics and 44 at Phoenix (they average 54.6 this season). That makes 76 percent, 75 percent and 48.7 percent of all points in these games, respectively (season average is 60 percent).
These number are interesting to connect with Spurs performance in those games. Although they won all three, and even Boston game was closest as far as end result is in concern, Celtics are much better team that Suns, and Spurs had most problem throughout the whole game against them.
2. Spot Up and Catch & Shoot advantage
When you move the ball around, defenders are always on move. If you passing is sharp, smart and well-timed, you generate a lot good positions for offense. One of the most obvious products of good ball movement are spot up and catch&shoot situations.
Spot up occurs when player receives the ball and his defender is moving toward him. This movement of defender gives the advantage to offense. Player has that extra moment to make decision what to do with ball – shoot it, drive, or pass.
And when it’s about efficiency from spot ups, Spurs are the best in the league. They lead the league in points per possession from spot ups. They also have best field goal percentage with 45% (Clippers are second with 41.6). But the Spurs are 6th in the league in frequency of spot ups in the game.
When you are efficient in something, you want to do it as much as you can. With smarter and fluid ball movement, you generate more spot ups. So it’s in Spurs interest to generate them as much as they can.
With Kawhi and LaMarcus, who draw a lot of defense’s attention to themselves, Spurs can generate wide open shots. So it’s interesting how this catch&shoot situations are executed. In that category Spurs are also NBA’s elite team.
They generate 32.2 points from catch&shoot situations per game, trailing only Warriors (34.1). But they lead the league in both field goal (44.3) and 3-point percentage (42.4). The fact is that these shots most often come with good ball movement. So it’s clear that Spurs should utilize it more often.
Although they made less passes that against Suns, Spurs were more efficient in previous two games. They had 46 points from catch&shoot vs Nets, 34 vs Celtics, and 22 in Phoenix. We can see from watching these games that Spurs offense was much more fluid in first two games.
The Spurs have great individual talents on offense. But the fact is, Spurs are most efficient when they’re nor relying on them entirely. We all remember “Beautiful game” and 2014 title. When they play like that, Spurs are hard to mach.
The fact is that only 5 players remained from that title-winning team. There are new faces, but all payers in Spurs roster have high basketball IQ. They all can move, pass and shoot. Those are prerequisites for motion offense.
Because this team is “new”, players need time to connect the right way. Spurs struggled this season a little bit offensively, and it’s completely normal for new group of players. But last three games are good example of when they are at their best.
We saw what numbers say. And as far as this aspect of game is concerned, numbers can faithfully represent what’s going on on the court. Compare Nets and Suns game, and it’s clear where and why Spurs played better and more effective.
If Spurs keep building on recent performances (especially against Brooklyn and Boston), they are on good way. Playing unselfish, team basketball is Spurs’ trademark. When needed, they have enough talent who can decide game in one shot.
But most important for Spurs is to continue improving at ball and player movement. There were some real highlight actions in last games, and as season goes along, there will be a lot more to come. Just keep moving!