NBA Playoffs 2017: Should the San Antonio Spurs Be Worried?

Apr 20, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich during the fourth quarter agains the Memphis Grizzlies in game three of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at FedExForum. Memphis defeated San Antonio 105-94. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 20, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich during the fourth quarter agains the Memphis Grizzlies in game three of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at FedExForum. Memphis defeated San Antonio 105-94. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports /

After winning the first two games of the series in San Antonio, the Spurs dropped game three in Memphis, making game four a crucial game.

The Spurs lost game three, and it isn’t the end of the world.

Spurs fans are so used to consistent success, that any loss, at any time, is somewhat surprising. Game three in Memphis caused a bit of an uproar on Twitter.

In the month of April, the Spurs went 3-4, including three straight losses heading into the NBA Playoffs. This losing streak had Spurs fans worrying, wondering if this less-than-stellar play would bubble over into the playoffs.

After the first two dominating performances at home, those worries were put to rest.

Now, after the loss in game three against the Grizzlies, those worries are beginning to resurface.


Kawhi Leonard’s Passiveness

When we look at the numbers from game three, they are far from pretty.

Kawhi Leonard, who scored 32 and 37 points in the first two games, was held to just 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting, along with four rebounds and three assists. In 30 minutes, Leonard only mustered up 11 shots, which is unacceptable from a superstar on the road.

What’s more shocking is that 16 of Leonard’s 18 points came in the first half. Leonard scored his one basket with 11:26 remaining in the third quarter, and was unable to score again.

It's just one game, but if the Grizz can get 20+ point games from Zbo, Marc and Conley, this can become a very interesting series.

— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) April 21, 2017

Luckily, Leonard’s passiveness will likely not carry over into game four, as i’m sure Gregg Popovich has made it very clear that Leonard needs to remain aggressive.

In a series of this magnitude, Leonard cannot go quiet offensively. If he does, this puts the pressure on his teammates to create baskets for themselves, and judging by the numbers, that is not a good strategy for the Spurs.

Anyone Else?

Tony Parker, who had seemed so rejuvenated in the first two games of the series, was held scoreless in game three. Parker had 0 points on 0-of-4 shooting, 0 assists, and one rebound.

In 18 minutes, Parker was unable to get going, and took just four shots. Meanwhile, Mike Conley, who Parker has to guard on defense, scored 24 points on 7-of-13 shooting.

You set up your defense to keep Conley out of the middle, away form screens, + with one hard dribble he tosses your whole plan in the trash

— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) April 21, 2017

Defensively, Parker’s flaws are acceptable, since the Spurs team defense is so good. However, if Parker is going to produce zero points offensively, the Spurs are in deep trouble.

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Danny Green, who had seemed to find his stroke in game two, was also non existent in game three. In 21 minutes, Green scored six points on 3-of-9 shooting, including 0-of-4 from beyond the arc, which is Green’s bread and butter.

Manu Ginobli, a potential X-Factor in this series, has yet to score in this series. In game three, Ginobli scored 0 points on 0-of-2 shooting. David Lee, another Spur off the bench, scored 0 points on 0-of-3 shooting, along with just two rebounds.

Pau Gasol, who was expected to have a big series, scored six points on 2-of-9 shooting, and contributed eight rebounds. Gasol, who is somewhat of a liability defensively, is tasked with guarding either Zach Randolph, or his brother, Marc Gasol. Both of which, are a mismatch.

On the other side of the ball, Gasol has had his best games by stretching the floor and shooting a high percentage from three-point range, but has been unable to find his stoke. With the Grizzlies playing incredible defensively, it has limited the ability for the Spurs to move the ball.

Bright Spots

LaMarcus Aldridge was the only player who was able to contribute in that second half of game three, scoring 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting, along with a crucial 11 rebounds.

Aldridge has been tasked with guarding (Marc) Gasol when Dewayne Dedmon is off-the-floor, and it’s taken a toll on his energy. Still, Aldridge has found way to contribute offensively.

If Leonard is unable to get going in game four, the Spurs must feed Aldridge in the post, as he’s quicker than both (Marc) Gasol and Randolph.

Might mean Aldridge or Dedmon matching up against Zbo in Game 4 more. SA would have to be ok with Marc vs Pau.

— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) April 21, 2017

Patty Mills was also able to get going in game three (somewhat). In 21 minutes, Mills scored 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting, including 3-of-5 from beyond the arc.

If Parker struggles again tonight against the Grizzlies, it may be time for Popovich to start increasing Mills’ workload, who is the younger, quicker guard.

How Can The Spurs Bounce Back?

At the end of the day, the Spurs lost just one game, and it was game three in Memphis. In a long playoff series, it sometimes comes down to your will-to-win, and the Grizzlies had more will.

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It’s up to the Spurs to flip the script in game four. Now that the Grizzlies have some momentum, along with an intense crowd, you can expect them to come out with equal intensity tonight.

If the Spurs want to leave Memphis with a 3-1 series lead, they will need a few things to happen.

Active Hands: The Grizzlies had just five turnovers in game three, meaning the Spurs were unable to get easy points, which resulted in several Spurs players struggling to find their shooting stroke. The Spurs, who were a top defensive team throughout the year, need to increase their intensity on defense.

Ball Movement: For the third straight game, the Spurs were out assisted by the Grizzlies. The Spurs, who pride themselves on exceptional ball movement, have been forced into a stale half-court offense that relies on Leonard to score. When you have just one superstar, the ball movement is incredibly important in getting other guys easy shots on the offensive end.

Free Throw Efficiency: The Spurs, who were phenomenal in the first two games, shot 57.1% from the free throw line in game three, missing 12 possible free throws. In a game they lost by 11 points, those 12 points from the line could have changed the outcome of the game.

Aggressive Leonard: This one’s simple. Leonard cannot be passive in game four, as he is the focal point of the Spurs offense. In the playoffs, when shots are harder to come by, Leonard has to be aggressor offensively. If he isn’t shooting the ball, he needs to draw the double teams, and find the open man, and hope they hit their open shots.

Production: This one’s also simple. One man cannot carry a team in the playoffs. Leonard needs Aldridge, Gasol, Parker, Green, Mills and Ginobli to contribute. The Spurs are their best when all players are involved offensively, and that just hasn’t been the case yet this series. On the road in game four, veterans like Parker and Gasol have to step up.

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The beauty of the Spurs is their ability to bounce back, especially when fans and analysts are beginning to doubt their legitimacy. Popovich is a master at making adjustments, and you can expect a better defensive scheme to stop Conley in the pick and roll. Likewise, you can also expect a better game plan in regards to getting Leonard going early, and avoiding a second half collapse.

Tonight, in game four, we’ll really learn what the Spurs are about.

Will game five be a close out game, or will the series be tied with three games left?