Monday, April 14, 2008

The Clipboard: Lakers-Spurs 4/13/08

This most recent defeat of my beloved Spurs by L.A. brings up a lot of questions, so let's get down to business:

Spurs in the second half: At halftime this game was 53-53. At the end of the game it was 106-85. Recent losses to the Jazz and Suns followed the same pattern. A hard fought first half, in which we go into halftime tied (I think against Utah we may have been down by 1). A week third quarter in which we slip into a low double digit deficit (In this game I think it was 12, maybe 15). A fourth quarter in which we don't make a meaningful run and Pop pulls the starters with 4 to go, causing the lead to slip to 20 or so. The most obvious reason for this is our poor shooting, but I think there is another element. I think we are being timid. The only guy I saw out there who was fearless in his determination to win was Michael Finley, who actually plays great when he gets pissed off and subsequently hit a few nice shots to keep the lead from really getting out of hand in the 3rd. That being said, the Lakers actually played really well. If the team collectively started to stall, one of their excellent role players (in this instance Derek Fisher) stepped up and kept the momentum going. But we have to figure out a way to keep Parker producing in the second half, as this is not the first time he has been very aggressive for the first 24 minutes and non-existent for the last 24. And I can't even explain why Timmy's bank shot wasn't falling. That just needs to be like clockwork. Its the point from which everything else on the offense emanates.

Lamar Odom creates match-up problems for us. He is a very big body when he's out there on the wing. At points pop put Kurt Thomas on him, and I think that is a mistake. Thomas is a very good defender, but primarily of the post. He is an old guy now and doesn't have the foot speed to keep up with a really athletic guy like Odom. I think that's why you saw him get into foul trouble quickly, because he was scrambling for ways to stop Odom. Luckily, Thomas' foul trouble necessitated Ime Udoka getting a lot more minutes, which had two results: Udoka is an underrated part of our offense and by putting up 14 points showed it. But he also is a tremendous defender who has the versatility to stop Odom's very nebulous game. Udoka is comfortable on the wing and more than comfortable getting physical on the inside. Subsequently, 14 of Odom's 17 came in the first half. It was during the second half that he primarily saw Udoka.

The low-post double team: You cannot double Kobe when he goes to the hole from the wing. It is a trick, a clever rouse. He is not gonna dunk on Bowen, he wasn't beating Bowen to the hole, Bowen was consistently still square in front of him. At worst he was gonna pull up for a fade-away. If he goes through the middle of the paint, yes, clog the lane, put another body in front of him. But oftentimes (and Thomas had multiple offenses on this front) the weak side guy was collapsing on the drive from the corner and Kobe, with his excellent court vision, would find Gasol or Odom or Turiaf for the dunk or easy layup. It just leaves so much open space if you trap him once he gets to the low post. Kobe may be the best player in the league, but Gasol's percentage of open dunks made is still better than Bryant's percentage of circus shots made. I am not opposed to the trap, in fact I like it when we show a little bit of guts on the defensive end of the ball, but Kobe is gonna find the open man, so we have to be more judicious about when we double up on him.

Obviously going into the playoffs there are a lot of questions for the Spurs, and most of them are on the offensive end. Obviously the fact that neither Ginobili or Barry were on the floor for this game is notable, but its not the crux of the issue. I think it has to do with intensity. I don't think we have been playing focused basketball for 48 minutes. I also don't think we are making the proper adjustments. In these last two losses (Suns, Lakers) both teams have made substantial half time adjustments to slow down our offense and limit our open looks. We on the other hand have showed little interest in being versatile on the offensive end of the floor. One of our greatest strengths is our ability to mix and match offensively.We can shoot the long ball, we can bang it in the post, we have slashers, we can run the fast break.When things get tough, we need to get more varied with our looks instead of more conservative.

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