Thursday, May 15, 2008
Tonight, at 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, the San Antonio Spurs take on the New Orleans Hornets in what is truly our first "must-win" of the season. Nuff said. Let's get down to business:
An Experiment: Rohan, from At the Hive, asked me to take part in what I actually think is a pretty cool experiment. A neutral third party (maybe Matt from Hardwood Paroxysm), Rohan (A Hornets fan, obviously), and I (you can't possibly imagine who I'm rooting for) are going to keep a tally of the foul calls throughout the game. We'll mark down when we think each team gets a no call or a bad call and eventually have a breakdown for the game. Then we're gonna compare numbers from our three disparate perspectives. Aside from the obvious reason I hope this series goes 7 games, I think it would be interesting to perform the experiment again in game 7 so hopefully we can begin to come up with some possible explanation for the dominance of home teams this post-season.
Stay Home: In game 5, defenders were constantly sliding off their man to be the help defender when Paul drove to the hole. Inevitably Paul found the man they left (which was almost always David West) and it gave the Hornets an inordinate amount of open mid-range shots (again, replace "Hornets" with "West"). Its important that defenders stay home on their man, even during the pick and roll. We had a lot of success in games 3 and 4 by limiting Paul's options and making him beat us alone. We need to stick with that approach.
Perimeter Shooting: Obviously its nice to shoot well from beyond the arc, but I think far too often the Spurs are settling for outside shots when, with a little bit of tenacity, we could get the ball to the basket. We have excellent ball movement, so its tempting, but it just leaves too much offensive responsibility in the hands of guys like Bowen and Finley. Not only are Ginobili and Parker two of the best finishers in the league, but attacking the rim will consistently get our guys to the line (they'll make sure of it), and that could help us survive any shooting dry spells we hit, like the ones that consistently creep up during the 3rd quarter. The cure for cold shooting is slashing, not more shooting.
Pace of the game: I really believe so many people have a huge misconception about the way the pace of the game has affected the outcome in this series. People seem to think that the Spurs are looking to slow it down and the Hornets are looking to speed it up. I really think they have it backwards. In game 5, the Hornets half-court offense was stellar, while the Spurs struggled to find high percentage shots with their half-court set, particularly during the second half. On the flip side, the Spurs only really showed any life during the second half when Parker would push it or Duncan looked for the quick outlet pass after a rebound. People look at Paul's theatrics in the paint and just assume he's the kind of point guard who loves to run the fast break. The Hornets do run it well, in particular Paul does an excellent job finding open perimeter shooters while in transition. But I think this idea that a low possession count benefits the Spurs is inaccurate.
Aside from that, I don't have much to say. I've already covered most other things in my recap of game 5, or in previous previews and recaps. I will say that I am confident going into tonight. As I said in my preview to the series, this team has a lot of warriors on it, and they're certainly not gonna go down without a fight. I, personally, expect the Spurs to be back in New Orleans on Sunday. But before they book those plane tickets, they gotta get it done at home.
Before I go, I want to leave you with a quote from Timberwolves beat reporter and sportswriting luminary Britt Robson who, in a recent interview with Slam Online, had some complimentary things to say about the San Antonio Spurs:
...What I remember are teams and when I remember the Celtics or the Spurs and they have been two of my favorite organizations. Gregg Popovich the other night in the third quarter Game 5 or so against the Suns when they were up a bunch, somebody misses an assignment and he calls timeout just to go crazy on them. And you know he’s doing it because he wants people to know “Never let up” not just for this game but because you never want to let up at any time. And that’s what will get us in a game when were down 19 and help us win another time. Don’t ever assume because the score is a certain way that you can take plays off. He seems to really live by that. And then they were way ahead of the curve on foreign folks. Parker and Ginobli, Jesus Christ. That’s amazing....But my top five? K.G., Bill Russell, Iverson, Oscar Robertson and um, somebody else. The Spurs organization.