5 things we learned from Round 1

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1. Manu Ginobili is in playoff mode

This doesn’t necessarily mean he’s completely healthy, but mentally he’s locked in. I saw Ginobili when he left the podium after Game 2’s win over the Lakers, and he held his right hamstring as he went into the training room for some post-game treatment. I don’t think he’s 100 percent yet, but you wouldn’t know it by the way he’s playing.

Manu averaged about 11 points, five assists and three boards per game against the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round, picking the exact right spots to come alive for the Spurs offense. Ginobili combined for just 14 points in Games 3 and 4, but both contests had such large margins of victory, his offense wasn’t really needed.

Ginobili was a question mark for most of the season and that status hadn’t changed entering the playoffs. I assumed more responsibility would fall on the broad shoulders of Kawhi Leonard and anything the Spurs got from Manu would be extra. Instead, it looks as if Manu is finding a groove and Leonard will be relied on to make plays on the periphery of the game. As other stars go down around the league, the boost San Antonio gets from Ginobili in these playoffs elevates the Spurs to another level.

2. Cory Joseph is a player

A few weeks ago, Gregg Popovich lauded Nando De Colo for his improved competitiveness. Then just as quickly as that competitiveness came, De Colo seemed to lose it. In stepped Cory Joseph, and his willingness to harass opposing point guards for a full 90 feet, comfort in taking the shots he knows he can hit with consistency (not unlike Kawhi Leonard) and ability to run the offense capably without turning the ball over made him an excellent backup for Tony Parker against the Lakers.

Joseph put up 4.5 points, three assists and 2.8 rebounds in about 14 minutes per game in the first round. It seems like every game he shows growth in a certain area, something not uncommon for a 21-year-old playing his first consistent minutes at the NBA level. There’s a chance Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was simply playing the matchups and we’ll see more De Colo in the second round. That remains to be seen. But what you can’t argue is that Joseph did nothing to hurt his chances of playing in the second round.

Considering how weak most thought the 2011 NBA Draft was with the lockout looming, for the Spurs to add and develop both Leonard and Joseph is a testament to both the front office and the coaching staff.

3. The defense is back

“I thought that was the first time in a while that we looked like the team that played the first 70 or so games, defensively,” Gregg Popovich said before Game 2. “We had done a good job of getting into that top tier of defensive teams, and then, for a variety of reasons, it dissipated. But that was our best defensive performance in a while. I’m anxious to see if that’s really our team or not tonight.”

It was, as the Spurs went on to win 102-91 that night. Against an albeit depleted Lakers team, the Spurs went on to post the best defensive efficiency of the first round, allowing 90.6 points per 100 possessions, while scoring at the league’s highest rate (111 points per 100). The fact that most players on the Lakers couldn’t knock down a 3-pointer if the fate of the world rested upon it definitely helped, but the Spurs were also disciplined in their schemes, forced a lot of turnovers and protected the glass well against a larger front line.

Tim Duncan did exactly what you’d expect from him inside, not a lot needs to be said about his contributions. And we’ve talked about what Matt Bonner was able to do battling against Howard and Gasol. Kawhi Leonard was also a standout for the Spurs, able to help down low when one of the Laker bigs put the ball on the floor, close out on shooters on the perimeter and crash the glass with gusto. In the series, Leonard averaged almost as many boards as Duncan (7.5 rpg for TD to Leonard’s 7.3).

The Spurs face a different opponent in the second round, one that will test their defensive discipline. If Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw both come back healthy and San Antonio’s focus carries over from Round 1, the Spurs could put up a similar performance in the second round.

4. Tim Duncan is insanely gif-able.

tim-duncan-dwight-howard-lakers-spurs-nba-playoffs

tim-duncan-dwight-howard-lakers-spurs-nba-playoffs-deal-with-it

tim-duncan-pau-gasol-spurs-lakers-nba-playoffs

tim-duncan-spurs-lakers-nba-playoffs

5. The Spurs didn’t take a lot of 3s

Despite an interior defense consisting of Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, two legit 7-footers, and questionable defense on the perimeter, the Spurs didn’t take a lot of 3s in the first round of the playoffs. In fact, San Antonio took the third fewest shots from the perimeter in the first round. This after taking the seventh-most attempts per game during the regular season.

Part of this speaks to how well Ginobili and Tony Parker have recovered from their various knocks and worked themselves into a rhythm. The other part lets us know just how bad the Lakers defense was. Ginobili is back to the point where he’s using his craftiness to get to the basket. Tim Duncan still knows a thing or two about post moves. Tony Parker, well, he got back to doing the things he was doing when the MVP hype machine picked up on him, finishing around the basket and abusing transition defenses on a one-man fastbreak.

One of the strengths of this Spurs team when healthy was its ability to adapt to each particular game and execute its gameplan, no matter the style of play. It’s hard to imagine there being a bigger difference in style of play right now than the Lakers and Warriors. One was a train wreck that continuously fed the ball down low. The other is a up tempo team capable of taking, and making, shots at any time from seemingly every spot on the floor. The Spurs will need to rely on that chameleon-like adaptability again in Round 2.

Advanced statistics courtesy of NBA.com/Stats

  • http://twitter.com/kfiduk Kenneth Fiduk

    Great article! Potential typo in the last paragraph — I think you meant to say “It’s hard to imagine there being a bigger *difference in style of…”, not “defense”.

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    Good catch, thanks.

  • Tyler

    Cory Joseph has been fantastic. I thought there was no chance he’d get minutes in the playoffs but his competitiveness against Jamison was great.

  • Andrew G

    Post. Post. Post.

  • Colin

    The Spurs absolutely need to smack the Warriors in the face the first 2 games of the series and make them understand that they are NOT Denver. If the Warriors win one of the first two in SA, then this has the potential to become upset-city territory, we all know this.

    That GSW/Den game last night was one of the most intense games I’ve seen, basically the refs took themselves out of the game and let the fouling go both ways.

    I feel the following are keys to notice:

    –not to let the dubs get into a rhythm of runnning and playing their style by picking up full court while Joseph is in

    –generally extending the defense a little more on the perimeter

    –Find a way to get Bogut away from the basket on defense

    –Don’t react to lineup changes by GSW, but dictate them. Splitter should have an advantage over Landry and their other bigs both offensively and defensively.

    –Blair and Diaw can be looked at to match up well with GSW both offensively and defensively

    –See what Kawhi can do with Curry defensively, not exclusively unless needed, but just see

    –Green can guard Thompson
    –Thompson often gets lost on defensive rotations

    –GSW can be harassed into silly TO’s if defended well, not aggressively, but well. Take advantage of this

    –If the Spurs shoot over or close to 50% and rebound well defensively they will control 4/7 games and win in 5 or 6 (as well as minimize TO’s). If not…….

  • Carl Sirotic

    Curry ain’t gonna be doing much in this serie, we have just too many guard ready for him. Like someone said before me, SA will have to show them they aren’t Denver. And I see this will happen in several ways. How the hell is supose to stop Tim ?

  • Chili’s Daddy

    I THINK ALL OF Y’ALL HAVE IT RIGHT EXCEPT ONE THING.I HOPE DIAW DOESN’T MAKE IT BACK UNTIL MUCH LATER. IF YOU LOOK AT HIS STATS. HE IS VERY UNPRODUCTIVE. LOOK AT HIS MINUTES PLAYED AND HIS POINTS, ALL OF THEM ARE EXTREMELY LOW. HE TAKES AWAY FROM OUR OTHER PLAYERS WHEN HE PLAYS. HE WAS OUT THIS SERIES AND WE DID FINE WITHOUT HIM. A LOT OF THE TIME WE PLAY 4 AGAINST 5 UP AND DOWN THE COURT. I DON’T SEE HIM DO ANYTHING. HE TIP TOES UP AND DOWN THE COURT AND DOESN’T BANG WITH THE BIG GUYS AND IF HE DOES SOMETHING THE ANNOUNCERS(SEAN ESPECIALLY) GO CRAZY. BLAIR ON THE OTHER HAND BANGS, SCORES, RUNS THE FAST BREAK, AND THE OTHER BIGS HUSTLE,BANG, SCORE AND PASS OFF AND ARE UNSELFISH. HE WON’T SHOOT IF IT MEANS ANY ADVERSITY. HE PASSED OFF WAY OUT FRONT. HE DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO SET A STATIONARY PICK. HE SETS THE EUROPEAN MOVING PICK THE WAY SPLITER DOES ALSO. IF I’M WRONG I’LL EAT MY RIBS WITHOUT ANY BARBEQUE SAUCE ON THEM WHILE WATCHING THE NEXT GAME. BUT IF I’M RIGHT WE ALL NEED TO PETITION POP TO SIT HIM THRU THE PLAYOFF SERIES.THEN TRADE HIM FOR WHATEVER YOU CAN GET FOR HIM. GET HIM AWAY FROM TONY.(I TYPE IN ALL CAPS JUST BECAUSE I HAVE NERVE DAMAGE IN MY RIGHT HAND AFTER RADIATION TREATMENT DURING CANCER TREATMENT) I WOULDN’T HAVE HIM ON MY TEAM WHEN THERE ARE OTHERS THAT WILL GET THE JOB DONE!!! THAT IS THE WAY I FEEL.

  • td4life

    1. Watching Curry in the third quarter last night, I said “this kid’s a future hall-of-famer, for sure.” A guy who can shoot like that off the dribble, and find the open man, and can also play off the ball. It’s why we’re really gonna miss Manu when he’s gone. We have gone from trying to replace Robinson, to needing to replace Bruce, to now we’re starting to see how big a hole Ginobili will leave when he drops off a bit more. Glad he’s rounding into form, he’s better when rested (I say deactivate him till the playoffs the next two years, since he always starts his season on fire).

    2. I remember nearly everybody saying CJ was no NBA talent, with myself as one of very few optimists in that regard. I’ve always wanted him on the payroll, and have always been confident he’d be a great backup PG for us. He looked composed running the offense early in his rookie season, and is developing nicely. DeColo, on the other hand, has always gotten a little too much love due to his flashy passing and length. To me, he’s MAYBE a 5th guard on a good team, a 3rd string point. CJ should get more tick in these playoffs, he’s simply the more valuable player. I really don’t mind him as a conservative scorer, but I wish Kawhi had more dog in him, more “I got this.”

    3. We’ll see about the true state of our D, against Z-bo and Gasol and against Miami’s shooters.

    4. Those GIFs! The third one against the twin towers is my favorite. What’s he saying in #4?

    5. I want to see TP prove his improved jumper again, please. And Kawhi and Manu driving to the hole is great, but I want to see elite shooting from them over and over and over again. And, uh, Danny Green? Danny? Where are you?

  • assistman

    Uh, your caps lock is on. As a result, we skip right over your comments… it’s too painful on the eyes to bother trying to read it. Fail.

  • SAMania

    Please never reference anyone except Duncan and Robinson as the “twin towers”

    Thanks,
    The Rest of San Antonio Spurs Fans

    Also, your #2 is dead on.

  • Chili’s Daddy

    i should have put the sentence about the nerve damage in my right hand up front. you didn’t even see that. anyway it is the gospel on diaw! all of my spur fan friends agree with me. get him out of there. now go back an read it.

  • Graham

    Diaw’s a great cog for the offense, he knows precisely how to move the ball. This series at least, the Warriors don’t have anyone who can expose him on the block. He’s probably in for a great series, if he’s healthy.

  • Chili’s Daddy

    1st he is still over weight to be effective.2nd he scores 5 pts a game playing 22 + minutes.3rd he can’t set a pick-watch him. watch Monday pm and then tell me I’m wrong about him. is lower case hard on anyone”s eyes. Sean goes nuts after he does one thing listen to him.

  • Ra Tredeuce

    U most really dont like Diaw my fellow spurs fan. Its crazy u speak so bad on him when bleacherreport jus had an article on the most effective statistical lineups and he was in the top 1 for the reg. ssn. He even beatout the other bigs plus my main man Timmy D. Im goin 2 post the link so u can see 4 yoself and cut Diaw sum slack bcuz he doesnt deserve the all caps snap. http://m.bleacherreport.com/articles/1626012-best-statistical-lineups-for-every-nba-playoff-team/page/17

  • Andrew G

    Just because he doesn’t look like LeBron doesn’t mean that he’s overweight. Saying we did well against a crappy Lakers team without him is hardly reason to ship him out. “I DONT SEE HIM DO ANYTHING”… grammar aside, it just means you aren’t paying attention.

    He has chemistry with Tony and Nando, and spreads the floor as a big. He is a pass first player, which I’d much rather have on a team that lead the league in assists, rather than someone who threw up 15 bricks before Pop called a timeout specifically to sub him out.

  • Andrew G

    SERIOUSLY. It took me a good minute before I put it all together after I read his post. “Wait… Duncan… driving against Gasol… Howard’s hand… I don’t see Robinson… HE MEANS THE FLAKERS ARE THE TWIN TOWERS?! WTF?!”

  • td4life

    I meant to write THEIR twin towers, not THE. After all, that’s two hall-of-famers right there including a 3x Defensive Player of the Year that TD embarrassed on that play. There’s no brand copyright on the phrase. Boston had it with McHale and Parish, Houston with Hakeem and Ralph Sampson… but, my bad.
    Anyway, what’s TD saying in #4?

  • idahospur

    I may be crazy (very likely) but I see Pop starting Duncan/Baynes again at the 4-5 for game 1. That puts Diaw-Bonner together on 2nd unit with Blair finding time when Golden State goes small. I think Tiago will suit up, but will sit at the end of the bench and will not likely play. Game 1 goes all 4 quarters with some good lead changes but Spurs come out in the end. I then pick game 2 for spurs, game 3 for Golden State, and then 4 and 5 for the Spurs again. Obviously much tougher series with offense running through Curry and Jack, each trying to find ways to 30 ppg.

  • Chili’s dad

    diaw isn’t even mentioned in post season. they knew he’d be back. but that he would be ineffective in post season. he rides on tony’s coat tails. you think he is worth $ in his contract. i don’t like him. he doesn’t help the team. we play 4 on 5 when he is in there. i like blair much better. he is a hustler even at his height he is always around the ball. some players are like that in a supporting role. he is out there tip toeing around and not getting in there and fighting for rebounds.mixing it up he doesn’t do!!!watch him he doesn’t do it. out!!!

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