Corporate Knowledge: Conceptual talk about the Spurs

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With the Spurs’ Western Conference Finals matchup with the Thunder set, we’re going to see a lot of preview content on the Interwebs (and here at 48MoH) over the next few days. But at the same time, there’s a lot of talk about the way the Spurs do their thing, both on the floor and off. Enjoy the attention your team is receiving this time of year.

Mark Deeks at The Basketball Jones: “One alpha dog, two beta dogs, and a few puppies. Few bad eggs, and even the bad eggs they have will play hard. A mixture of age and youth, athleticism and guile, defense and offense, jumpshooting and paint production, transition and halfcourt. Doing so on a smaller budget than most, constantly flirting with (and sometimes paying) the luxury tax, but without ever wanting or wishing to. Finding cheapies, plugging them in, building them up, letting them leave, finding new cheapies. Moving the ball, shooting the ball, rotating, picking and rolling, carpe dieming, with precisely one All-Star in this superteams era. It doesn’t seem that hard, but seemingly no one else can do it this well.”

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: “With unprecedented depth built brick-by-brick, fortified by a rejuvenated Duncan (series averages against the Clippers: 21 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.0 blocks) and powered by a superhuman edition of Tony Parker, the Spurs have played their way into rarified air. Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, for example, never won more than 18 straight.”

Paul Garcia of Project Spurs: “So what happened to Jackson when the Los Angeles Clippers came into town? How did he go from producing Jackson-type numbers to Jefferson-type numbers? Was it just a one-series type of deal? Or, will this trend continue with the Oklahoma City Thunder coming into town on Sunday to begin the Western Conference Finals?”

John Hollinger of ESPN.com (Insider): “While a few of his younger teammates (Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter) are making names for themselves in the playoffs by doing the thing they’d done all season, just now with people watching, it’s a very different story for Diaw. He spent two-thirds of the season on one of the worst teams in history and was one of the main reasons it was so awful.”

It’s a little out there, but Spencer Hall from SB Nation talks about the effectiveness of simplicity and references the Spurs.

Charley Rosen at NBA.com: “Leonard has an even more difficult job — preventing Durant from taking over the series. There’s no way the rookie can contain the NBA’s best point-maker, but he must hit his treys and run himself into easy scores in order to minimize the damage this matchup can create. Fortunately for the Spurs, the rookie plays like a veteran.”

  • ChrisTxHouston

    I think Capn’ Jackson is not shooting the ball good on the last series and yea I hope he bounce back againts a hungry OKC who wants its name among the Elite Champions.

    GO SPURS GO

  • Tim in Surrey

    Interesting links. Thanks for that.

    It should be quite a series. I don’t expect to see the kind of Spurs dominance that we saw in their last two matchups, especially with OKC having so much time to prep before the start. But I do think it’s a good matchup–with one rather large caveat: Everybody (and I mean EVERYBODY) seems to be sleeping on the one guy that I think can really hurt the Spurs, which is James Harden. His matchup with Manu & Co. will swing this series, IMHO. I like our chances because a) we have Manu and b) we have several other guys who can contribute to that matchup (Green, Jack, Neal, and Kawhi). But Harden has really taken his play up a level or two more than once recently, so I think he’s the wildcard.

  • jechalker74

    Is it me or am I not thinking straight? One of the keys I have heard to this series is shutting down Kevin Durant. I think that this strategy is definitely overrated and not worth the effort of several key Spurs defenders.

    I think that the focus needs to be on forcing Russell Westbrook out a rhythm and maintain constant pressure on James Harden. The reason for this is the same method we used in playing Kobe and the Lakers. Durant alone cannot win this series! However, the Thunder’s recipe for success based around Westbrook & Harden contributing to carry the Thunder offensively.

    We already know the guy drawing Tony Parker is going to be worn out as he will be forced to fight off several screens on each possession whike attempting to stay in front of one of the leagues quickest PG. I imagine this will be Sefolosha for the most part however, with Harden in the ball game the Thunder will need to make a choice to remove either Ibaka or Perkins to play a smaller line-up. We know that Timmy has the ability to take control of that match-up offensively. Let’s see some good old fashioned 4-down!

    Thoughts anyone?

  • http://405thunder.blogspot.com 405 Thunder

    I don’t think you’re crazy at all. A big part of OKC’s success is the balance those three have learned to maintain. They can still win if one of them is having a bad game, but if two of them get knocked off, they are much more vulnerable.

    I wrote a thing up about the series, from a Thunder perspective, if you guys are interested. For what it’s worth, I expect you’ll win this series in 6.

    http://405thunder.blogspot.com/2012/05/in-regular-season-thunder-beat.html

  • Jimbo

    Thanks for the link, 405 Thunder. I was just thinking last night that this is probably the hardest series to make a confident prediction on that I’ve ever seen in my 20+ years of watching the NBA (then again, I thought Memphis would beat the Clips). I really go back and forth on this one- nothing would surprise me. The Core Four of the Thunder are so athletic and explosive, and I think Westbrook and Harden will be tough matchups over the course of a series. But on the other hand, the Spurs seem to have entered basketball nirvana over the last 15+ games. Can’t wait til Sunday!

  • http://405thunder.blogspot.com 405 Thunder

    Yeah, absolutely. Talking with Lakers and Mavs fans, I just kept saying – we beat them in the regular season, no reason to believe we won’t do the same thing in the playoffs. But, it’s the opposite this series. The Spurs just know how to beat us, so I’m chalking this one up as a learning experience. We’ll play hard, probably lose in 5 or 6, learn from it, and hopefully come back next year more prepared. No shame in losing to a team as awesome as the Spurs, in my mind.

  • Tyler

    Borrowing from Charles Barkley, Bonner should play a much bigger role this series. His ability to shoot the 3 should help draw the Thunder big men out, opening up the defense for our slashers.

    The Leonard/Durant matchup should be fun to watch. As long as Leonard and co. make Durant work for his points and don’t foul, that’s all we can ask for. As for Westbrook, make him a jumpshooter. If he gets into the lane, it’s trouble. While he doesn’t penetrate to kick it out, he’s a great finisher and will draw fouls. I’d expect Pop to use Green quite a bit on Westbrook and try to bother him with a little more length. Harden is tough. We’re going to have to play good PnR defense similar to what we did against CP3. Wall off the PnR and take away 1/2 the court. I think Manu will be up for the challenge.

    All in all, I think the gameplan is to get back on defense and make the Thunder play 5 vs 5. If they don’t get anything easy in transition and have to work for their buckets (that includes not fouling, which we’re usually good at), we should have the advantage. Offensively, run when we have numbers and keep the ball moving. Also, TP needs to attack Perkins on the PnR and make him pay for his lack of quickness by wither getting to the rim, or hitting TD on the pop.

  • theghostofjh

    @ Tyler

    Overall, I agree with your assessment. But not so sure about the Bonner part. If I were the OKC coach, I would respond to Bonner by going small. I’m not sure we want to force OKC to do that because it would require them to play their best young athletes, particularly Harden, even heavier minutes. And their small ball line-up can be troublesome, with Durant and Ibaka/Collison at the 4/5 (along with Westbrook, Harden, and Thabo for the most part). If we leave Bonner in, they could put Thabo, or even Harden on him.

  • http://405thunder.blogspot.com 405 Thunder

    Also, the concept of making Westbrook shoot midrange shots is good in theory, but ask the Lakers how that turned out for them.

    The best strategy against Russ is to make him hold onto the ball as long as possible. The more he dribbles, the higher the chance he turns it over. If you let him get to the rim or get off a jumpshot, you’re more than likely giving him points.

  • idahospur

    Durant is going to play well and will score points. I agree with jechalker74 in that preventing Westbrook from making plays and controlling the offense will be key. I would not be surprised to see Durant score 40 on a night when the Spurs still win. The best we can do against Durant is keep an eye on Leonard and whoever else guards Durant to make him work for every basket he makes.

  • lvmainman

    The Thunder small ball lineup benefits the Spurs in my opinion. Normally, Durant plays the 4 and Collison 5 with Westbrook, Harden and either Fisher/Cook. That means Bonner/Jackson can guard Fisher/Cook or Neal will get more playing time vs Fisher/Cook and not get abused defensively like he did vs Paul/Bledsoe. Small ball means no shot blocking of Ibaka/Perkins and limited offensive rebounding by OKC. With Duncan/Splitter as the 5 they should have a field day. Coach Brooks appears to love small ball as much or more so than Pop.

    I predict 2 things: 1)Neal will be huge avg 14 pts a game and 2)Spurs poor FT shooting will cost them one game

  • Tyler

    @ 405 Thunder

    I hear what you’re saying. I’m not arguing that the Spurs should give up uncontested jumpers, but force Westbrook into spots that don’t play to his strengths like transition, easy paths to the basket, etc.

    Also, take a look at this chart (it’s pretty telling) – http://www.hardwoodparoxysm.com/2012/05/10/offensive-geometry/

    The two least efficient offensive sets the Thunder run are Westbrook PnR’s (by far the most used offensive set in the Thunder playbook) and Westbrook isolations. Both sets generate less than 0.8 points per possession. In other words, not too efficient. If those numbers hold true, the Thunder will have a much tougher time scoring in the half court.

    Also, the Lakers are a far cry from the Spurs, both offensively and defensively. We’re much better equipped to defend both Durant and Westbrook, both individually and as a team. (Sidenote – Metta World Peace is not a defensive stopper; waaaaay past his past his prime and overrated in that regard). I like the way we match up with the Thunder on the perimeter.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Anybody remember Blair’s monster games against the Thunder? I have a feeling he’ll see more minutes than you all think in this series. If the Bonner thing doesn’t work out than you’ll see Blair and Diaw have a go at it.

  • Stijl

    @ Titletown

    Good point and possible perspective regarding Blair. I would tend to think his performance if matched to the head to head match ups this year against the Thunder should come to fruition for this series…he would be more of a key role than Bonner’s ability to “spread the defense”. Bonner has yet this playoffs to produce a dependable 3 point shot and I wouldn’t count on him being a dependable defense asset.

    We’ll see.

  • Stijl

    @Tim in Surrey

    Great point you made regarding Harden.

    This from http://www.nba.com/2012/news/features/david_aldridge/05/21/morning-tip-gregg-popovich-team-usa/index.html?ls=iref:nbahpt1
    “2) Oklahoma City (2) [3-1]: Lost in the late-game heroics of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook Saturday is that James Harden continues to struggle with having to both guard Kobe Bryant and being productive offensively. Harden is shooting just 30 percent in the first four games.”

    In retrospect…if Harden is limited to offensive output due to having to contest the Spurs offensive execution…I would hope he would be as he was against the Lakers. It’s not surprising (and often the case) that if a player has to focus more on one aspect…the other aspect of their game tends to wain and not be as productive.

    Consequently it is why I would not be a bit surprised that Kawhi’s offensive production in this series is not as good as one might hope when having to focus on guarding Kevin Durant. But Kawhi’s (what might be diminished offensive output) shouldn’t be as damaging if Harden’s offensive output is reduced to below average in this series.

  • jechalker74

    I am loving the prospects of this series! There are so many match-ups and things to watch.

    I think for the Spurs Durant will do his thing, not much can be done about that. Perhaps putting a hand in his face and forcing to take contested shots. Still I don’t see shutting him down as an option.

    Westbrook vs. Parker which is more a match-up on paper as they will only see a handful of minutes of actual head-to-head time. I see the Spurs employing the same idea as the Clippers series in giving 3 or 4 guys a chance to guard Westbrook.

    Harden vs. Ginobili these are two of the biggest sparks once the bench in the league.

    Duncan vs. Ibaka/Perkins in the post great defense against the all-rounder Timmy.

    I think the interesting match-up comes with putting Diaw in this line-up. As I said before the Spurs do not need to lock him down, just keep him busy and make him work. Dial on the other hand gives the Spurs the spacing they thrive on, a decent 3 point touch, unselfish passing and decent rebounding.

    I am also keen to see if Blair gets a nod as he does well against OKC. He is well rested and could be someone who is worked back not the rotation depending on the situation.

    I think Bonner will be a luxury… If he gets hot then the Spurs have a chance a putting up some big points. However, playoffs past have left me a bit skeptical waiting for his appearance.

    I think this series is really suited for the Spurs depth. However, the Thunder are definitely to have a significant amount of “appropriate fear” for.

    My call is that the winner of this series will be holding the Larry O’Brien trophy in a couple of weeks. What a series!!! Go Spurs!

  • jechalker74

    Damn autocorrect!

    Referring to a possible Diaw vs Durant match-up…

  • Titletown99030507d

    I give the edge to Harden over my beloved Ginobili only because he’s way younger than Manu. Everything else is a wash. We have to contain Harden and Manu will need some help.

  • http://405thunder.blogspot.com 405 Thunder

    @Tyler

    Oh, I’m not going to dispute that the midrange jumper isn’t a bad shot. And, letting Russ take it isn’t a terrible strategy, I’m just saying there are nights where he gets hot from there and it drives opponents (and especially their fans) crazy. I wasn’t trying to say the Thunder are going to win if they allow that shot, just a warning, because I’ve seen the reactions of the Lakers and Mavs fans when he’s getting to that spot and knocking it down.

    And your point about the Lakers not being the Spurs couldn’t be more correct. I was never worried about MWP guarding Durant this year. Kobe is their best perimeter defender, and he’s way past his prime on that end of the floor. I still think Durant can get his, but it will be tough to get he and Russ and Harden all going at the same time.

    My prediction is still Spurs in 6. The Thunder will have to win this series fast if they have any hope at all, and I just don’t see the Spurs letting that happen. I think OKC wins a game from the free throw line and a game where Harden goes off, and otherwise plays well, just not well enough.

    Either way, I hope to watch a fun series, and wish the best for everyone involved.

  • 21MVPSPURS

    OKC is special, however if we think back to years past, Phoenix had a great PG and big man(Nash and Stoudemire) and they were a vaunted offensive juggernaut. The Spurs allowed 1 of the 2, to go off and score 30+, in fact thinking back Stoudemire scored over 40 a couple of times. However the Spurs(Pop) knew that one player would not beat them over 7 games.
    This will hopefully be a great series and a win for the Spurs, this team reminds me of the 2005 team that could play defense or outscore you, they are not as great defensively, but they make you play their game and quite honestly the 8-10 pt runs they have in a minute really kill teams morale.
    OKC will be up for the challenge as they are very good, but I really feel the SPurs will take away two of their big 3 every night and Manu will make Harden work very hard, something OKC did not face in the regular season.
    Kawhi, Manu, Jack, Danny Green, Red Rocket and Gary Neal hold the key, if they can contribute and keep Tony fresh, I think the SPURS win it!
    GO SPURS GO!!!

  • Tyler

    @ 405 Thunder

    Agreed on Westbrook. If he gets it going and starts knocking down long 2’s, it’ll be a much tougher series for the Spurs to win. I just think the Spurs will do enough defensively to make him uncomfortable, similar to what they did against CP3.

    As for Durant, he’s too talented not to get his 25-30 each night. He’s just that good. Similar to slowing down Kobe, the key is to make him work and not give him easy ones at the charity stripe.

    I’m really interested to see how the Thunder defend the Spurs’ PnR. IMO, this will be the deciding factor. The Spurs generate almost everything off the PnR, and if they continue to get the looks they’ve gotten the last 2 months, I don’t see OKC winning even 2 games. However, OKC does have the length and athleticism that previous Spurs’ opponents haven’t had. If they can cut down TP’s penetration and run the Spurs’ shooters off the 3pt line, they have a chance.

    Should be fun. SA is playing out-of-its-mind good right now. I think TP puts his stamp on this series. Spurs in 5.