Arnovitz on Tim Duncan’s defense
Over at TrueHoop, Kevin Arnovitz (with some help from David Thorpe) takes a look at Tim Duncan’s pick-and-roll defense. It’s been painfully obvious that the Steve Nash-Amare Stoudemire combination on pick-and-rolls has been killing the Spurs.
And now, Arnovitz has twisted the knife for you. As great of a defender Duncan was – and still is – he can no longer defend the NBA’s bread-and-butter play like he used to. And that, more than anything, is why the Suns have a 2-0 lead on the Spurs:
When you consider that in the closing minutes of Game 2, the Suns repeatedly chose to attack Duncan with Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire in a pick-and-roll situation, it’s a fair question to ask.
The Nash-Stoudemire high screen action is one of the most lethal weapons in basketball, but the frequency with which Phoenix deployed it against Duncan was disarming for anyone who’s watched the future Hall of Famer play defense since his days at Wake Forest. In his prime, few big men multitasked pick-and-roll defense the way Duncan could. He had both the intuition, reaction and agility to harass the craftiest ball-handlers, while simultaneously checking the screener. Duncan almost always seemed to guess right — but it wasn’t guesswork at all. Duncan’s instincts guided his movement on the defensive end of the floor.
Wednesday night in Game 2, Duncan seemed ill-equipped to deal with the speed and precision of Nash and Stoudemire, and the Suns made the Spurs pay for that vulnerability. Time catches up with every athlete — ask anyone who watched Willie Mays stumble around in centerfield in Shea Stadium during his twilight years. Duncan certainly isn’t that desperate. Even at his most exposed, he’s no worse than average for an NBA big man on the pick-and-roll. Still, his Game 2 performance clearly suggests that Duncan is no longer an asset in this capacity, at least not in the Spurs’ current defensive scheme.
Ouch. I’m going to go find a YouTube clip of Game 6 of the 2003 NBA Finals to try and feel better. Thanks Kevin.