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.

  • Colin


    Match-ups…..gotcha, how about missed free throws? Switching screens? Blowing 18 pt leads in the first half? Goran Dragic going ape-shit? Hairston, Mahinmi, etc, etc. would have made zero difference in a game like this. We needed our players to play up to par. RJ=no show. Hill=sub-par. Duncan=B game. Parker=B+ after first half. We have players to match up. Spurs needed to make free throws, defense with more intensity, and fight through screens to make life hard on the ball-handler instead of what we saw tonight.

  • Jim Henderson

    May 7th, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    Try not to take it so personal. Really, it’s not the end of the world. Cheer up. I’m sure RJ means well. It just really hasn’t worked out for him or us. It will all get better before too long. Try to be grateful for all the success we’ve had over the years. On the other hand, the Suns have had more than their share of bitter defeats. Maybe it’s just their time in the sun (no pun intended).

  • Colin

    This is the championship for the Suns.

  • lvmainman

    Hairston could have been the difference maker if he’d played after Jefferson went 1 for 7 in the 1st half.

    Hairston was the difference maker in the last win at Oklahoma City by shutting down Kevin Durant in the 3rd period.

    Hairston wasn’t a difference maker because Pop refused to give him an opportunity to do so.

  • Easy B

    Its hard being wrong….I definitely thought we could handle this team, despite the offensive firepower they have…Our bench has really been exposed as being lacking in shooting and athleticism and overall spark (blair an exception)
    It’d be nice if we could get a W next game and at least give ourselves another crack at a road win. Can’t lose 4 zip, that would be embarrassing.
    Seeing the Suns handle the spurs this way…I bet the lakers wish they still had Ariza…

  • Jacob


    Exactly… Phoenix fans can hang their hat on the law of averages finally panning out in their favor (poor bitter bastards). Phoenix will go on to play LA and probably lose, but certainly lose to a far superior Orlando team in the Finals, should they see it that far.

  • Colin


    Sounds like wishful thinking. We’ll see what Hairston does next season. Besides, Kevin Durant doesn’t play for the Suns.

  • lvmainman

    Popovich tell the bigs to hedge on the screens at the top of the key, and then go back to their man. Force the point guard away from the basket, and go back to guarding big on big and small on small.

    Stop the Blair on Barbosa, Duncan on Nash, Blair on Richardson, Duncan on Hill matchups.

    Tell Hairston to suit up to get some of Jefferson’s minutes and Hill’s minutes to stop the layup, post ups on Hill and the missed dunks from Jefferson.

  • SilverAndBlack

    While I still can’t say the Suns have better players than the Spurs, it’s true that the Suns are just playing better. Their gameplan is just flat-out better executed in the most pivotal stretches of the games…and of course, they have that one role player giving them the spark—something the spurs had in the Mavs series. Now, I don’t see the 0-3 deficit as being the death sentence that everyone else sees.

    We will have 2 things going for us, if that’s ever going to happen:
    1) We need to blow them out the water in game 4, to reinstill life in our team and to dampen their high-level of confidence
    2) We have history on our side of ‘ridiculousness’ against the suns —unless, like most things in life with time, our mojo’s just run out of magic.

  • BigBalls

    1) Pop loses another game.

    2) Tim Duncan is a liability.

    3) Again, Again, Again, Again – I’ve told you knuckle heads, Duncan, Ginobli, Parker need to get in the weight room.

    4) Bonner is not an NBA player.

    5) Are you kidding me? An experienced NBA coach will go into the post season playoffs with no bench, no front court depth?

    6) Truth Revealed — Pop was nothing more than a free loader on those Championship teams. He road the coat tails of the Lil General Avery, David and a young, interested Duncan. Now, its as if this Pop fellow has never coached a basketball game in his life.

    7) I am now vomiting all over my shoes, what a sorry, pitiful, losers effort.

  • Rafa

    Jim Henderson
    @ 8:49

    You couldn’t be more right. What you say is true. The Spurs, throughout the years, have given me some of the happiest memories of my life (and I’m a pretty happy guy).
    They’ve made my relationship with my father stronger and they’ve taught me a thing or two about having confidence in people that I don’t even know personally.
    I get a bit emotional with our guys that’s all. They’re better than this. But quite frankly, this Suns team…. My RESPECTS. They’re really good.

    I for one will be rooting for them…. I’m serious

    Having said that…. It’d be nice to be the first NBA team to come back from a 3-0 deficit wouldn’t it?

    Who’s with me?!

  • BigBalls

    I Bet all of the Spuzs, including Pop, show more creativity, passion and enthusiasm when they are hitting their bongs – then that crap I saw tonight!

    If Roger Mason Jr. plays again this season, I am going to go on a hunger strike until he is cut. No trade — I want him CUT. If there is anything left on his contract, I’d like to see him refund the monies in full back to the Spuzs.

  • DB


    I’ve been reading these posts, and I know that it’s a tough pill to swallow, but the Suns have absolutely had an answer (and then some) for everything that Pop has tried to do.

    I don’t understand why Duncan continues to switch onto Nash, as I can’t remember the last time that he didn’t either take him to the hoop for a layup, or step back for an automatic jumper.

    Also, it’s painfully obvious that the Suns have finally become incredibly deep, to the point that Nash didn’t even have to play for about 10 minutes of the 4th quarter.

    I think Pop made it abundantly clear that, in years past, he was confident that the Suns couldn’t get stops, and they would eventually just out-execute and outscore them. Well, that’s not the case this year.

    It’s been a hell of a ride, but I think it’s obvious that this might be about the end of the line. The Suns are playing their backsides off right now, and I just hope that, if and when they do clinch the series, that they can beat those damned Lakers!

  • Bushka

    Calm down fellas…

    calm..the..f*** down :)

    Half way through the season I was worried we wouldn’t even make the playoffs, we have had one very good series and we’ve not got the horses to get any further. Such is life.

    We still have at least one game to look forward to this season.

    I am really really enjoying the way the suns are playing, they constantly remind me of the old spurs style of play, they Defend the pick and roll very well which has surprised me no end.

    I would love to see us control tempo just for one game, and maintain poise with constant post work from Tim / Dejaun.

  • Manolo Pedralvez

    How now San Antonio cow? The rock has been cracked, folks, to smithereens by these blazing Suns, who, to a man, have outhustled, outsmarted, outplayed the silver and black for the last three games. The only consolation is that the opposing coach – Alvin Gentry- has a Spurs pedigree, which we can be proud of – or humiliated seeing the Spurs being beaten at their own game.
    Four straight wins? That’s like shooting for the moon. And yes, it was sad to see TD on the defensive decline, with Steve Nash using him as the crosshairs of his pullback jumpers – all four of them. There was perhaps a time when Timmy still had the speed and the lift to swat those away like flies; not anymore. Those seven bricks he had also were like deadweight on a team trying to break away from the ravaging Phoenix.
    These Suns are feisty and nasty as the former Spurs were, and deep enough to pull the rug on the defending champion on the Los Angeles Lakers once they hurdle the Utah Jazz.
    Are we throwing in the towel? Nope, only being realistic. An 0-3 hole that no team that NBA has ever recovered from will that to you. Game 4 could be the Spurs’ season farewell, let’s all enjoy – or agonize anew – for all its worth.

  • I peep a sweep

    For real it has been a good season,
    manu g’nosebleed played pretty great

    too bad you have a couple more years to pay that richard jefferson guy, hes pretty horrible.
    also i really like blair- he is awesome…. i’d love it if you taught him to play some or any defense… and then trade him to a team that gets on national tv a little

    once duncan fully breaks down you guys are going to be the minneapolis of texas. your most famous landmark is an old barn
    now it’s your turn to watch, end of a decade.

    you guys have been good
    thanks for the memories, and giving up the single greatest 4th quarter in nba playoff history to our backup point guard (that the spurs drafted)

  • DB

    Pop is a HOF coach, but this team isn’t ready to beat this Suns team. Too good, too fast, just all around better……

    All I’m saying is SUCK IT SPURS FANS!!!



  • spurscantonguemyahole

    I think we can finally say that it’s all over but the crying! I look forward to the people that still try to say that the teams are “equal” and rationalizing about how the Spurs can come back from any deficit, and blah, blah, blah…..

    After we DUST off the Spurs, we focus on the Lakers, who will undoubtedly be tough. However, thanks to the rest that you guys have afforded us, we will be just fine.

    It’s been fun!

    P.S. BTW, that was dripping with sarcasm, it hasn’t really been that fun…..

  • lvmainman

    Watched the ESPN replay, the Spurs were up 66-61 with 4 minutes left in the 3rd qtr and Pop calls timeout after a Nash jumpshot off a handoff from a big. Pop then changed the defensive strategy to switch all screens and have big men guard little men. The game went downhill from there.

    Pop f….ed it up. Plain and simple.

    Again force the bigs to hedge the dribbler and then go back to your man. If Grant Hill catches as an outlet from the trap, don’t rotate to him, let whoever guards him get back to him. Duncan will get tired, so Blair will have to play more minutes. But, for the sake of winning basketball games stop switching bigs on guards.

  • spurscantonguemyahole

    Also, it would be nice to get in touch with Jesse Blanchard, since he has no problem talking garbage when he thinks he’s right.

    Suns up now 3-0, and the bench has absolutely DOMINATED. I know you think I was coming on here trying to start trouble, but all I was saying was 100% true.

    If you’re up for it, let me know how to contact you for a back-and-forth on the Suns/Lakers Western Conference Final.


  • Cwnanwn


    Please, just shut it. I didn’t think anything could lessen the fun of that game I just watched, but seeing a Suns fan act so ungracious and classless (again, for what seems the 100th time) has done it.

    Yes, I want see the Suns extract a little revenge, and perhaps even sweep. I want to see us go through or over the Spurs, and get a title for us. Perhaps even four. In other words, I want it to be our turn to be the Spurs. I want to see everyone who doubted that this Suns team was different from years past admit they were wrong. But in the process I’d hope our team and our fans could be as classy as the Spurs and their fans have always been. So just stop.

    Besides, our Suns still need one more. I’m not popping the champagne till we have 4 wins in this series.

  • Gomezd

    “But, for the sake of winning basketball games stop switching bigs on guards.”

    Couldnt agree more, I hated it.

  • Jacob


    have fun little guy, this is your championship… enjoy it =)

  • Brian

    If I’m a Spurs fan, last night’s game really was 48 minutes of hell…

  • drew

    my favorite part about this whole thing is that it took a 3-0 series lead for suns fans to start commenting on this site…

  • Jim Henderson

    May 7th, 2010 at 11:08 pm

    “I would love to see us control tempo just for one game, and maintain poise with constant post work from Tim / Dejaun.”

    With our experienced, accomplished lead players & coach, is such a relatively simple request that much to ask for? It simply takes team discipline to execute such a basic game plan. But apparently we don’t have it. Very disappointing & inexplicable to me.

  • Jesse Blanchard


    I’m not sure where I was “talking garbage”, but getting in touch is easy–I’ll be writing here at 48MoH even after this series plays out to its logical conclusion.

    As for being right or wrong, the only things I’ve said that can be construed as negative towards the Suns is that

    a.) this is not a rivalry–and I maintain that. Even in defeat, I really can’t muster any ill-feelings towards the Suns like I would say the Mavs or Lakers. Disappointment? Sure. But hatred that would constitute a rivalry? Not so much.

    b.) Role players tend to leave their games at home. And this was true for much of the game. Blair and Bonner were appreciably better in the first half while Frye, Dudley and Dragic were non-factors. It wasn’t until it became apparent that the Spurs were not going to pull away (more through their own faults than the Suns) that the Suns bench gained confidence and took the game.

  • Manolo Pedralvez

    Indeed, let the Suns fan gloat all he want: relish it, cherish it, medidate on it, morning, noon and night. We all have our vicarious thrills and satisfactions. Until you realize for all your posturings, there is one thing that Planet Orange inhabitants don’t have: a title. Till then, you may rant all you want, because, like it or not, San Antonio will be chipping away once again to their next championship. That’s the Spurs’ standard and mindset, a level of excellence that small minds may not comprehend.
    Which is why we San Antonio aficionados, come hell or high water – or an eclipse if you want – will never abandon them. There are no fair weather Spurs fans on this website and we’ll keep on plugging for San Antonio when you’ve grown tired of your baiting and railing – all sound and fury signifying nothing. Comprende?

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  • Bruce

    Watched the ESPN replay, the Spurs were up 66-61 with 4 minutes left in the 3rd qtr and Pop calls timeout after a Nash jumpshot off a handoff from a big. Pop then changed the defensive strategy to switch all screens and have big men guard little men. The game went downhill from there.

    Pop f….ed it up. Plain and simple.

    Again force the bigs to hedge the dribbler and then go back to your man. If Grant Hill catches as an outlet from the trap, don’t rotate to him, let whoever guards him get back to him. Duncan will get tired, so Blair will have to play more minutes. But, for the sake of winning basketball games stop switching bigs on guards.

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