The good defense, the bad defense and the 1-0 lead

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AT&T CENTER — For all the talk of Lob City and Lobs Angeles (my personal favorite), the Los Angeles Clippers aren’t quite the high flying team you’d expect. The other LA played at a pace (92 possesions per game) that ranked near the very bottom of the NBA during the regular season (25th out of 30 teams to be exact). They don’t even get all that many shots at the rim.

But during the Clippers’ 108-92 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of the teams’ second round playoff series, pushing the pace (thanks to a few Spurs turnovers) was all Los Angeles could do to slow down the freight train of execution that is the silver and black.

The Clippers outscored the Spurs 17-6 on fast break points and had a puncher’s chance of beating the Western Conference’s #1 seed. But a 30-23 third quarter advantage for the Spurs, in which the Clips didn’t net a single fast break point, created enough separation for San Antonio’s deep rotation to take a one game advantage in the series.

“We were a little sluggish at the beginning, especially at the defensive end,” Manu Ginobili said. “Then we picked up and from the second quarter on we improved.”

After a 29-29 tie in the first period, the Spurs had advantages of eight and seven points in the next two quarters, taking a 87-72 lead into the fourth.

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, however, didn’t quite agree with Manu’s assessment.

“Just because we won the game tonight doesn’t mean we played good defense,” Coach Pop said postgame.

While Pop is correct, the Spurs’ transition defense needs to improve greatly, the team’s half court defense was very effective. San Antonio held the Clippers to 41% shooting in the half court. That’s really good. That’s old school, it’s-still-called-the-SBC-Center good.

Friend of 48MoH Sebastian Pruiti pointed out on Twitter last night that the Spurs held Chris Paul to .778 points per possession on side pick-and-rolls in Game 1. These are possessions that Chris Paul finishes the play as the ball handler, whether it ends in a shot, assist, turnover, foul, etc. As Pruiti also pointed out, the Spurs were so good at defending it in the first half that the Clips ran that type of play only once in the second half.

Trends from Game 1 are pointing to an impending doom for the Clippers. If they can’t score in the half court, but don’t traditionally push the pace enough to score a lot in transition, what do they do? Play the starters more?

That may not be the answer. The Spurs starters had an offensive rating of 138.1 in Game 1 (138.1 points per 100 possessions). The Clippers starters had a defensive rating of 129 (129 points allowed per 100 possessions) and just a 100 OffRtg.

The Spurs had several days to prepare for the Clippers, far longer than Los Angeles had to recover from simply getting out of the first round. And while not all was perfect for the Spurs in Game 1, they’ve laid the foundation a short series by not only earning a 1-0 lead, but by taking away the Clippers strengths and leaving them with weapons not strong enough to strike a fatal blow.

  • senorglory

    Does it make sense for the Clippers to push the pace? Aren’t the Spurs accustomed to playing at a faster pace, and more efficiently to boot, than the Clippers? With pace and offensive efficiency as follows: Spurs at 94.9 and 108.5 vs. Clippers at 92.0 and 105.2. http://hoopdata.com/teamadvancedstats.aspx Or do those stats mean something else?

  • Tyler

    It’s all about PnR defense for both teams. And based on last night, it’s going to be a quick series. Even with TP struggling, the Spurs scored 108. What happens when the offense it crisp and doesn’t turn it over? 120 points? I thought the Spurs left 10-15 points on the table with missed layups, turnovers, etc. just in the first half. Good luck winning games if you gave to score 120+ a night…

    It’s been the story for LA the entire year – they simply can’t get stops consistently.

  • Tyler

    Also, it will be interesting to see what adjustments both teams make.

    Areas of focus for the Spurs – how to deal with the double team out of the PnR. This gave Tony some trouble. Also, how to deal with the pressure put on the Spurs’ backup PG. Just a guess, but I’d say 5 turnovers stemmed from the pressure Bledsoe and Williams’ applied.

    For the Clips – have to more efficient in the PnR. I’d expect Paul to be much more aggressive in trying to get to the rim. I felt he settled for too many contested jumpers. Also, Griffin needs to be more decisive when he catches. If he catches and holds it, the Spurs defense is able to get back into their spots. The easiest thing for a team to defend are isolation plays. He needs to take advantage of the defense when it’s moving. Defensively, they have to run guys off the 3 point line. Give up a couple 2′s if you have to. Treat the Spurs like the 7 Seconds or Less Suns – try to contain Parker, make him a jump shooter, and run guys off the 3 point line.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Yes they eliminated the Clips PNR but again transition defense or no transition defense they have plenty of time to get to the arc and defend Butler’s 3 point bombs. Just laziness or carelessness. Like I said in the other thread KL was part of that problem until Pop took him out and subbed SJ and he didn’t help either then Pop put KL back in shortly thereafter. Wouldn’t they think after 2 straight 3′s from Butler you would try to get off the arc or make him pass it off? The rest of his performance was great but he needs to defend Butler a little better.

  • rowen

    1. Neal bringing the ball up against Paul was painful to watch. Neal is simply overmatched, but that’s the luxury having both TP and Manu available.
    2. Pop will live with Caron Butler uncontested 3′s all game, if it means taking the ball from Griffin and Paul.
    3. Reason 932,102,301 that Pop is Obi-Wan Kenobi. even though the situation didn’t warrant it, he called for a Hack-a-Shaq on K-Mart. In the first (or second?) quarter of the first game in the series. on more thing that VDN has to consider every single time he’s thinking about bring in Jordan, Evans, or KMart.

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  • KG

    @rowen

    I think he called for the intentional foul because there was about 44 sec left in the quarter. The clippers would presumably run the clock down to get a 2-for-1 (maybe even unintentionally so). Instead , Pop elects to foul, which guarantees the Spurs 2 more possessions… while giving the Clippers two free throws from a poor free throw shooter (although he made both). It’s the kind of gamble that shows a lot of confidence in our offense… and I cannot think of any other coach in the league who would ever consider trying that. Pop is the best!

  • Tess

    Remember, the Clips had almost no prep for this game. We may see a better game 2 from them since they have a couple of nights to stay in San Antonio and get a little more rest and work more on their game plans.

    I suppose it’s possible that this is the best they’ve got, but I can’t believe we won’t see Chris Paul find a way to adjust and make some plays. He’s a truly incredible player.

  • Stijl

    @Tess
    As is Parker

    As far as the Clippers…
    Not surprising at all the Spurs pushed the tempo. (1)They do it well. (2)The Clippers probably were lacking the ability to hang 48 minutes in such a fast tempo. (3)Spurs were rested to play that type of game. (4)The more the Spurs keep it up…the less chance for recovery an already tired (and somewhat beat up) Clippers team will be able to adjust.

  • http://www.blitzsportsnetwork.com Frank

    @ KG and Rowen – The think that puzzled me about the Hack-A-Shaq on K-Mart is that REGGIE ‘FREAKING’ EVANS was in the game!! Why not foul him instead???!?!

  • http://www.blitzsportsnetwork.com Frank

    thing*

  • zainn

    http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nba-ball-dont-lie/shaving-picture-matt-bonner-head-could-net-young-013230150.html

    Off topic, but atleast something spurs related gets national attention!!

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