Tim Duncan’s six points and why that might be a good thing
There aren’t too many nights Tim Duncan will be the lowest scoring big man on the team. Yet, that’s what he was in the Spurs’ 105-83 win over the Atlanta Hawks. Duncan scored just six points on 3-7 shooting in the victory, behind 17 points each from Matt Bonner and DeJuan Blair, and 16 from Tiago Splitter.
Your first instinct may be to think, “crap, that’s not good.” Mine was. Truth is, though, Duncan being the only big not in double figures (I’m not counting Malcolm Thomas here) might be a better indicator of the offense is running well.
Duncan himself can can be force fed in the post and reasonably expected to score. He doesn’t necessarily need a play run for him. The other three get their buckets in the constructs of the offense. Only occasionally do they score by their own devices. I think it’s practically impossible that all three end up above 15 points and it not be a function of the offense running smooth.
And looking at the numbers, the Spurs shot over 50% from the floor. Their offensive efficiency was 108.2, according to Hoopdata. The major glaring imperfection was the 20 turnovers, six of those belonging to Blair. If I may defend Mr. DeJuan for a moment, several of those came early in the game when I thought he was being overly aggressive and his decision making was skewed. He toned it down as the game wore on, but it shouldn’t become a habit. He doesn’t possess the ball long enough to justify multiple turnovers.
The Spurs had a lot of success running the side pick-and-roll on the left side of the floor against the Hawks. Early in the game Tony Parker came off the side screen and whipped a couple of bounce passes down low to open bigs. The first Duncan converted for a layup and the second Blair turned it over forcing a pass to Duncan. When the Hawks adjusted, the Spurs had open shots on the perimeter.
“They have good play sets and pick-and-roll play. They had us confused on pick-and-rolls,” Hawks forward Josh Smith said after the game. “Any kind of step in, they were finding [Bonner] with his quick release.”
Bonner shot 5-7 from 3-point range.
Tiago Splitter also impressed with his back to the basket game, as Tim Varner mentioned in the postgame recap. I can’t tell for sure, but it looks like Splitter has altered his release point on his hook shot some. It’s not higher like one might hope. Instead, I think he’s releasing the ball farther away from the basket, instead of out in front of his body. While not a great improvement, I think it’s keeping the ball and his release farther from the defender and, thus, giving it a better chance of actually going in. Which it did on Wednesday night.
No one will confuse him with Tim Duncan in the post, however. He still had two turnovers out of the post in four possessions, according to Synergy Sports. But with Splitter’s plethora of effective up-fakes, an improved hook shot should send Tiago to the free throw line more, where he’s hitting almost 73% on the season. We shall see.