Advanced Scouting: San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks – A playoff preview?
San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks 7:30 CST March 18, 2011
According to basketball-reference, the Spurs have a 98.5% chance at making the playoffs and a 99.8% chance at beating out the Mavericks for the division title, but this game could be more than just sealing up playoff positioning.
Common wisdom suggests that the Spurs match up poorly against dominant bigs. Duncan’s been great defensively this year, but he derives most of his value as a help defender, often leaving Blair, McDyess and Bonner to match up against the opponent’s best scoring power forward or center. I was a little skeptical that this would be a significant factor, but to this point in the season, the Spurs have shown signs of struggling against elite teams with a prominent inside presence (albeit in a very very small sample size).
|Dirk/KG not injured||3-3||95||98.7|
The Spurs used the same lineup for the first 53 games of the season. Their success was often credited in part to this consistency. Finally, the Spurs switched things up and McDyess has started for the Spurs each of the last four games. The results haven’t been great so far, but the move might be predominantly to help the Spurs better match up with the aforementioned teams. McDyess figures to be the primary defender of Dirk Nowitzki tonight. My advanced scouting report on the Mavericks details strategy for defending Dirk.
How big of a deal is the Miami loss and the Spurs’ recent struggles
The Spurs’ 30 point loss to the Heat in Miami on Monday caused some to panic. There was growing sentiment that the Spurs are trending down. So should the Spurs be worried? Although there are some reasons for concern over the Spurs’ recent games, many causes of the Spurs recent struggles are cosmetic in nature.
We know that one game isn’t all that meaningful as a predictor. After all, the Spurs just beat the Heat by 30 just 10 days before their 30 point loss.
The Spurs have won 8 of their last 12, but have barely outscored their opposition in doing so. Over shorter periods of time, margin of victory is a much more useful predictor than record. There are some signs that the Spurs have struggled defensively as of late. Basically, the Spurs’ Defensive Rating is about 4 points worse than normal over their last 12 games. However, a couple factors that contribute to these poor defensive results are unlikely to continue.
First of all, opponents made free throws at an unmaintainable 84% rate. If we assume they had merely connected on these shots at a league average rate, the Spurs defensive rating over this span improves by close to 2 points.
Additionally, viewing these select 12 games is not an unbiased sample. Purposely starting with a poor game will make recent trends look artificially worse. The Spurs’ Defensive Rating over the last 11 games improves by more than a full point after removing the first game (against the Bulls). Of course, the poor performance against the Heat may have sparked concern about the Spurs defense, so including it in the data should be viewed skeptically. Once again, removing that game improves the Spurs defensive rating by more than a point.
Of course, we canâ€™t really ignore those games, especially the game against Miami. However, both matchups against Miami might not have been the mismatches the scoreboard indicates. In both games, good or bad outside shooting accounted for most of the difference. (Good shooting is highly inconsistent over a short period of time.)
The Spurs made 17 of 28 three point attempts in the first game. If they had made “only” made these shots at their season average of 40%, the Spurs would have scored nearly 18 points fewer. On Monday, the Spurs made only 6 of 22 three point attempts, while Miami connected on 23 of 24 free throw attempts and 15 of 26 jumpers from the 16-23 foot range. If both teams were successful from these three ranges at a rate similar to their season percentages, the Spurs would have scored 12 points more and the Heat 11 points fewer. Given the circumstances, I suppose a 7 point game would be much easier to swallow… but these shooting streaks are obviously a part of basketball.
The Spurs not only want to test their potential playoff lineup combinations, but I’m sure they will be looking for redemption.
A couple quotes
If you don’t believe this is an important game, check out some quotes I found:
“Everybody is going to talk about how this is just another game, (but) not for this team. Not for us. We struggled since the (All-Star) Break against teams that are right there in contention for a championship, so it’s a measuring stick for us — how far have we come?”
Antonio McDyess after the “longest practice day for the Spurs since training camp”
“A lot of the mistakes we made (on Monday), (Coach) wanted us to clean up going into the Dallas game. We feel this is a big game, so we wanted to clean up a lot of stuff.”
Dallas: 3.95 (8th)
San Antonio: 6.15 (4th)
Dallas Mavericks Player Ratings 3-17
|Player||G||MPG||USG%||Ortg||DRtg||WS/48||2 Yr APM|
San Antonio Spurs Player Ratings 3-17
|Player||G||MPG||USG%||Ortg||DRtg||WS/48||2 Yr APM|
Dallas Mavericks Player Trends 3-17
San Antonio Spurs Player Trends 3-17
Barea, Terry, Marion, Nowitzki, Haywood +62 in 341 minutes (+12.0 per 100 possessions)
Kidd, Stevenson, Butler, Nowitzki, Chandler +111 in 257 minutes (+24.1 per 100)
Kidd, Terry, Marion, Nowitzki, Chandler +54 in 143 minutes (+16.1 per 100)
Barea, Terry, Marion, Nowitzki, Mahinmi +52 in 99 minutes (+23.5 per 100)
Obviously, Caron Butler is out for the year. Peja Stojakovic is listed as doubtful and Brendan Haywood is questionable for tonightâ€™s matchup.
Parker, Ginobili, Jefferson, Blair, Duncan +147 in 669 minutes (+10.4 per 100)
Parker, Ginobili, Jefferson, McDyess, Duncan +29 in 147 minutes (+10.2 per 100)
Hill, Neal, Ginobili, Bonner, McDyess +65 in 101 minutes (+35.3 per 100)
After picking the Spurs for a ton of consecutive games, I’m leaning towards going against them for the second consecutive time. The Spurs seem to be gearing for the playoffs already, but it might be a temporary setback. Once again, this should be a good test to see if McDyess is a better matchup against the bigger teams.