Advanced Scouting: San Antonio Spurs at Houston Rockets


San Antonio Spurs at Houston Rockets 7:30 CST March 12, 2011

Last week was exam crunch time for me. The Spurs managed to pass two small tests this week against the Pistons (111-104) on Wednesday and the Kings (108-103) on Friday, but the matchup against the Rockets tonight should prove to be a tougher task.

The Spurs won both matchups against the Rockets in San Antonio this season, but this time the Spurs will be the visitors. The Rockets also changed a couple pieces since their last meeting. A 32 year old Shane Battier and Ishmael Smith were traded to Memphis while Aaron Brooks was shipped to Phoenix. The Rockets received Goran Dragic, DeMarre Carroll and Hasheem Thabeet and two future 1st round pick as compensation. In limited minutes Dragic has been more efficient with Houston while Thabeet has only contributed 4 minutes. Despite the apparent future perspective motivating these moves, the Rockets currently have a 17% chance to make the playoffs according to basketball-reference.

Although Scola is questionable for tonight’s game, most other contributors remain in place. My advanced scouting report on the Rockets discusses a potential strategy for the Spurs.

Unlike the Spurs, the Rockets are not known for running the pick and roll. However, the two times these teams met, the Rockets ran that play type more frequently than the Spurs. In total, the Rockets ran pick and rolls 50% more frequently than their typical rate. Despite this preference for the pick and roll, it didn’t really work. Houston’s ball handlers only scored 27 points on 37 pick and rolls. Although Rockets ball handlers were unable to score on the pick and roll, the roll man did contribute an additional 22 points on 17 possessions. The Rockets also had success crashing the boards. They had 40% more putbacks than thier season average and scored 22 points on 21 such plays.

The Spurs has significant advantages in a couple efficient play types. The transition game led to a 42-24 advantage for San Antonio. Throughout the season, the Rockets score on cuts more frequently than the Spurs, but the Spurs also held a 24-19 advantage on those plays. The Spurs ran isolation sets at about 60% of their typical frequency, but did average 1.13 points per possessions on these plays.

Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Richard Jefferson led the Spurs offense when the Rockets came to town this season. Jefferson averaged 20 PPG, thanks in large part to 6 of 8 shooting on three point attempts. Manu averaged 25, making over 50% of his field goal attempts while shooting a combined 8 of 17 from three point range. Despite his scoring successes, Manu was only able to make 2 layups and both required the assistance of his teammates. I wouldn’t expect Manu to be able to continue making such a high percentage of difficult shots. However, with Battier gone and no shot blocker in sight (Battier still comfortably leads the Rockets lead in blocks), it might be easier for him to get to the rim.

Parker also averaged 19 PPG and nearly 10 APG in these two games. 7 of Parker’s assists resulted in layups or dunks for his fellow Spurs. Surprisingly, Parker only made 7 of his own 16 layups. Is this a good sign that he was getting to the rim or a bad sign that he couldn’t finish? I’d say a bit of both, but overall I expect this pattern to lead to more good than bad.

For the Rockets, Hayes was the primary catalyst on the boards. He grabbed 9 offensive in 56 minutes of play in San Antonio. The Spurs should be very aware of his presence when the Rockets shoot.

Lowry only played the second of these games but was a difference maker. He contributed 7 assists (3 on layups or dunks) and scored 15 points on 11 shots (creating 3 layups for himself). Lowry’s impact could have been even greater had he made more than 2 of 5 free throws and 1 of 5 threes. (Lowry has improved as a three point threat this season.)

Key Statistics

SRS ranks:

Houston Rockets: 1.50 (13th)
San Antonio: 6.56 (1st)

Player summary statistics from and

Rockets Player Ratings 3-11

Luis Scola6532.825.81081090.109-1.36
Kyle Lowry6233.218.21151110.1236.12
Kevin Martin6431.329.51181120.182-3.6
Shane Battier5930.812.31161090.0994.04
Chuck Hayes5825.912.61221070.1473.91
Courtney Lee6519.518.21091120.077-1.73
Chase Budinger6319.920.41101100.0950.38
Jordan Hill5816.717.31031100.059-5.52
Brad Miller5117.316.61181090.142-0.36
Aaron Brooks3423.926.1991140.016-3.47
Patrick Patterson3613.516.21181100.125N/A
Jared Jeffries2411.810.4911090.0094.53
Terrence Williams2113.824.880109-0.094-3.39
Goran Dragic5417.424.1951100.006-4.11

Spurs Player Ratings 3-11

PlayerGMPGUSG%OrtgDRtgWS/482 Yr APM
Tony Parker6332.225.11141060.169-0.63
Richard Jefferson6430.815.61161070.123-1.18
Manu Ginobili6530.826.41161040.2045.16
Tim Duncan6528.623109990.1676.03
George Hill5928.117.81161060.141-1.65
DeJuan Blair652220.4105990.1350.3
Matt Bonner4921.912.81331070.1693.41
Gary Neal6320.520.21101080.108-0.65
Antonio McDyess5917.914.81041020.1052.86
James Anderson1712.814.61121090.092N/A
Tiago Splitter4611.217.61111030.139N/A
Chris Quinn396.616.4961080.03N/A
Steve Novak11715.41411090.206N/A

Player trends, based on Efficiency per 48 minutes:

Rockets Player Trends 3-11

PlayerSeasonLast 10Increase
Goran Dragic18.5289.5
Kyle Lowry23.431.48
Patrick Patterson2531.86.8
Courtney Lee18.5212.5
Chase Budinger22.324.21.9
Kevin Martin27.427.90.5
Chuck Hayes26.726.90.2
Luis Scola28.827.9-0.9
Brad Miller26.625.7-0.9
Jordan Hill21.518.8-2.7
Jared Jeffries13.610.7-2.9
Terrence Williams15.27.5-7.7

Spurs Player Trends 3-11

PlayerSeasonLast 10Increase
Gary Neal19.125.16
Tiago Splitter22.124.32.2
Matt Bonner20.722.51.8
Manu Ginobili28.429.61.2
Steve Novak20.6210.4
Antonio McDyess23.122.6-0.5
DeJuan Blair27.926.1-1.8
Tony Parker27.325.5-1.8
Tim Duncan32.530.7-1.8
George Hill22.419.3-3.1
Richard Jefferson17.914.2-3.7
James Anderson149.8-4.2
Chris Quinn12.35.7-6.6

Lineup data

Most valuable/utilized lineups:

Lowry, Martin, Battier, Scola, Hayes +160 in 797 minutes (+9.7 per 100 possessions)
Lowry, Martin, Budinger, Scola, Hayes +35 in 142 minutes (+10.7 per 100)
Dragic, Lee, Budinger, Patterson, Miller +15 in 32 minutes (+23.1 per 100)
Luis Scola is listed as questionable for tonight’s game and Shane Battier was recently traded to the Memphis Grizzlies.

Parker, Ginobili, Jefferson, Blair, Duncan +147 in 669 minutes (+10.4 per 100)
Hill, Neal, Ginobili, Bonner, McDyess +65 in 101 minutes (+35.3 per 100)

The Pick

Spurs, but not by much

This should be a tougher matchup than it appears on paper. The Spurs will be playing on the road and facing a back to back. On top of that, the incentive for the Spurs to play their best players decreases as their chances to clinch the top spot in the west increases. The presence of a healthy Luis Scola could even swing the probabilities in the Rockets favor.

  • TD = Best EVER

    Not felling to good about playing a team at home that has actually been known to put up some points…….. We need out Defense to try and win tonight’s game…. As in hold Houston to 90-95 points on 45% or lower shooting…… And keep them off the GLASS….. if we do that. no matter what the score is I will take it as a great game……. We don’t have much time to flip that Defensive switch and every game we go without flipping it, It will become harder and harder to break the bad defensive habits that we have picked up……..

  • rj

    i think we will be ok tonight. i expect to see splitter in action tonight, but other than that, a “W”. however, we need to see some better defensive play.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Comon, TD=Best Ever this is an easy win. It better be. Without Scola tonight? The pieces they got in return for what left doesn’t equal out. At least not this season yet. Demarre was beast in college but hasn’t done squat yet. But wait till next year if Jordan Hill and Demarre Carroll explode then they’ll have something going on. Jordan is someone to contend with right now and better than Demarcus Cousins right now. Imagine they traded Splitter to Houston next season. That would be interesting. Although in regards for tonight should be an easy win.

  • Titletown99030507d

    @TD=Best Ever,

    Guess you figured out by now I’m a Splitter fan.

    #1 – Spurs fan
    #2 – Splitter fan

    #3 – Splitter needs a job.

  • Hicksman

    The guys up the road always seem to give us trouble!! Lets start building on the SAC game and start building some momentum into the play-offs!!
    @ TD = Best Ever we need the defense to start winning us all the remaining games. As we all know and have seen time and time again (ask Dallas or Suns) Offense DOES NOT win chips may give you a great reg season but thats not what we’re here for!! If we give a good rebounding a defensive effort the SPURS will be fine
    GO SPURS GO!!!

  • Nima K.

    Scola’s out? Good.

    Hope Splitter gets some minutes. Pop, rest the first unit.

    Btw, did anyone see the “Aladdin” clip about Nando De Colo on Spurs Nation? The dude actually rubs a lamp!

    I wonder what he thinks of The Spurs considering what’s been happening to Splitter. And then there’s Parker. If DeColo turns out to be close to a TP 2.0, maybe we should trade TP for a solid big, bring DeColo here, and train him as a replacement for TP?
    Don’t get me wrong, I live TP, but if ND is as good as they claim he is (was it Pop that said he’s currently France’s best PG after TP?), then we should capitalize on this assett and somehow use it to our advantage. We could trade one of them (ND or TP), to get something we’ll be needing down the road.


  • Nima K.

    Live TP –> love TP.

    Stupid iPhone spellchecker.

  • Jacques

    It’s going to take years for Nando to become a legit PG, and we don’t have time to do that when Timmy’s days are limited.

  • rj

    i hear de colo is tremendously unathletic and cannot defend at the nba level. to trade parker and start de colo is absurd. tp is our only continuing all star. if we want any shot at a play off contending season after duncan retires, tony parker is the guy. my question is, will we be able to keep the young talent we do have once this team declines. funny how i say “decline”. i’ve been waiting 3 seasons and it still hasn’t happened :)

  • Titletown99030507d

    @Nima K,

    Yeah those phone spell checkers can be a piece of crappy.

  • Titletown99030507d


    This will undoubtedly be Tony’s team When Timmy and Manu are gone. But how much longer can Tony go after Timmy and Manu are gone?

  • Titletown99030507d


    If your posting tonight since his name has come up, do you know anything new on DeColo in regards to his game?

  • TD = Best EVER

    The problem with the thought that TP will run the team 3 years or so from now is that TP at 28 and healthy is a top 7-8 PG in the NBA…….TP biggest advantage is his quickness…… the one man fast break…..If he looses a step does he still have this, and I know his jumper is getting better, but will it be good enough to cover his decline in speed……..I’m of the point that a 32 year old TP will not be nearly as good as a32 year old Manu/TP because of the lack of athleticism that Manu has had in his career. And the lack of skill that TD has shown….. TD has lost several steps at his age……. Can you picture TP when he looses a step or 2, does he have TD’s post moves to still get it done, or will he just be a shooter at that point in his career…….

  • Nima K.

    Of course my suggestion for trading TP or DeColo wasn’t intended for this season, but rather down the line in 2 or 3 seasons, after TD rides into sunset.for now, I’m a believer in team chemistry. Don’t wanna mess with that :-)

  • Nima K.


    I suspect DeColo has something in him of value, otherwise why choose his rights in the draft to begin with?

    Ppl have also been saying Splitter’s not athletic enough for the NBA. But I think eventually he’ll blossom, if not here, then on some other team. He would already be playing longer minutes if it weren’t for Pop’s notorious rookiephbia. Lol.

    Still, who am I to question Pop. Even ESPN called him the league’s best coach just last night. Hail,,,hail,,,

  • Titletown99030507d

    @TD=Best Ever,

    Tony will have to rely on being a true point guard and concentrate on feeding the team primarily like Jason Kidd has and maybe pull the 3 point shot out of his pocket here and there. And Kidd is older than the earth and he’s still damn good. I think if Tony can do this and having great NBA experience he’ll be ok late in his career.

  • Bruno

    I hate Bonner+Blair playing together. Pop really think Splitter can play worst than Bonner??I think is impossible, Bonner without his 3pt is nothing, Splitter at least have height and draws charges

  • Mano E Manu

    Anyone else expect the Spurs to become the Rockets in a few years?

    Neal, Hill, Blair, and old Parker. That’s not a good look. The Spurs run over the last 12 years is fantastic, but the element that put them over was extreme success in the draft. Robinson 1st, Duncan 1st, Parker 28th, and Manu 57th. The first two are the clear number 1s of their drafts, and Parker and Manu were late-pick all-stars.

    I know the Spurs front office is extremely good with their picks, but the Spurs managed to make the best second round pick of all time, AND had the luck to find a player with a very unique and complementary skill-set in Parker, himself a potential all star. And it only took 5 years.

    I just don’t know that a team can do that consistently, even the best managed team in the league.

  • grego

    @Mano E Manu – they have to luck into more draft picks, but that’s still poor odds. You don’t have a Tim Duncan land in your lap often.

    However, Spurs can still re-build and become a playoff team. Their draft of Ryan Richards is a good risk for the future unit.

    They’ll probably learn more on the D-League in the future and those guys will likely see more time in the future.

  • Mr. International

    As much as I hate when the Spurs give up 100+, they clamped down on D in crunch time on the road. Good sign.

  • Rafael

    @Mano E Manu

    Spurs drafted a lot more of good players but sell them: Scola, Barbosa, Salmons, Dragic, Turkoglu, all these players can score 15-20 points per game.
    Hope that Splitter will become one 15-20 pt/ 8-12 reb

  • Chris in Phoenix

    If this is the SPURS’ shortest road trip game of the NBA season when they travel to Houston- do they fly to Houston? Or do they just take a team chartered bus the short 2 1/2 hours to Houston? Do they actually spend the night with no game on Sunday and San Antonio being so close?

  • Nima K.

    Miami is all pumped up and ready for vengeance:;jsessionid=44E9D846B20C4789B94F664BE965EB18?contentguid=yEOw2o3Z

    If we lose, I hope it’ll be close.

    But if we win, to me, that’ll prove that our 54-12 record isn’t stemming from luck and easy scheduling, like the media pundits keep implying. A win against a worked up Miami in Miami is a seal of approval to our competency. And if we beat Dallas On Friday, it proves beyond doubt that we’re truly a contender for the 2011 title.

    Let’s see what happens.

  • betsyduncan

    Sure hope we don’t melt from the ‘heat’ on Monday. If we don’t come out with the proper focus, they may embarrass us like the Fakers did. Here’s to a competitive game!
    We’ll have several days to prep for the ‘Wrecks—so I feel somewhat confident about that game. Sure hope we can make both teams cry!