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. Houstonâ€™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 wouldnâ€™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 couldnâ€™t finish? Iâ€™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.)
Houston Rockets: 1.50 (13th)
San Antonio: 6.56 (1st)
Rockets Player Ratings 3-11
|Player||G||MPG||USG%||ORtg||DRtg||WS/48||2 Yr APM|
Spurs Player Ratings 3-11
|Player||G||MPG||USG%||Ortg||DRtg||WS/48||2 Yr APM|
Player trends, based on Efficiency per 48 minutes:
Rockets Player Trends 3-11
Spurs Player Trends 3-11
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 tonightâ€™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)
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.