Advanced Scouting: San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Lakers

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San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Lakers 9:30 CST February 3, 2011

The Spurs took on the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers on December 28. This game, the champs were no match for the West’s top gun of the first half. San Antonio came away victorious by the score of 97-82.

The theme of the night was shutting down the star scorers. For the Spurs, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan combined to 4 of 19, while only making 1 free throw. However, Manu and George Hill were very instrumental in holding Kobe Bryant to 8 of 27 shooting and two made free throws in addition to 5 turnovers (Kobe also assisted on just 1 basket). Hill had 4 blocks and 2 steals while Manu finished with 3 steals and 1 block. In addition to the Spurs stellar perimeter defense, Tim Duncan’s defense (and Kobe’s trigger finger) helped limit Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol to 9 points a piece. My scouting report on the Lakers suggested the Spurs try to entice Kobe to fall in love with the 2 point jumper.

One major advantage the Spurs had over the Lakers in this game was the fast break. The Spurs produced 19 points compared to the Lakers 5 points on the break. The Lakers were very reliant on isolations, using this playtype on 25 possessions and scoring only 18. The Spurs got easier shots in the half court, 31 spots ups versus LA’s 17. However, neither team was able to convert these typically easy shots. Both clubs averaged an abysmal 0.65 points per possession on spot ups. Shannon Brown also struggled shooting the ball for the Lakers, shooting 1 of 11. A couple players that did make positive offensive contributions for San Antonio were Tony Parker and Dejuan Blair. Parker made 10 of his 18 field goal attempts for 23 points and Blair hit 8 of 14 to go with 15 rebounds.

Kobe has improved his efficiency numbers since shooting 8-27 against the Spurs. His FG%, which was 44% after the Spurs matchup, has been nearly 51% since that game. Kobe has also continued to exceed an impressive 7 free throw attempts per game and a reasonably low turnover rate. With Kobe’s improved shooting, the Lakers found greater success. After the loss in San Antonio, the Lakers had lost 3 in a row and 8 of their last 16. They immediately won 12 of their next 15, with Kobe shooting less and converting at a higher rate. Although he played efficiently in the two following games against Sacramento and Boston, the Lakers lost both. In these two losses, Bryant took 56 shots and scored 79 points. These Lakers failures combined with the large quantity of Bryant attempts stirred up whispers once again that his domination of the ball was bad for the team no matter how effective he played.

I’ve seen others mention the Lakers poor record in games when Kobe shoots more than 30 attempts as proof of this theory. 39 wins and 55 losses sounds like a pretty convincing argument at first, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Sure Jordan (72-57) and Lebron (14-12) have managed winning records in this situation, but it’s plausible that Kobe is more likely to increase his shot attempts when a comeback is more unlikely. This would only serve to help his heroic perception (and provide occasional backlash).

The quickest and best way I thought of testing if opponents REALLY want Kobe to take more shots going into a game was to utilizing only the first quarter, before a change in game plan really needed to be made. Using data from 2005-06 to last season, I took Kobe’s 30 games with the most field goal attempts (averaging 15.8 per quarter). In contrast to the misleading suggestions of the above figures, the Lakers outscored opponents by an average score of 28.4-24.5 and won 22 of these quarters. This translates to 113.5-98.

Clearly it would be tough for him to manage that high usage rate, and although all measurements have errors, the answer should be more obvious: You DO NOT want Kobe shooting more.

Based on the clutch statistics quoted by Henry Abbott, (and other data and games I’ve seen), I do suspect that Kobe takes tougher shots (which are easier to get off) once the game gets tight or out of hand. As mentioned in my Lakers scouting report, Bryant does seem able to be enticed to take the shot you offer him, even if they are low percentage attempts. Just beware, his shot selection has improved this year and especially recently (fewer long twos and more shots inside 10 feet).

Key Statistics

SRS ranks:

LA Lakers: 6.02 (4th)
San Antonio: 7.16 (1st)

Key Player Statistics (courtesy of 82games.com (effective January 19, 2011) and basketballvalue.com (effective February 1, 2011):

PlayerFraction of teams minutesPER minus Counterpart PEROn court +/-per 48 minutesOff court +/-per 48 minutes2 Year Adjusted +/-
Udrih0.68-0.3-6.2-4.5-0.9
Evans0.670.2-5.9-5.2-3.3
Landry0.57-1.1-6.5-4.6-3.9
Cousins0.54-6-7.8-3.1-1.6
Casspi0.44-4.3-2.6-8.11.7
Garcia0.43-0.4-5.2-6-0.9
Dalembert0.39-0.5-4.3-6.5-2.2
Thompson0.38-0.5-5.7-5.60.1
Greene0.29-4.7-5.8-5.61.0
Jeter0.22-4.3-3.4-6.3N/A
Head0.2-1-7.9-5.1-0.3

Most valuable/utilized lineups:

Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Odom, Gasol +165 in 665 (11.9 per 48)
Blake, Brown, Barnes, Odom, Gasol +65 in 139 (22.4 per 48)

The Pick

Tossup, slight edge to the Lakers

The Spurs are coming off a rough loss to the Portland Trail Blazersin which LaMarcus Aldridge scored 40 points. Hopefully the Spurs are motivated by this subpar performance, because if they aren’t, this “Rodeo Roadtrip” could get off to a very ugly start.

Of course, the Spurs currently have a 6.5 game cushion and staying healthy and finding the best playoff matchups are becoming increasingly more important, but the Lakers seem to be the Spurs most threatening rival. Although I don’t place much credence in “sending a message”, a loss tonight and a few more losses in their road trip preceding the all star game starts to make the one seed look kind of iffy.

The Lakers haven’t impressed lately, but no one will ever take them lightly. I think the Spurs are better, and Bynum’s absence should help, but home court seems to swing the advantage in the Lakers favor, if ever so slightly.

Although sending a message might not do much in terms of future wins and losses, a good game tonight could only help spark the national media attention this team has so richly deserved all season.

  • Carlos Martin

    GO SPURS !!!!!!!!!! Beat the Fakerz !

  • DorieStreet

    Odds are this is whom the Spurs have to beat to get the opportunity to win No. 5. Go ahead and get it started now. Everybody -from #21 to #11- bring your A game and get this victory.

  • Hobson13

    Since the Spurs screwed up the first game of the RRT, this one becomes much more important. I don’t want to say this is a must win game since it’s only February, but the road to the title goes through LA. If we lose tonight, the Lakers will only be 6 games behind us in the loss column. It’s not a foregone conclusion that we take the top seed. We need this game and so do the Lakers.

    P.S. Does anyone really believe this trade talk going on in LA or do you think the FO is trying to jolt its players into getting serious about the regular season. I half way believe its the latter.

  • http://www.bpifanconnect.com Alix Babaie

    I am with you on this one, Hobson13 – the FO is trying to prod at the team’s collective pride. The Lakers have no serious assets to deal.

    Bynum is always hurt, Barnes is hurt, Blake is not fitting quite the way they hoped, Artest is their defensive stopper, nobody would want Walton or any of their bench for even 10 cents on the dollar.

    The rest of their starters are not who they would love to part ways with either, so what else can they do?

    I want this win for the team tonight, so that all the talking heads won’t start their chatter about “Here come the Lakers” or “The Spurs are starting to slip”….that kind of talk just pisses me right off!

    I say Spurs win by 12 and all stays right in the Alamo City…..well, other than this damn weather! :)

  • http://www.bpifanconnect.com Alix Babaie

    Here’s to having Manu go off and score 40+ tonight!

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  • AP

    Scott, awesome research on the Kobe volume shooting topic. Way to debunk a popular causation/correlation myth.

  • lvmainman

    FYI – Bynum will play tonight.

  • rangerjohn

    last i read bynum is playing tonight. says he feels pretty good so we shall see. he played in our last meeting and should be in similar shape tonight.

    artest is a shell of himself, and derek fisher is all but a full on corpse so parker should have a bounce back game. someone said heres to manu dropping 40+, i say parker is the one to go off while manu spends more time defending kobe along with hill. blair should have a pretty decent night though, provided he stays out of foul trouble.

  • Daniel T

    Bynum’s injury is described in a manner similar to Bonner’s. Bonner tried to play the game after being injured and discovered there was too much pain when trying to run on it. Bynum would like to play in tonight’s game, though I wonder if he might have to drop out once he starts running on it. Considering his injury history, it doesn’t seem he’d want to push things if he starts feeling any pain. More important for him to be healthy for the playoffs then worrying about a game in early February.

  • TD = Best EVER

    The Spurs DON’T have to win this game. but we do have to show up and compete. We need to win the battle of the boards and points in the paint. They are short handed so if we can get off early, we might be able to put this one away quickly. We should see a lot of Dice tonig…ht

  • Judd

    i agree with rangerjohn. manu needs to contain kobe; parker must destroy fisher. that is how you beat the lakers- you punish fisher on the offensive end, force them to collapse and then hit your 3s. he has always been their weak point, and is only older, slower and weaker now. artest is playing horrible, but their struggles start with their captain. please win this one spurs. the lakers represent all that is wrong with sports and the world and the spurs are just the opposite. beat those fakers down.

  • Johnb

    Some of Kobe’s clutch shots are not necessarily tough. He misses them regardless. Chasing23.com documented every pne of Kobe’s misses and make game winner during the playoffs:
    http://chasing23.com/2011/02/the-myth-of-playoff-kobe/

  • Johnb

    The hero perception is not what I thought it was. Bummer. Chasing 23 listed all of his makes and misses in the playoffs
    http://chasing23.com/2011/02/the-myth-of-playoff-kobe/

  • Ed

    Historically speaking the Spurs often come up flat in the game before a BIG game, only to show up BIG for the “real” game. Here’s hopin’, right? Make KobMe beat you and you got a good chance. Wish we could clone Bowen just to watch him frustrate KobMe again. THAT was classic. Spurs by 15 pulling away late at the FT line.

  • SpurredOn

    This is a Tony Parker game; he has the the advantage regardless of which LA player guards him. He should have a 25+ point, 8+ assist game. Once LA starts packing the lane, Manu, Hill and RJ will have open shots. Make those and play the usual team defense, Spurs win. Make the LA defense move and scramble as Boston did.

    Not having Bonner will continue to hurt the Spurs’ spacing, but they have to get the turnovers under control that have been an issue since his injury. I’d like to see Manu’s points come from the FT line and made 3-pointers after guard penetration.

    Tony and Blair, like the first match-up, this is your night.

  • rabis

    Matt Bonner is a very important part of our offense esp spacing the floor for guards to penetrate. Since they have diagnosed his injury as Bone Marrow Edema ( BME), I have read this article and it says it takes 6-12 month to resolve itself. Any comments on his availablitity and current situation?

    “BME is a self-limiting condition characterized by the sudden onset of terrible bone pain usually in the lower extremities and most often in the hip joint. It usually resolves itself within six to 12 months.

  • BeerMe

    Lakeshow will pull away with the win tonight..

  • Daniel T

    One of the possible treatments for Bonner’s BME could be steroid injections. I expect there must be some process to get such a treatment approved by the league office in case somehow it might test as a banned substance.

  • Jacques

    McDYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYEEESSSSSSSZ!

  • Bruno

    Macdyess was in horrible game but in the end he saves the team…

  • DorieStreet

    @ 8:03 left in 4th –Spurs up 8–then go 3 minutes without a score (again- deja vu Tuesday night?) until RJ comes through with the 3 to extend 1 point lead–for then…

    Great game–tough persistance by Spurs after losing lead in final 1/2 minute.

  • Titletown99030507

    How does Barkley come out a say that the Spurs are to little for the Lakers front court and they can’t win a 7 game series with the Lakers? Well they’ve one two already and tonight without Bonners bombs. Maybe he thinks the Spurs will be playing only 3 bigs in the playoffs. I guess he forgot about Bonner and also thinks Splitter will be a non factor which tonight proved him wrong with the few early minutes that Splitter played he held his ground against Bynum pretty well I would say. That’s what he was brought in to do especially against these Lakers. I wouldn’t doubt they see him in the playoffs a little more than what they saw him tonight. I like the fact that Splitter seems to have more energy on the court when he gets on the court early as opposed to the last 2 min of the game. Oh yeah back to Chuck, what does he know that funny man. Chuck you funny man.

  • The Beat Counselor

    @Bruno

    Yep, horrible game by Dyess, 2-9 before the tip in, only one t/o but he got lucky on a couple of other botched passes.

    Made up for it in the end in a big way though. Wow.

    Oh ya, and we can’t forget how he inadvertently punched Gasol in the eye and knocked it him to the ground! No foul!

    Ahhhhh…wonder if Pau’s gonna have a black eye from that?

    Life’s good.

  • The Beat Counselor

    @Bruno

    Yep, pretty bad game from Dyess, 2-9 before the tip in, only one t/o but he got lucky on a couple of other botched passes.

    Made up for it in the end in a big way though. Wow.

    Plus 6 offensive boards.

    Oh ya, and we can’t forget how he inadvertently punched Gasol in the eye and knocked it him to the ground! No foul!

    Ahhhhh…wonder if Pau’s gonna have a black eye from that?

    Life’s good.