Advanced Scouting: Memphis Grizzlies at San Antonio Spurs – is Manu slipping?


Memphis Grizzlies at San Antonio Spurs 6:00 CST February 27, 2011
San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies 7:00 CST March 1, 2011

The Spurs begin a home and home against the Memphis Grizzles tonight in San Antonio. Quietly, the Grizzlies have been on a tear in recent weeks, winning 13 of their last 17. However, only 3 of these games were played without Rudy Gay. Gay is expected to miss a few more weeks, which obviously includes tonight’s contest.

Despite Rudy Gay’s strong start, Zach Randolph has clearly taken over as the team’s best player. Gay was averaging 23.4 PPG at the end of November. Randolph had missed a few games to that point and was contributing merely 16.4 a game. Since then, their averages have gone in opposite directions and currently Randolph is scoring over 20 PPG (and grabbing over 13 rebounds a game), while Gay is at a hair under that scoring threshold.

Rudy Gay also missed the last matchup in San Antonio as the Spurs pulled out a 112-106 win on December 18. My scouting report of the Grizzlies highlighted many of Rudy Gay’s contributions and tendencies, before Gay was officially suspended for that game.

Since the Spurs last played Memphis, Zach Randolph has increased his offensive rebounding average to nearly 5 per game (his OR% of 14.8 is tops in the league). His scoring efficiency of 0.87 points per possession in the post is below last season’s rate, but still respectable. This rate should be considered all the more impressive after considering Randolph’s ability to clean up his own missed shots. Randolph averages 8 post plays per game and 4 putback attempts per game. Denying him the ball down low and boxing him out should be two of the Spurs primary defensive focuses.

The last meeting saw big nights from both Tony Parker and OJ Mayo. You could make a strong argument that both guards played their best games of the season. Mayo drained 5 of 8 threes and scored 27 overall. As great as Mayo played, Parker was even better. Parker scored an outstanding 37 points and was very effective going to the basket. He scored 9 layups, including 6 off the dribble, and made 5 of 8 jump shots from inside 15 feet. Parker even set up teammates for 6 layups or dunks. Parker’s ability to create easy shots suggests to me that his performance is more likely to be duplicated than Mayo’s (because Mayo benefited heavily from 3 point success.) Of course, you can only have one best game of the year.

A major problem for the Spurs in this game was controlling Zach Randolph on the boards. Randolph snatched a problematic 10 offensive rebounds (and 11 defensive)! In total, the Grizzlies scored 12 points from putbacks and posted up 20 times (scoring 15). Thanks largely to Mayo, they also scored 17 on 15 isolation sets.

The Spurs were greatly helped by pushing the ball. They were able to outscore Memphis 23-16 in the transition game. They also ran 15 pick and rolls for the ballhandler, resulting in 16 points. An impressive 35 points of the Spurs points came from 26 spot ups.

Key Statistics

SRS ranks:

Memphis: 1.3 (12th)
San Antonio: 6.82 (2nd)

Player summary statistics from and

Grizzlies Player Ratings

Zach Randolph5436.925.21121040.1670.2
Rudy Gay5439.923.11081050.1243.4
Marc Gasol5833.216.51111040.128-1.5
Mike Conley5935.819.21081060.1116.4
Darrell Arthur5720.119.71081050.117-2.5
Tony Allen5117.620.2105990.1342.0
Sam Young5518.217.51041060.085-0.9
O.J. Mayo4828.121.71001080.056-4.8
Hasheem Thabeet458.28.7921050.046-11.2
Xavier Henry3813.916.7961100.02-7.5
Greivis Vasquez5212.616.6941090.017-1.6

Spurs Player Ratings

Manu Ginobili5831.126.11151030.2024.83
Tony Parker5832.724.91141060.171-1.15
Tim Duncan5828.923.2109990.1696.1
Richard Jefferson5831.116.11161070.126-0.59
George Hill5227.917.21191050.157-1.02
DeJuan Blair5822.220.3104990.131-0.56
Matt Bonner422212.41311070.1624.46
Gary Neal5719.9201091070.106-0.55
Antonio McDyess5317.914.91031010.1052.88
Tiago Splitter4111.217.71101020.139N/A
James Anderson1112.3171151080.121N/A
Chris Quinn36616.11031080.063N/A
Steve Novak65.713.31421060.205N/A

Player trends, based on Efficiency per 48 minutes:

Grizzlies Player Trends

PlayerSeasonLast 10Increase
Hasheem Thabeet13.117.74.6
O.J. Mayo15.920.44.5
Rudy Gay23.827.94.1
Greivis Vasquez1518.83.8
Sam Young1720.23.2
Tony Allen22.523.20.7
Zach Randolph31.431.70.3
Mike Conley21.320.8-0.5
Darrell Arthur22.922.4-0.5
Marc Gasol24.118.7-5.4

Spurs Player Trends

PlayerSeasonLast 10Hot
Gary Neal18.421.53.1
Antonio McDyess22.9241.1
DeJuan Blair27.728.71
Steve Novak19.619.60
Tim Duncan32.732.4-0.3
George Hill2322.4-0.6
Tony Parker27.326.5-0.8
Matt Bonner19.617.6-2
Richard Jefferson18.315.2-3.1
Manu Ginobili2822.8-5.2
Chris Quinn13.85.8-8

How concerned should we be about Manu’s slump?

I was going to write about the concern over Manu’s slump before last game against the Nets, but I saw several positive signs during that game. Sure, Ginobili struggled to hit his jump shot once again, making just 1 of 7 from beyond 15 feet, but it was his shot selection that seemed encouraging to me.

The primary reason I noticed for Manu’s initial slump was probably his shot selection. Only 8 of 19 jumpers outside of 15 feet were assisted in the 10 games before Friday. On the season, about 2/3rds of Ginobili’s jump shots from this range are set up by teammates. Although Manu is one of few players capable of creating 3’s off the dribble, his efficiency compared to his success rate on spot ups seems to drop off more than most.

Ginobili was also taking more shots from inefficient distances during his slump. 70 of 124 (56%) attempts in these 10 games were either layups or 3’s. This is well below his rate of 70% on the season beforehand. Although it is possible that some of this might just have been due to the Spurs offensive preference as a team or defenses overcommitting on Manu, it certainly helps explain Ginobili’s lack of shooting accuracy. Ginobili also struggled to draw free throws, attempting free throws at a rate merely 60% as frequent as his rate prior to February.

Here’s what I liked about Manu’s play against New Jersey. Several of Ginobili’s jumpers against the Nets were either open looks or desperation attempts. Although a couple jumpers seemed like the Spurs could have done better, Ginobili was also able to get to the rim often. Overall, he attempted 7 layups, 4 threes and 10 free throws. Whether it shows that Manu still has the ability to create easy scores or that he is displaying better shot selection, the fact that he only attempted five 2 point jump shots should be encouraging. Another benefit to his aggressiveness was the defensive attention he garnered, which led to a few feeds for easy buckets.

The thing about slumps that concerns me the least is the streaky shooting itself, independent of decision making. Unless we think someone might be injured or lacking discretion, trying to read too much into a couple dozen shots (or less) can lead to conclusions that aren’t meaningful. I’m not saying that the Spurs should be ok with the game of two that this slump may have cost them, but it might not say much about what they should expect going forward. (I’m also not saying that Ginobili’s shooting was the only contributing factor for a couple losses or that this shouldn’t be expected from time to time.)

Manu Ginobili doesn’t seem significantly injured to me and he still seems to prefer the high percentage plays (even if it means throwing more risky passes or recklessly attacking the rim himself.) Based on these two factors, I suspect he should be able to right the ship and the Spurs will likely have their crucial figure at or near full strength for their playoff run.

Lineup data

Most valuable/utilized lineups:

Conley,Mayo,Gay,Randolph,Gasol +34 in 333 minutes (+1.1 per 100 possessions)
Conley,Mayo,Gay,Randolph,Gasol +34 in 333 minutes (+1.1 per 100)
Conley,Young,Gay,Randolph,Gasol +61 in 303 minutes (+9.2 per 100)
Conley,Allen,Young,Randolph,Gasol +27 in 101 minutes (+18.1 per 100)

Parker, Ginobili, Jefferson, Blair, Duncan +115 in 625 minutes (+8.7 per 100)
Hill, Neal, Ginobili, Bonner, McDyess +65 in 94 minutes (+36.4 per 100)

The Pick


The Grizzlies had played well as of late, but I think the loss of Gay is more significant. I also don’t think Mayo will make 5 of 8 threes again.

The Spurs definitely have a better chance in the first one at home, but I like them in both individually. However, I do think that there is slightly less than a 50% chance they go 2-0 against Memphis this week.

  • dvyoung05

    I am concerned about Manu. It should be noted that it is not just a matter of shot selections or missing some jump shots. He is not finishing at the rim as he used to. He is missing some easy shots at the rim like I have never seen before. Take one example from the game vs Nets (I think it was) when he missed the shot right below the basket with nobody around after getting a bullet pass from Tony. He looks like he either is very worn out by this time in the season or lost his hops visibly. He can’t turn and contort much in the air to be able to finish the shots at the rim as he doesn’t seem to have much hang time anymore. What’s worse is that he can’t seem to draw fouls as much as he used to.

    Without Manu as our ultimate finisher, I don’t know where the Spurs will stand in the playoffs. I don’t think the Nets game would be counted as a good measure to determine how Manu is really. Let’s see how he does through some tough stretch coming up, starting the Memphis game.

  • rob

    18 of the Grizzlies 27 losses have occured on the road. The first game against the Spurs is the second of a b2b for them. Losing Gay is a huge blow to their recent play. Yet sometimes it’s these types of games where the Spurs play less focussed. Still the edge has got to be an overwhelming favorite for the Spurs in the first game of this home and away against the Grizzlies.

    Spurs by at least 15. 112 to 97 ?

    The second game of this match I wouldn’t be suprized to see a really tight score by the end of the game. Still Spurs by 3. 102 to 99 ?

    Regarding Manu, interesting points. Here’s to hoping the slump theory is in effect and he manages to rebound back to his awesome self by the end of the season. I wouldn’t mind seeing him get less minutes per from now until the playoffs where (hopefully this latest trend is due to over exertion) he can respond with the kind of performances he was having at the beginning of the season.

    Speedy recovery Neal…hope you are alright. Perhaps even more time for Anderson is to be expected?

  • ITGuy

    Go Spurs Go!!

  • Mark

    I think why Manu looks like he’s slumping (and I believe somebody brought this up before) is because whenever he misses those easy lay-ups, he hasn’t been getting foul calls that look like obvious foul calls. That has to be part of the reason he’s shooting percentage has been down. But I trust that Manu will be ready in the playoffs.

  • Mark

    *his, not he’s

  • DorieStreet

    With him being the primary scorer in this uptempo offense, the pace over the course of the season has contributed to Manu’s slump. At times when the team goes through a scoring drought, you see him press a bit–some over dribbling, a questionable move, a bad pass. I could see another lineup change like the Wiz game, where George Hill starts–say in the 2nd game @ MEM and in the following game against the Cavs. Expect to see more time for James Anderson all this week.

  • idahospur

    Any word on the teams splitting a charter flight to Memphis?

  • Ed

    I don’t remember a season that Manu didn’t have a slump or 2. In the NJ game you could see his shot was off, he was aiming. When he finaly hit a 3 he loosened up and played well. I remember the announcers said at one point he had 21 points and I was thinking “21?, No way!”, it was more vintage Manu where he had more points than it seemed because he was setting up others so much. If Manu needs a rest you can bet Pop will get him a rest. Pop will sit him down for a week if necessary.

  • Danny Conner

    Manu is exhausted. He should sit until at least early April (seriously). If Manu plays like he did last spring when he was arguably the best player in the league. Or plays like he did in Nov. when he was one of the top 5. The Spurs can beat anybody.
    If he plays like he’s been playing the last 8 weeks….
    It’s over.
    Rest Manu Pop.
    A healthy Manu in the playoffs is MORE important than the #1 seed.

  • ThatBigGuy

    Manu is Manu. However, if Neo can steal some mins from Manu, it can only help Manu.

    Hey Blair, I’m calling you out. Let’s see how you play against 2 wide bodied rebounders. We need you to box out and rebound like a warrior, and don’t get any silly reach in fouls. This is a good test for you. I hope you pass.

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  • junierizzle

    I think Manu will be fine. It is just a slump as. It is also part of the offense this season. You never know which player is going to have a big night. Manu isn’t going to be the leading scorer every night.

    Last season when Manu went off he kind of had too. The SPurs had no bench. Now he sometimes doesn’t even take a shot until well into the 1st quarter. So I suspect some of it is him trying to force himself into the offense. So I don’t think he’ll be having any 40 point games this year because he doesn’t have to.

    Another thing is his amount of shots per game. I don’t know the exact number but it must be around 15-16 shots. Sometimes he only gets up 12 shots. If he got 10 more shot attempts like KOBE or MELO then of course he’ll put up bigger numbers.

    When play slows down in the playoffs he is going to make the plays. There are no back-to-backs in the Playoffs. In the playoffs he is going to have games like the one in Denver when he made the winning shot and drew the charge. And he’ll have games like the one in BOSTON where he dropped 20 points in the 4th quarter.

  • Jacob

    Does a strained hamstring normally sideline a player for 3 weeks? I’m not hearing anything from the spurs about splitter, and I’m wondering if he can be expected to return anytime within the next two weeks. Hopefully Neal and he both return quickly, but not before Manu’s confidence.

  • Hobson13

    In 2011, Manu is the absolute key to our post season success. I recently read an article that ended by saying the postseason will come down to Garnett, Lebron, Kobe, and Manu. I won’t go into Manu’s numbers, but there’s no question he has slowed down over the month of February.

    Tim, Tony, and RJ have all played far fewer minutes than their career averages due to the resurgance of the Spurs bench. Manu, however, is playing at or near a career high in minutes. If you take into account his injury history and his fearless style of play, one can only reasonably assume that this has to be a primary reason behind his recent slump.

    My solution is to bring him off the bench for the next few games. Start Hill instead (which Pop already did once) and even though I have reservations about throwing Anderson into the fire when he’s missed half the season, at least give him a chance to play 10 mpg at the 2/3 spots behind RJ and Manu. The season is 70% over so it’s now time to gear up for the final stretch run into the playoffs AND to ensure that everyone is playing his best when the postseason arrives.

  • betsyduncan

    I’m hoping that all of the props DeJuan gave Zach means that he wants to outplay him tonight. ‘Taking notes’ is one thing; learning from what one has observed is another.

  • Judd

    Nice timing Manu! Let’s hope we can get healthy fast. Good comeback, but some scary stuff.

  • SAJKinBigD

    Why did TP only play 15+ mins?


    Why was Tony Allen such a douche?

  • betsyduncan

    And the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama goes to….MANU! “True Grit”, indeed! Whew! And I sure hope Tony isn’t too banged up (or for too long), either.

  • Jacob


    Parker bruised his calf and left the game. It’s not serious, so probably won’t be missing for more than a single game, if any.

  • Bruno

    Amazing 4th to Ginobili, 16 points!!!35 in the night, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, 1 blk.

  • SAJKinBigD

    Thanks, Jacob! Whew. Glad they pulled this out. I’d been watching Yahoo’s box score, so I was pretty scared during the run in the third.

  • ribanez

    The tv crew reported Splitter is out for the season with torn ligaments ? Does anyone have any relevant information on this development ?

  • Rey

    I think it was the referee who’s out for the season for torn ligament. He was sideswiped by Connely during a fastbreak and he got thrown off in front of the Spurs bench. Pretty nasty fall too.

    I’m not sure about Tiago though. Last time I read about it, he exacerbated his injured hamstring.

    I thought despite the win, the game tonight was bad: there were a lot of non-calls that were not called, and there was a lot of roughing up by the Grizzlies. The third quarter slump was more because there was no more healthy player left in the Spurs roster and Manu was resting in the bench (maybe Pops was watching out about them Grizzlies injuring Manu too. Taking out Tony and almost taking out Timmy and Blair – plus an injured Tiago & Neal – are hell enough).

    I guess the race for the Playoffs has officially begun… :-/

  • Alix Babaie

    I thought that the game was hotly contested and I sure hope the Lakers draw the Grizzlies in Round One. They will be a tough out once they get Gay (no pun intended). :)

  • badger

    If Manu is tired or worn down, it sure didn’t show last night!

    Hill and Anderson (and even Quinn) have got to step up now that Tony’s out. Can’t keep going to Manu over and over to bail us out of tough situations.

    How ’bout Bonner? Wow.

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