Advanced Scouting: San Antonio Spurs at Boston Celtics
San Antonio Spurs at Boston Celtics 6:30 CST January 5, 2011
Boston: 7.24 (3rd)
San Antonio: 8.79 (2nd)
|Player||Fraction of teams minutes||PER minus Counterpart PER||On court +/-per 48 minutes||Off court +/-per 48 minutes||2 Year Adjusted +/-|
Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Davis, Garnett +52 in 197 minutes (+12.7 per 48 MP)
Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Garnett, Shaq +21.9 in 191 minutes (+21.9 per 48 MP)
Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Davis, Shaq +7 in 17 minutes (+19.8 per 48 MP)
The Spurs will not face a lineup with more than 17 minutes experience together.
Preferred method to create shots: Rajon Rondo distributing the ball
The aged Celtics score an impressive 17 PPG on the fast break, good for 6th in the NBA. Rondo accounts for more than 10 of those points all by himself, 7.2 per game by way of passing. Although the Celtics are a team stacked with players used to creating for themselves, they also rank 3rd in points off cuts (14.5), thanks in no small part to Rondo. In total, Rondo is averaging an incredible 13.6 assists per game.
Rondo may be awesome, but he has an abundance of options. Ray Allen is still an absolutely elite shooter, second in the NBA in scoring off screens (behind Durant). Shaq is shooting above 65% from the field. Before he was injured, KG was a great inside/outside option. Paul Pierce is an excellent bailout option and the Celtics have quality scorers off the bench. (Isnâ€™t it odd that few elite teams have a clear cut â€œbest playerâ€ this season?)
Appropriate Spurs counter: Make Rondo score
Rajon Rondoâ€™s effective field goal percentage on jump shots has improved from 37% last year to 46% this season. However, Rondo has also attempted far fewer shots, meaning that the 46% rate he has enjoyed this season might not be a reliable expectation going forward. Additionally, Rondoâ€™s continued struggles in limited attempts from the line (16 of 39) donâ€™t suggest that he is truly an improved shooter.
The optimal strategy is still to make Rondo shoot. One problem teams encounter when backing off Rondo too much is defending the pick and roll. Rondo feels much more comfortable shooting with any opening when the screener sets up around 15 feet from the basket.
The most noticeable change in Rondos game this season is that he looks to pass no matter how close to the rim he gets. The Spurs should probably make him try to finish himself. Of course, Rondo is a smart player who is very capable of adjusting to almost anything you throw at him. Perhaps a more useful strategy is to focus on the players who are the most efficient scorers off Rondo passes: Allen and Shaq.
Ginobili is very good at defending an opponent running off a screen, allowing 0.74 PPP over the last two seasons. He should be a good defensive match against Ray Allen (although chasing Allen could tire Manu, especially on a back-to-back). Ginobili and other Spurs should obviously pay constant attention to Allen.
Duncan was the primary defender of O’Neal when Shaq played in the Western Conference. Shaq can’t create scores as frequently as those days and he doesn’t play as many minutes, but he is still very efficient once he gets the ball in scoring position. His field goal percentage and true shooting percentage are both at a career highs. As previously mentioned, Rondo still looks to pass as he drives to the basket and Duncan should, in turn, be more reserved to leave Shaq when Rondo goes at the hoop.
Spurs offensive game plan: Attack Nate Robinson on the pick and roll
The Spurs could find it difficult running the pick and roll against the Celtics elite defense. The absence of KG figures to make things easier, but the Celtics have allowed 0.73, 0.83 and 0.74 over the past few seasons. Allen, Pierce and Rondo are all excellent at defending the pick and roll, but Nate Robinson has struggled to fit in to the Celtics defensive scheme. Opponents have averaged 0.97 PPP in 158 pick and roll possessions against Robinson since he joined the Celtics. Parker and Hill figure to face Robinson most frequently.
There are a few other players the Spurs can attempt to exploit. Over the past three years, Shaq has allowed 1.12 PPP in 120 possessions when defending the roll man in the pick and roll, in spite of playing on a couple of very good defensive teams. Since Manu is the Spurs best distributor out of the pick and roll, he should look to run the play with Shaqâ€™s counterpart.
Finally, since the start of last season, Ray Allen has allowed 0.91 PPP on against 215 isolations and Nate Robinson 1.00 in 103 possessions (league average is 0.84). Parker and Ginobili once again figure to be favorable matchups against these players.
The Spurs should be very glad that they donâ€™t have to face Kevin Garnett tonight (yet another instance of the Spurs fortunate timing this season). Garnett is not the elite offensive player he once was, but he could be the most valuable defensive player in the NBA. Facing the Celtics on a back-to-back is still a difficult task, but it becomes plausible to expect the Spurs to win when the Celtics are missing KG.
The Spurs SRS is 1.5 points higher than the Celtics. Of course, Boston has had more injury problems at this point in the season. Rondo, Jermaine Oâ€™Neal, and Shaq have all missed time in addition to KG. It would be reasonable to expect the Celtics would have a higher SRS if both teams enjoyed full health. Throw in the fact the Spurs will need to overcome a back-to-back road game and the Celtics might still have enough to be favored in this game.
There are a couple additional small factors that could potentially favor the Spurs. The Celtics could be rusty or hurt with several players recently coming off injury and there might be a slight bounce-back effect after an embarrassing loss such as the one the Spurs experienced against the Knicks. All things loosely accounted for, this game is practically a tossup. I might give the slight advantage to the Celtics in this one.
This game could be a significant test of the resolve of the Spurs. One game is a small measure of almost anything, but it will be interesting to see how the Spurs react to the Coach Popâ€™s benching at MSG with the game still within reach.