I’m digging Tiago Splitter, his guards should too
During yesterday’s Spurs victory over the Hornets, Tiago Splitter’s minutes (excluding garbage time) came during a 9:19 stretch that bridged the first and second quarter. Spurs scribe LJ Ellis awarded Splitter a ‘B’ for his play and registered this comment, “Gave very good effort in first half but hurt team’s rhythm.”
Ellis is on the mark, and I’d like to talk about both of these things: Splitter’s effort and the offensive rhythm that kept missing a beat.
Splitter finished the game with five points, three rebounds and a turnover. But this hardly explains what Splitter did on the court.
First, his point total should have been higher. Splitter missed three free throws, one layup and had a post score removed from the ledger after a successful fall away bank shot.
Here’s the rest of the line on Splitter from my unofficial scorecard: eighteen set screens, two forced turnovers, two drawn fouls, one backtap for an offensive rebound and score, and, although he didn’t draw any offensive fouls, he flopped on an attempt to draw a charge against David West. The ref saw it as a non-call, but it was a smart defensive play.
Popovich was about to sub Splitter out of the game prior to this play, and after Splitter attempted to take the charge, Pop called Tim Duncan back from the scorer’s table, letting Splitter play until the next timeout.
Splitter gave tremendous effort and, despite having a poor +/- for the game, made several plays to help his teammates get ahead.
On my unofficial scorecard, I also noted six missed opportunities to get Splitter the ball in scoring position. On some of these plays, the Spurs scored anyway. For example, at the top of the second quarter Splitter set a high screen for George Hill and was wide open on the roll but Hill made a difficult play at the rim instead. Two points is two points, but Hill should have rewarded his big with a pass for an easy dunk.
On other occasions Splitter slipped screens and found himself wide open in front of the rim. On one occasion, Splitter simply snuck into open space around the hoop and should have received a pass for a score. In all these ways, Splitter’s game is reminiscent of Fabricio Oberto.
But the Spurs didn’t get Splitter the ball. Unlike Oberto before him, Splitter’s teammates have yet to develop the I-know-what-he’s-up-to, I-know-when-to-look-for-him chemistry that made Oberto such an effective player. This chemistry will come as the season progresses, and Splitter will increasingly establish himself as a mainstay in the offense. His teammates will love the way Splitter runs himself ragged to set a screen and they’ll eventually reward him for the effort.
During yesterday’s game, Splitter had two shots that seemed forced. Both shots were classic cases of a big man who was working hard for others and hungry for an offensive touch of his own. When he finally got the ball, he wanted to take it to the post, even if it would have been better to reset the play by passing it out to a guard.
This is what bad offensive rhythm looks like.Â Guards missing their rolling screen setter and a big who decides to get himself the ball after creating several clean looks for others.
All of this will solve itself in time. And it’s not like Splitter isn’t already playing well. He is. Watch as Splitter’s impact on the game increases in the coming weeks.