Here’s some good news… the San Antonio Spurs are undefeated at home. Unfortunately they’re winless on the road and therefore on pace to go 33-33. And so the screwy 2011-2012 season continues for the Spurs. They went 3-2 this past week (keep in mind we go Saturday-Friday with these reviews). The losses came with the Spurs really having no answer for Oklahoma City Thunder’s second unit as much as anything else and what’s been probably their worse defensive performance of the season against the Milwaukee Bucks.
The wins were nice ones. While Danny Green’s game against Golden State made him the surprise of the week, the Denver game was his coming out party as he tallied 24 big points. He’s been great off the bench. In fact, let’s just get straight to the good and bad.
Kawhi Leonard: Got the starting nod when T.J. Ford went out against Milwaukee with a torn hamstring and boy did he show he can play. The rookie is averaging 13.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in his last four games, three of which he started, causing his PER to jump to 16.89. Coach Pop has praised his play several time in the last week, even dropping a Bowen comparison once. In addition to his defense, Leonard has been especially effective in the paint on offense, mostly because of how he crashes the boards. According to NBA Stats Cube, Leonard is shooting 69% in the restricted area of the paint, which has accounted for half of his total baskets made. When and if he develops a reliable jumper (41% from mid-range and 22% from three) and starts making his free throws, he’s going to be incredible valuable for the Spurs moving forward.
Tiago Splitter: Splitter had a nice week. Not to go all Hubie Brown on you, but here’s what you like about Splitter. He knows his strengths and weaknesses. You’re looking at a guy who’s making a living scoring when he gets deep positioning. Shots inside the restricted area have accounted for 64% of Splitter’s attempts, and he’s converting them a 72% clip. Any team looking to win needs that kind of inside scoring. How’s my Hubie impersonation? It’s not all good news for Tiago in the paint though. Right now he’s only shooting 25% on shoots that occur inside the paint but outside the restricted area. His defense has been key though. What I think has been key about Splitter is Duncan doesn’t always have to guard the opponent’s best post player.
Tim Duncan’s Shooting: His minutes are down around 25 per game, so I don’t want to overstate how disappointing 11 points and 6.5 boards a game are, they’re really not terrible. His PER is still a decent 17.55 but what’s really been the problem is his shooting percentage. Right now he’s barely at 45% from the field this season. You may be saying to yourself “It’s because he’s taking too many jumpers”. That’s actually not the case. Duncan is shooting a lot of mid range jumpers. This season they’ve accounted for 51% of his shots, but Timothy Theodore Duncan is hitting 47% of his mid-range jumpers. The problems are when he’s in the paint. Right now Duncan is only shooting 50% in the restricted area and only 32% inside the paint but outside the restricted area. Obviously 12 games in is a small sample size, but for a guy with Duncan’s size and skill, those numbers should be higher, even at his age. I expect them to go up, but keep your eye on his scoring in the paint. His defense is still top notch too.
Tony Parker’s Shooting: Let me first state that aside from the stinker he threw up in OKC (4 points on 1-8 shooting), Tony had a very good week, and with Manu out he’s going to have to keep putting up numbers like he did against Denver, Portland, Houston and Milwaukee. Still, like Duncan, his problems are in the paint. Tony is shooting only 44% from the field, which is decent for a point guard, but it’s not good by Tony Parker standards. His jumper is actually in better shape than it was last season, in the mid 40’s but again the problem for Parker is he’s shooting just below 50% in the paint. Currently, he’s shooting 53% in the restricted area of the paint which doesn’t sound bad for a point guard until you notice he shot 65% from the same area last season. Similarly, Parker is shooting 39% from inside the paint but outside the restricted area. Last season? 48%. I’m fine with anyone being skeptical about Duncan’s numbers improving, but I have to think Parker’s numbers in the paint will improve. Good news is his assists are at an all time high and it does seem like he’s been more aggressive ever since that Golden State game.
Spurs host Phoenix tonight, which should be a win. Interesting part of this game is the fact that the Suns have actually been better than the Spurs in almost every defensive statistical category. Phoenix’s problem is they don’t have anyone besides Nash who’s very good at putting the ball in the basket. Then they go to Miami on Tuesday to play a Heat team that is probably pretty pissed they’ve lost three in a row, but will probably also be without Dwayne Wade. Then play Orlando on a back to back before returning home to play Sacramento on Friday before going to Houston on Saturday. Is this the week they get a road win? Considering they have three of their five games on the road this week, I think fans should be happy with a 3-2 outcome from this week’s slate.