The San Antonio Spurs have appeared really good in two games of the NBA Finals and have looked really awful in the two others which have been losses for the team. One of the main reasons why they've looked good has been Tiago Splitter and his play. During the losses, Splitter has looked awful. In fact, he looks like a completely different player.
Splitter is averaging 5.8ppg with a disappointing 2.8rpg against an extremely smaller Miami Heat lineup. Even with Miami's "bigs" in the game, Splitter has an advantage (or should have) in the rebounding and defense department, especially on the offensive end also.
The most noticeable aspect of his game that looks awful during Games 2 and 4 have been on the offensive end and trying to score in the paint. Tiago has not only been stopped from scoring in the paint, he's gotten blocked….and pretty badly at that. The blocks have also came from Miami's smalls in small lineup. LeBron James has been known to block shots, but Dwayne Wade and Mike Miller blocking a 6'11" center's shot easily isn't acceptable.
While some have reacted that Splitter has been "soft" during those losses, it may not be as easy as suggesting that nor may it be true. The definition of soft in the NBA is subject to whoever is using it. There have been "soft" players (i.e. Dirk Nowitzki) who are tough on the offensive end but can't take a few hits which make him stop trying to be aggressive. This isn't Splitter's problem. He's not being pushed around enough to be called soft. Splitter's problem is actually a different problem than that. His problem is also not being aggressive. In basketball, aggressiveness is trying to find your shot and scoring points. Splitter has tried to do that and for reasons that will be listed, these two go together and are not his problem.
Tiago Splitter's problems are simple and this is his first one: he's weak. I'm not insulting him, he's just a weak individual. He's not strong. In the two losses, he's tried to be too aggressive and strong in trying to score in the paint. When he tried to dunk on LeBron James in Game 2 with one hand, he looked uncomfortable from the start because that's not his game. During the regular season, we rarely saw Splitter trying to dunk as much as he has. We haven't even seen this "strong" play from Splitter in the past few rounds on the consistent basis he's trying to play like in the NBA Finals.
Is he trying to do too much because he's a few games away from earning a new deal? Possibly, but he doesn't look too comfortable doing it either.
That was mostly in Game 2, so let's move on to the most recent loss in Game 4. Splitter was bullied again this game, but this time by Dwayne Wade, Mario Chalmers, and Mike Miller. While they blocked Splitter a few times, it wasn't his aggressive play that led to his bullying in the paint by much smaller guards, it was his decisive nature. This may have come from him getting blocked in Game 2 and didn't feel comfortable putting up a shot so early in the catch down low. Tiago's troubles also came up when he'd hold the ball too low where the smalls were looking to strip him.
The Heat scouted out Tiago Splitter: surround him in the paint and have one guy ready to strip the ball and the other ready to block it (mainly Wade). One suggestion has been to have Splitter learn to pump fake (i.e. Malik Rose and Nazr Mohammad) to catch the shot blocking guards in the air, but that still leaves Splitter ready to get stripped by another small in front of him.
What Splitter needs to do to fix these problems is to play like Tiago Splitter in the regular season. He needs to get back to his finesse game of quick layups. When he'd catch the ball, he'd look to score right away. His reverse layups would be hard to defend against bigs and will be against the Miami Heat smaller guards.
He not only would score with hard-to-defend-reverse layups, but he'd also look to score quickly without holding the ball. The finesse (Game 2) and holding the ball low and too long (Game 4) can easily be fixed if he goes back to playing his old ways. Regular Season Tiago Splitter wasn't too flashy and that might be a reason why he's trying to play "stronger", to get noticed for his upcoming contract.
On a pick-and-roll with Tony Parker, Splitter catching the ball in the paint will result in an easy score against the Heat if he doesn't put too much thought in the process. He gets in trouble when he's looking to do too much and holds the ball for too long with his predictable and one-dimensional offensive game.
The San Antonio Spurs need Splitter to be a quick scorer in layup situations he's comfortable with. There's not too much adjusting for Splitter to be done, he just needs to go back being the player he was when the Spurs looked like a well oiled machine in the regular season.