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Spurs–Grizzlies: A Quantitative and Qualitative Preview

With 21 combined games in the 2013 playoff data bag between the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies, it’s now time to look at what the data is saying as the Western Conference Finals approach Sunday.

Remember, this is all quantitative data and like the last series between the Spurs and Golden State Warriors, the numbers were predicting a sweep or five game series. However, when you look at qualitative evidence, you might or the Spurs might not have known Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were going to explode in games one and two. Quantitative data didn’t predict Harrison Barnes would be in the company of Tim Duncan and Magic Johnson in Game 5.

So here are the numbers on the eve of the Western Conference Finals. Look, analyze, and dissect them, but do not rely on them because as the Warriors proved, numbers will change once the ball is tipped.

Offense and Defense

Points Per Game – Spurs 102.8, Grizzlies 97.2  

Points allowed – Spurs 93, Grizzlies 92.4

Offensive rating – Spurs 107, Grizzlies 104.4

Defensive rating – Spurs 96.2, Grizzlies 99.9

What stands out?  Of the above numbers, the fact that the Grizzlies are allowing 92 points per game shows that the Spurs are about to play their toughest defensive foe of this postseason. Offensively, the Spurs seem to be Memphis’ biggest test of stopping a scoring team.

Field Goal Percentage – Spurs 46%, Grizzlies 43.3%  

Opponent field goal percentage – Spurs 43.6%, Grizzlies 43.5%

3-Point shooting – Spurs 35.6%, Grizzlies 31%

Opponent 3-point percentage – Spurs 33.2%, Grizzlies 31.8%

3-point attempts – Spurs 20.2, Grizzlies 14.5

3-Pointers allowed – Spurs 19.6, Grizzlies 19.7

An interesting number here is that the Grizzlies allow 19.7 three pointers per game. Since the Spurs shoot around 20 per game then their 3-point shots should be there so long as they are moving the ball on the floor. Seeing that the Grizzlies hold teams to 32% shooting from 3-point range means that they contest looks out on the arc.

Free throw shooting – Spurs 75.8%, Grizzlies 76.7%

Rebounds – Spurs 43.8, Grizzlies 40.1

Offensive rebounding – Spurs 10.2, Grizzlies 10.2

Unlike 2011 where Memphis dominated the rebounding game, the Spurs are better equipped in their frontline and wing players to help crash the boards. Later on though, we’ll see why Zach Randolph will be a whole other area of concern when it comes to rebounding.

2nd Chance points – Spurs 11.8, Grizzlies 14.7 points

Huge stat right here for Memphis. They’re scoring nearly 15 points off second chance attempts which means they hustle for offensive boards and plays that are almost going out of bounds. The Spurs will have to match the intensity the Grizzlies bring each and every night.

Assists – Spurs 23, Grizzlies 19.5

Opponent assists – Spurs 19.1, Grizzlies 16.9

This stat could be one of the most decisive aspects of this series. Quantitatively the Grizzlies look like a team that doesn’t allow solid ball movement by opponents as they’re holding teams to 16.9 assists per game. However, qualitatively, it looked the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder didn’t have too much trouble penetrating and kicking out to open shooters or slashers.

Turnovers per game Spurs 11.1, Grizzlies 10.4

Opponent turnovers – Spurs 15.2, Grizzlies 14

Though both teams seem to take care of the ball pretty effectively, both defensives also force a few turnovers as well. The Spurs’ offensive firepower allows them to have the luxury of turning the ball over and then being able to score to make up those possessions, the Grizzlies however can’t afford turnovers as their offense doesn’t score at such a high rate.

Points off turnovers – Spurs 17.8, Grizzlies 16.2

Basically, any team that turns the ball over will most likely get scored on the other end as both teams will turn a turnover into fast break opportunity.

Steals – Spurs 9, Grizzlies 7.2

Blocks – Spurs 4.5, Grizzlies 4.1

Fouls – Spurs 19.6, Grizzlies 22.5

Though the Spurs are only fouling an average of 20 times per game, their composure and resiliency in picking up fouls will be tested as they’re about to face an opponent that draws plenty of fouls in a game.

Clutch

The data below is taken on a per game average in the last five minutes of a game so long as either team is ahead or behind by 5 points.

Spurs – 11.3 points, 1.3 turnovers, shooting 46.2%, 3-point shooting 54.5%, Free Throw Shooting 42.9%, Rebounds 4.5, Blocks 1.3, Fouls 2.3

The good: The Spurs have the highest scoring output in crunch time; shoot the 3-ball at an even higher percentage as evidenced by Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard in Game 6 against the Warriors. The bad: the Spurs have been struggling from the free throw line in the last five minutes of a game, the most crucial time to knock down their free throws.

Grizzlies – 9 points, 1.1 turnovers, shooting 40.5%, 3-point shooting 33.3%, Free Throw shooting 73%, Rebounds 4.3, Blocks 0.4,  Fouls 2.3

The Grizzlies on the other hand shoot free throws at a high percentage in crunch time but struggle to make the big shots whether inside or outside the arc.

Lineups

Here are the top lineups coach Popovich and Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins have preferred to use in the playoffs thus far on a most minutes and per game basis.

Spurs

1.      Tiago Splitter, Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Tony Parker

Grizzlies

1.      Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Tayshaun Prince, Tony Allen, Mike Conley

Where each team likes to shoot from

Spurs

Most of the Spurs’ shots come from the “Tim Duncan pick-and-pop” areas, Tony Parker “jumper off screens” areas, in the paint, and also at the top of the 3-point line in both the right and left areas.

Grizzlies

The Grizzlies like to attack inside the paint but two areas out on the floor where the Spurs must be aware of is the top of the key where Marc Gasol prefers to shoot his jumper, and outside of 14 feet where Randolph shoots his iso jumper.

Top Players

Spurs

Tony Parker – 22.4 points (18.6 FGA, 45%), 6.4 free throw attempts, 6.3 assists, 2.2 turnovers, 4.7 personal fouls drawn, Spurs were a +5 with Parker on the floor.

As you can see from Parker’s play 10 games into the playoffs, the assortment of minor injuries he’s playing with has affected his play. He’s shooting the ball at 45% and also with his teams struggling to hit shots in several games, his assist rate has declined. He’ll most likely be defended by Mike Conley who has the speed to match him and at times, Tony Allen. Parker though, keeps the pressure on a defense with an average of drawing almost five fouls per game.

Tim Duncan – 18.7 points (16.2 FGA, 46%), 9.2 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 1.2 blocks, 1.7 turnovers, 4.7 personal fouls drawn,  Spurs were a +2.2 when Duncan was on the floor.

Duncan will have to deal with Gasol who is the current defensive player of the year. After looking at Serge Ibaka’s shot chart, it seems like the Grizzlies defense didn’t allow him to shoot his pick-and-pop jumpers, which means Duncan will have to attack more if Gasol and Randolph follow him off of screens to limit his jumper.

Kawhi Leonard – 13.7 points (9.9 FGA, 56%), 8.4 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 1.1 turnovers, Spurs were a +7.5 when Leonard was on the floor.

Leonard will have the lanky Tayshaun Prince defending him. However, the area where Leonard will have his biggest impact will be in helping the rebounding department. Leonard is the hottest shooting Spur at 56% even after he’s logging the most minutes of any player in silver and black.

Manu Ginobili – 12.1 points (10.6 FGA, 38%), 5.4 three pointers (33%), 5.7 assists, 2.3 turnovers, 1.7 steals, 3 personal fouls drawn, Spurs were a +10.3 when Ginobili was on the floor.

Ginobili’s series from facing the Lakers to the Warriors were almost complete opposites. Ginobili’s shooting touch has dropped tremendously and he’s taking even more 3-pointers per game. It doesn’t help that he’ll most likely have All-NBA first team defender in Allen defending him in crunch time. Ginobili however can still make plays with his passing ability and unlike two years ago, he’ll have two fully functioning arms.

Danny Green – 10 points (8.6 FGA, 44%), 4.8 three pointers (42%), 4.1 rebounds, Spurs were a -1.8 when Green was on the floor.

Green made a drastic improvement in the Warriors series with his ability in making Stephen Curry take tough shots, and then limiting Harrison Barnes in Game 6. If Parker and Ginobili are penetrating, Green will have to be ready to catch-and-shoot with confidence, as there may not be many 3-pointers to take in games.

Gary Neal – 5.9 points (6 FGA, 35%), 2.8 three pointers (25%), Spurs were a +5.6 when Neal was on the floor.

Aside from Game 6 where he had productive stint against the Warriors, Neal is struggling shooting the ball overall in the playoffs.

Tiago Splitter – 5.9 points (4.1 FGA, 52%), 4 rebounds, 1.4 turnovers, Spurs were a +0.6 when Splitter was on the floor.

Splitter’s presence began to return on the defensive end of the floor in Game 5 and 6 against the Warriors. Splitter’s ability to get open in pick-and-roll situations and score effectively will also be an important part of the series. His defense will be the key as he has to do his best of not drawing fouls on the Grizzlies big men in order to stay in the game.

Matt Bonner – 4.3 points (2.9 FGA, 52%), Spurs were a +5.8 when Bonner was on the floor.

Hey everyone, Bonner’s actually making shots in the playoffs. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bonner get more minutes in this series as the Grizzlies big men are hesitant to step out to the 3-point line.

Boris Diaw – 4 points (3.2 FGA, 47%), Spurs were a +5.5 when Diaw was on the floor.

Diaw can give the Grizzlies bigs fits since they don’t like to go out to the 3-point line as well, where he can catch them off their toes and drive, or kick out to another teammate.

Cory Joseph – 3.9 points (3.4 FGA, 53%), Spurs were a +3.2 when Joseph was on the floor.

A solid guard, he’ll have to be ready to possibly defend Conley in stretches and Jerryd Bayless.

Grizzlies

Zach Randolph – 19.7 points (14.7 FGA, 51% FG), 9.3 rebounds, 3.3 offensive rebounds, 2.1 turnovers, 3.7 personal fouls, 6.4 Free throw attempts (73%), 6.6 personal fouls drawn, Grizzlies are +8.4 when he’s on the floor.

Zbo is a dangerous player. He’s physical, will draw fouls (6.6), and he’s shooting 51% overall which is a high percentage considering he takes outside shots and makes bullish type plays in the paint. One other aspect, when you put him on the line, he shoots a decent free throw percentage. Keeping Zbo off the offensive glass will also be another concern for this Spurs team as he averages 3.3 offensive rebounds per game.

Marc Gasol – 18.3 points (13.4 FGA, 48%), 7.9 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, 1 turnover, 7 Free throw attempts (79%), 3.3 personal fouls, 6.2 personal fouls drawn, Grizzlies are +6.6 when he’s on the floor.

Another player who draws plenty of fouls (6.2) and shoots a high percentage from the line (79%). The Spurs’ defense will have to be ready to step out on his 18-foot jumper from the top of the key, as he’s shooting 48% overall.

Mike Conley – 17.6 points (14.2 FGA, 39%), 4.5 three pointers (29%), 4.8 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 1.9 turnovers, 1.6 steals, 5.2 personal fouls drawn, Grizzlies are +6.7 when he’s on the floor.

The Grizzlies don’t take many 3-pointers as a team, but Conley does. The Spurs must be aware of his ability to hoist a few three’s and draw fouls (5.2). Conley is also dangerous at finishing on break and attacking a defense that isn’t set in pick-and-roll situations. Defensively, it’ll be Parker’s job to limit Conley as much as possible as he too has the speed to match Conley.

 Tony Allen – 11.1 points (8.5 FGA, 45%), 4.4 free throw attempts (75%), 5.8 rebounds, 1.3 turnovers, 2.3 steals, 3.1 personal fouls drawn personal fouls, Grizzlies are +5.2 when he’s on the floor.

Our own Quixem Ramirez broke down Tony Allen in the section of his column titled “Trick or Treat.” I suggest you read it to understand why that nickname suits Allen so well. In the playoffs, the one thing the Spurs have to watch out for is Allen attacking the rim and drawing fouls on occasion (3.1). His 2.3 steals per game are also what make him one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA.

Jerryd Bayless – 8.9 points (8.3 FGA, 36%), 3.9 three pointers (33%), 1.2 turnovers, Grizzlies are a -1 when he’s on the floor.

Ramirez also wrote about Jerryd Bayless in his column. So far in the playoffs, Bayless clearly isn’t shining or consistent. He’s taking almost as many shots to score points and he too takes plenty of 3-pointers, but isn’t converting them at a high rate.

Tayshaun Prince – 7.5 points (8.7 FGA, 35%), 4.5 rebounds, Grizzlies are a +3.5 when he’s on the floor.

As you can see above, Prince is struggling to score the basketball taking more shot attempts than points. The Grizzlies really need him to defend Leonard and possibly at times, Ginobili or Parker.

Quincy Pondexter – 6.5 points (4.8 FGA, 45%), 2.5 three pointers (43%), Grizzlies are a +1.5 when he’s on the floor.

For this Grizzlies team, 43% from three is one of the highest percentages on their team. The Spurs must be aware of Pondexter beyond the arc as half of his shot attempts are 3-pointers.

Darrell Arthur – 3.8 points (3.2 FGA, 49%), 2.4 personal fouls, Grizzlies are a -3.1 when he’s on the floor.

Arthur was a Spurs killer in the playoffs of 2011 with his athletic ability on defense and his dunking and pick-and-pop game. This year he hasn’t gotten much playing time in the playoffs, but Coach Hollins could still throw him out there to take Duncan or Splitter away from the basket if Arthur’s knocking down his pick-and-pop jumpers.

Overall, both of these teams look relatively even. Both can be forces on defense, but it’s the variety of weapons on offense that I think pushes San Antonio as the favorite. Memphis’ bench also doesn’t seem as strong and they will be relying heavily on Bayless to provide support.

As Ginobili and Parker reiterated on Saturday, if they just move the ball, the offense will come. My prediction: San Antonio in 6 games.

All stats used from NBA.com/stats

Paul Garcia

About Paul Garcia

Paul is a San Antonio Spurs credentialed media member for Project Spurs. He covered the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in Houston, TX and the 2013 NBA Finals.

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