They looked like the San Antonio Spurs that we’ve been seeing this season.
Their scoring seemed to come naturally and they weren’t as one dimensional as the Dallas Mavericks made them seem throughout the first four games of the first round of the NBA Playoffs. This resurrection of the offense had nothing to do with players “making their shots”, but more of the coaching staff finally adapting to the defense that was given to them.
We’ll examine the two biggest adjustments that gave the Spurs the win in Game 5 and a 3-2 series lead heading into Game 6 on Friday.
Making The Bigs Scramble
This was one of the problems the Spurs had in the first few games of this series. The Mavericks forced them to play the pick and roll or go one on one with their faster guards. San Antonio opted for their “bread and butter” play, but they only chose between scoring off a jumper or a layup from either of the two offensive players in the play. The Spurs finally figured out the third option they had all along.
Parker has a taller Shawn Marion on him and needs a pick to get a clear shot. This is about the same type of offense we saw from San Antonio the last few games. He’ll get Dirk Nowitzki on the switch after the pick is set.
Parker decides to then get another screen from Tim Duncan and play a pick and roll scenario with the two Mavericks bigs. If this type of play looks familiar, it’s close to the play Steve Nash used to make when he would run the offense for the Phoenix Suns. This move has both of Dallas’ rim protectors scrambling around the quickest Spur on the court with the rest of the team looking on.
Now Parker passes the ball at the top of the key with the matchup that suits the Spurs better overall offensively. Parker has Samuel Dalembert out by the 3-point line and away from protecting the rim. Dirk Nowitzki is still confused during the play under the basket and that gives the perfect timing for Kawhi Leonard to take the pass and run a screen and roll with Nowitzki’s man.
With 4 seconds to go on the shot clock, it gives Kawhi Leonard enough time to get open from a pick set by Tim Duncan and to pop the straight away shot. Nowitzki is too late on the rotation to contest the shot which Leonard scores off of. If Leonard were to miss, it would’ve given an opportunity for Tim Duncan to crash the boards over a smaller Monta Ellis and also for Tiago Splitter to try to rebound over a small Shawn Marion.
Moving Off The Ball When The Ball Is In The Paint
Instead of watching what they were doing on offense, it seems the Spurs were watching what the defense was looking at instead. The Mavericks played the same defense against the Spurs, but they gave away their “tell” (in poker talk). Dallas was exposed this game for having all five defenders looking at the ball when it was in the paint and losing track of their guys on the perimeter.
Marco Belinelli is at the top starting the play for the Spurs and guarded by Vince Carter. He passes the ball to Tim Duncan who’s around the free throw line and passes it to Boris Diaw who’s on the left side.
Diaw has a lighter Marion on him and Boris will look to drive on Marion to push him around a bit. If you look at the picture, you can see Vince Carter but no Belinelli nearby. Carter’s attention is also turned to the ball early on, which will cost the Mavericks. After the pass, Duncan streaks to the paint while Kawhi Leonard moves to the perimeter. While Duncan is running to the paint, Diaw drives on Marion and that forces Dalembert to help out Marion. With Diaw sucking in two defenders and Monta Ellis chasing Kawhi Leonard to the right wing, Diaw finds a wide open Marco Belinelli in the corner.
Carter’s distraction of looking at the ball driving to the paint not only made him lose his man, but he was so out of the play that Ellis had to try to contest the shot after running to the wing. Although Duncan didn’t set one, he was also in prime position to set a screen in case the contest of the shot came from the paint where he was. Carter wasn’t the only cause of this type of play as the Mavericks team as a whole looked on when there was a post up or a drive to the paint and that caused some Spur to be open if they moved off the ball if the pass was there.
The Spurs didn’t do any drastic changes. The team as a whole got into a groove by plays that were mentioned, but they were executed by different players. We saw Danny Green hit two 3 pointers as he was struggling so far and Marco Belinelli getting a few good looks over the looks he got before.
It seems the San Antonio Spurs have found their offense again and it’s mostly by exposing the Dallas Mavericks’ tendencies which doesn’t come as a surprise as they were one of the worst defenses in the NBA during the regular season.