Out of rhythm, Blazers have put clamps on Ginobili through 4 games

Before the San Antonio Spurs’ game four loss to the Portland Trail Blazers Monday, Project Spurs’ own John Diaz wrote an analytical piece looking at the early struggles of Spurs guard Manu Ginobili against the Blazers. Diaz’s conclusion inferred that Ginobili’s struggles could have been due to the matchup with the Blazers, and he noted that with Ginobili, your team has to take both the positive and negative aspects of his game.

Ginobili would go on to continue to struggle in game four, shooting 1-of-6 from the floor for two points, turning the ball over once, collecting two assists, and not visiting the free throw line in roughly 20 minutes of play. After a stellar series against the Dallas Mavericks in round one, I too was curious as to why Ginobili’s offensive numbers against the Blazers have seemed to decline through the four games. Here was some of my research and findings.

What the numbers say

First off, as you can see in the table below, just by looking at the base statistics, Ginobili’s point production has declined by 9.2 points per game, and though he’s playing less minutes and taking less shot attempts, his 26.2% field goal percentage and 16.7% three point percentage are two significant areas that stand out. Another area of concern could be Ginobili’s free throw attempts and personal fouls drawn, which have both decreased against Portland as opposed to Dallas.

Mavericks 17.7 11.4 (45%) 5.3 (37.8%) 6.7 4.6 3.1 2.3 4.7 27.4
Blazers 8.5 9.5 (26.3%) 3.0 (16.7%) 3.0 4.0 2.5 1.3 2.8 23.35

Abbreviations: PTS – points per game, FGA – Field Goal Attempts, FG% – Field Goal Percentage, 3PA – Thee Points Attempts, 3P% – Three Point Percentage, FTA – Free Throw Attempts, AST – Assists, TO – Turnovers, STL – Steals, PFD – Personal Fouls Drawn, MPG – Minutes Per Game

Team OFF Rating DEF Rating %PTS 2PT %PTS 3PT %PTS FB %PTS FT Usage PITP PPP
Mavericks 112.6 102.6 35.5% 33.9% 16.9% 30.6% 26.9% 4.3 1.00
Blazers 119.1 97.8 47.1% 17.6% 11.8% 35.3% 24.7% 2.5 0.54

Abbreviations: OFF Rating – Offensive Rating, DEF Rating – Defensive Rating, %PTS – Percentage of where Ginobili’s made baskets came from (2PT, 3PT, FB, FT), PITP – Points in the Paint, PPP – Points Per Possession

As you see above from some of the more detailed metrics, Ginobili’s 3-point shot and ability to score on the fast break, and also in the paint, have also declined against the Blazers. Whereas Ginobili was scoring 1.00 points per possession via Synergy against the Mavericks, those numbers are down to 0.54 against the Blazers. A big reason for his scoring drought will be explained further along.

Touches per game Passes per game
Playoffs 47.4 29.5
Blazers 39.3 24.0

With less minutes per game and also due to Tony Parker having a relatively better series against the Blazers compared to the Mavericks, both Ginobili’s touches and passes per game on average have also declined in the current series. Another likely reason for Ginobili’s decline in touches, is because unlike the series against the Mavericks, his Foreign Legion buddies consisting of Marco Belinelli, Boris Diaw, and Patty Mills are all also being effective with possessions, so the ball is being distributed by each of them, not just Ginobili for a majority of the time.

Team Contested (FG%) Uncontested (FG%)
Blazers 7/24 (29%) 3/14 (21%)

As we’re about to detail in the section below, Ginobili just hasn’t been able to find a rhythm so far in this series and until he does, the Blazers will likely continue to play the same type of defense on him as they’ve been doing through the first four games. Whether contested or uncontested, Ginobili simply has had trouble putting it in the basket, to be frank, shooting less than 30% from either shot type per SportVU.

Scoring Possession Percentage of time PPP Overall Overall Rank Overall per game Vs. Portland per game
P&R Ball Handler 30.6% 0.83 64 3.9 7.3
Spot-Up 17.9% 1.07 87 2.3 2.3
Transition 12.3% 1.01 237 1.6 1.5

Using Synergy, we can see where Ginobili prefers to attack from overall, as his bread-and-butter scoring possessions come off the Pick-and-roll as the ball handler, Spot-Up shots, and in Transition. As you can see above, he’s actually getting more Pick-and-roll possessions against the Blazers than he averages overall, but how the Blazers are defending him is what is key to his decline in personal fouls drawn, decline in shooting percentage on contested shots, and his decline in free throws.

As you can see from the first two screen shots below, the Blazers’ big men are staying in around the paint whenever a screen is set for Ginobili. With the big staying down low, they’re able to better contest his drive attempts and limit the amount of times he draws fouls on them, because they’re are in a better position to contest and avoid contact.

Screenshot (31)

Screenshot (33)

Here’s an example of how the Blazers big men are contesting Ginobili’s drives to the basket, by hovering around the paint on pick-and-rolls.

Screenshot (32)

Screenshot (34)

The reason the big men from Portland are hovering around the paint, is likely because they’re not respecting Ginobili’s mid-range or 3-point shot at the moment. As it’s shown above in being 3-of-14 uncontested, the Blazers’ defense likely knows by giving Ginobili long range shots, and closing the paint as much as possible, it’s working in their favor in limiting his production on offense. One of the key ways Ginobili can counter what the Blazers are doing to him, is to simply earn their respect, and make the shots they’re giving him, the outside jumpers.

Ginobili’s spot-up and transition scoring possessions are still present on average, but it’s his play in the pick-and-roll that’s really led to his decline in offensive production. Whether this is just a series where he hasn’t been able to find a consistent rhythm, or it’s a defensive scheme that is solely working against Ginobili, it’ll be interesting to see how Ginobili responds in Game five Wednesday, and possibly in the Western Conference Finals, if the Spurs do eliminate Portland.

Ginobili acknowledged his shooting woes in the series, as he recently told the the San Antonio Express News:

“I could practice if we had more days off,” he said. “But playing every other day, and with Portland to San Antonio (travel), it is not easy. But the truth is, I’m just not having a good shooting season. It’s not that it’s just new.”

“I think the worm will turn and it’s going to go back to where it usually is,” he said.

(Stats, screen shots, & data via, SportVU, Synergy Sports)

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 and 2014 NBA Finals. Paul has been featured on WOAI, Fox 29, and numerous nationwide radio shows.