Position by Position: Spurs vs. Trail Blazers
On the regular season, the San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trail Blazers split their season series 2-2. In all of the games but one, both teams scored over 100 points. In that last one, the Spurs scored over 100, but the Blazers did not. The points will be scored. The Blazers keep their starters out on the floor as much as they can. Fans will only see an eight man rotation for the Blazers, while the Spurs will most likely continue with their nine man rotation, including Belinelli who will most likely get spot minutes.
POR: Damian Lillard – 20.7 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 5.6 APG, 0.78 SPG, 0.27 BPG, 2.4 TOPG, .424 FG%, .394 3P%
Lillard loves shooting and does it often. In his first two NBA seasons, both of which he played every game, Lillard set an NBA record for most 3’s attempted and made in one player’s first two seasons. So, the key here is to run him off the line and let him have to take on Duncan or Splitter and force him to make a play. One could expect to see Danny Green defending Lillard, just as the Spurs did to Monta Ellis in game seven last series. Lillard has averaged 25 points per game against the Spurs this season, well above his average. Green can help bring him down toward his norm again.
SAS: Tony Parker – 16.7 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 5.7 APG, 0.53 SPG, 0.13 BPG, 2.2 TOPG, .499 FG%, .373 3P%
Tony Parker missed February’s contest against the Blazers, the game where Patty Mills exploded for 29 points. In the other three contests, Parker played below his averages in nearly every category. He was especially down in points, and his shooting percentage (.499 vs. .356). However, since the birth of his son, Josh, Parker has been on a tear. He is averaging nearly 26 points per game, and has not made less than 9 field goals in the final three games of the first round. The Spurs rely on Parker to create offense and get the shooters open looks. When he plays like that, the Spurs are the 62-win team we saw in the regular season.
The argument can be made for both All-Stars. Both are absolutely crucial to the success of their team. The series very well may come down to which point guard outplays the other. They have different games, though. Lillard is a shooter, while Parker gets in the paint. The advantage will come down to how the defenses play, and what they are willing to give them. It’ll be very interesting to see.
POR: Wesley Matthews – 16.4 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.4 APG, 0.93 SPG, 0.17 BPG, 1.3 TOPG, .441 FG%, .393 3P%
Wes Matthews is a guy that is going to burn you if you leave him open downtown. Over half of his shots during the regular season were from deep.
However, he has only converted at a 30% rate this postseason after shooting nearly 40% during the regular season. Still, Matthews is the team’s third leading scorer and has to be tracked out on the perimeter. Matthews is an above average defender, but not one who is quick on his feet. Rather, he is a more physical defender a la World Peace. It’ll be interesting to see which of the three perimeter players Terry Stotts puts him on. My guess would is that he starts on Parker, and slides over against Leonard for the end of the game. Nicolas Batum would end of Parker, and Lillard would defend Green/Ginobili.
SAS: Danny Green – 9.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.96 SPG, 0.90 BPG, 1.1 TOPG, .432 FG%, .415 3P%
A very solid defender on the perimeter, Green will be largely tasked with containing Damian Lillard. Depending on Matthews’ ability to post up, we may see Green on Matthews. Mr. icyHOT himself is on one of his streaks. In his first four games against Dallas, Green was 4 for 15. In the last three, he was 14 for 16. Talk about a turnaround. When Green shoots like the HOT, and not the icy, the Spurs are very, very tough to beat. Again, though, just like last series, his defense will be a huge key.
Stated above, both Matthews and Green are solid defenders. The difference here is the efficiency. Matthews shot 511 three-point attempts this season. Green attempted 318. The effective field goal percentage (3’s are 1.5 times more valuable than 2’s) is 56.2% to 54.1% in favor of Green. If Green were still icy, the advantage would have gone to Matthews. That, however, is not the case.
POR: Nicolas Batum – 13.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 5.1 APG, 0.91 SPG, 0.70 BPG, 2.5 TOPG, .465 FG%, .361 3P%
Nicolas Batum is a jack-of-all-trades player. His stats across the board are efficient and spread across the board. Batum will see a lot of Kawhi Leonard, who is a very similar player. Batum shoots a lot more efficiently from the left side, than he does on the right side and he shoots 70.89%(!) at the basket. The key for Leonard will be getting Batum to stay on the three point line and help out on LaMarcus Aldridge in the post or Damian Lillard in the paint. Batum is a terrific defender, and the best guess would be seeing him defend Tony Parker, and bother him with length, toward the end of games.
SAS: Kawhi Leonard – 12.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.73 SPG, 0.76 BPG, 1.2 TOPG, .522 FG%, .379 3P%
Leonard’s duty, as always, will be primarily defensively. His help defense is going to be a bigger key in this series, as he won’t be chasing Ellis all around the court. Rather, he will trail Batum who is more of a complimentary scorer. His double teaming and playing the passing lanes will be vital. On another note, Batum, Aldridge, and Robin Lopez are all very good rebounders. That is the reason the Blazers led the league in rebounding at 46.4 per game. For comparative sakes, the Spurs are sitting at 43.3. Leonard will be needed to fight in the paint to prevent second chance opportunities, or giving the Spurs some of their own.
There’s a reason most talking heads are predicting this series to be very close. As we have gone through these matchups, all of them have been very difficult to call. (Hint: It doesn’t get any easier). Batum will be a nightmare matchup for Parker, but Leonard is a more efficient scorer, and better swiping the ball. Both the small forwards will be the x-factors against the posts and guards of the opposition.
POR: LaMarcus Aldridge – 23.2 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 2.6 APG, 0.91 SPG, 0.99 BPG, 1.8 TOPG, .458 FG%, .200 3P%
One the most efficient mid range players in the league, Aldridge will be huge thorn in the Spurs’ side. Essentially, Aldridge is Dirk without three-point range, but a better rebounder. We will see cross-matchups at both post positions. Aldridge and Splitter will see a lot of each other. Just like Dirk, Splitter can give LMA absolutely no space, and he will put the ball in the hole.
SAS: Tim Duncan- 15.1 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 3.0 APG, 0.58 SPG, 1.88 BPG, 2.1 TOPG, .490 FG%, .000 3P%
So far in the playoffs, 65.91% of Duncan’s shots have come from right near the basket. The bad news there is that Robin Lopez is a good defender right around the basket. Dwight Howard, Lopez’s last matchup, shot 5% worse in the series than he did in the regular season. In order for Parker and others to penetrate the paint, Duncan’s jumpers need to be falling. Only one jumper that wasn’t a post-up has fallen so far for the big man. On defense, like stated above with Leonard, Duncan needs to crash the boards.
This is another very, very close one. Just like in the last series, Nowitzki was the choice. Aldridge, at this point in his career, is better than Nowitzki. Duncan is no cakewalk, obviously. This is a case where Duncan and Aldridge really won’t be matched up, but Aldridge, at this point, is a top ten player in this league. Unfortunately for Duncan, that status passed a few years ago.
POR: Robin Lopez – 11.1 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.30 SPG, 1.70 BPG, 1.0 TOPG, .551 FG%, .000 3P%
As seen above, the other Lopez can box out a whole team. Lopez is tied for second in the league with 4.0 offensive rebounds during the regular season. He is tied for third in the postseason, ironically with the same player (DeAndre Jordan). Lopez averages 3.0-second chance points per game in this postseason. He only averages 9.7 points per game. Essentially, a third of his points come off second chance points. Keep him off the boards, and you take him out of the offensive game.
SAS: Tiago Splitter – 8.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.49 SPG, 0.53 BPG, 1.3 TOPG, .523 FG%, .000 3P%
Splitter turned his game up a notch so far this postseason. He was dominant against Dallas. He averaged 8.2 points per game in the regular season and has upped that total to 10.7 points per game, including 14.3 on the road. The pick-n-roll game will be crucial again for the Spurs going forward. Nobody has run it better this postseason than Splitter and Ginobili.
As long as Splitter keeps playing this well, he is a better player than Lopez. Both are solid defensively, and will have their hands full respectfully, but where Splitter is better than Lopez is on the offensive end.
POR: Mo Williams – 9.7 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 4.3 APG, 0.74 SPG, 0.14 BPG, 2.0 TOPG, .417 FG%, .369 3P%
Mo Williams is really the only bench option in the backcourt for the Blazers. Both CJ McCollum and Will Barton may see spot minutes, but are both too inexperienced for second round playoff basketball. Mo Williams does a little bit of everything, and he will get under your skin. The veteran has a known reputation for being a little chippy, but he also hits the big shots. If there is any x-factor off the bench for the Blazers, it is Mo Williams.
SAS: Manu Ginobili – 12.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.03 SPG, 0.25 BPG, 2.0 TOPG, .469 FG%, .349 3P%
SAS: Marco Belinelli – 11.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.63 SPG, 0.09 BPG, 1.2 TOPG, .485 FG%, .430 3P%
SAS: Patty Mills – 10.2 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.84 SPG, 0.11 BPG, 0.8 TOPG, .464 FG%, .425 3P%
In the first round, Manu Ginobili had the most steals and three pointers made, and was second in points and assists. He does have his poor games (see: Game 6), but then takes over games (see: Game 5 & 7). Belinelli struggled in the first round, but was actually still shooting .571 from three. He needs to be more aggressive and play better on the defensive end. He could have a big impact this series, as the perimeter may be defended a little less tight.
There shouldn’t be a series where the Spurs don’t have an advantage with the bench. Especially in this case, where the Blazers rarely use their bench. Mo Williams will get the most minutes off the bench, but most of the starters will play high in the high 30’s-low 40-s minutes-wise.
POR: Thomas Robinson – 4.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.33 SPG, 0.29 BPG, 0.8 TOPG, .481 FG%, .000 3P%
POR: Dorell Wright – 5.0 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.34 SPG, 0.24 BPG, 0.6 TOPG, .374 FG%, .342 3P%
Both of these front court players averaged less than 15 minutes a game during the regular season. In the postseason, they average even less. Wright can shoot the three ball at a respectable clip (.342 regular season, .351 postseason) and Thomas Robinson is an energy, DeJuan Blair-type player. Neither should make huge impacts on the game.
SAS: Boris Diaw – 9.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.8 APG, 0.56 SPG, 0.41 BPG, 1.5 TOPG, .521 FG%, .402 3P%
It’ll be very interesting to see where Diaw fits into this series. He will see time on Aldridge, that is a given. However, there’s a good chance he sees a lot of Batum when the Blazers go small. The Blazers have to go small given their rotation minutes. When they do, it’ll be interesting to see if Diaw plays center against Aldridge, or whether Duncan or Splitter are always in the game to match up that way.
Again, the Blazers don’t have a bench. Diaw knows his niche on this team, and plays it well. He should knock down some big threes again, and make the passes when they need to be made.
Stotts is an up and coming coach. He was an assistant under Rick Carlisle during their title run, so we will see the similarities. It has been argued that Carlisle outcoached Pop last series, and Pop won more on talent. He is still the Coach of the Year, and made the necessary adjustments last series. He will continue to do the same.