When looking back at game one for the umpteenth time, there was a sudden realization. It was the very first game of the 2014 playoffs. Teams will have to adjust to the sudden change in the way the game gets played. Defense gets amped up a bit. The best players play more minutes. Coaches get extra days to specifically game plan for the opposition. So did the San Antonio Spurs really have a poor game?
The answer is no.
Yes, adjustments can be made. Adjustments will always be made during the game, before the games, and after the games. That’s part of the winning recipe, but saying that scoring 80% of your field goals in the paint isn’t successful, there is an argument to be had. In the regular season, 56.6% of the Spurs’ made field goals came in the paint. Shots in the paint are the most successful, so why wouldn’t one want that number to be at 80%?
On top of that, the defense was pretty spectacular. Tiago Splitter, when matched up against Dirk Nowitzki, held the Big German to 1-of-5 shooting. He consistently bothered him and moved him out of his spots. The most impressive play came toward the end of the game when he had to dance around with Monta Ellis on the perimeter, kept up with him, and tightly contested his shot.
The arguments can be had. They would be understood. The Spurs scored 105.4 points per game this season. On Sunday, they scored 90 points. Clearly, they can score more, closer to their season average. In all honesty, they were a little more than 3 deep balls from scoring 100. In the playoffs, scoring 100 is a very respectable number. Defenses tighten up, and it is always a little more difficult to score.
Marco Bellinelli, on his four shots, had the open looks. He is struggling with his shooting right now, but his shots were quality looks. If someone who’s hot right now, say Patty Mills, gets those open looks, the Spurs are nearing 100. One of the adjustments that needs to be made is getting Mills more than four shots. Saying that, his transition pull-up, one his better shots, needs to make a return for game two. It was non-existent on a day when the Spurs needed some threes to fall.
Just like Miami in game six and seven last year, Dallas’ game plan was to never let Danny Green out of arm’s reach. He was only able to attempt one three, and that was likely a big factor in the paint being wide open for Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. If Dallas changes their game plan to stop Parker in the paint, Green will get some more shot attempts. If not, no harm, no foul. Scoring in the paint worked.
Quite simply, the bench needs to make some shots. As a whole, Boris Diaw, Mills, Manu Ginobili, and Belinelli went 7-for-26 from the field. Whether it be game one playoff jitters or tighter defense, this bench will turn it around. They were the highest scoring bench in the regular season, and will bounce back and lead the Spurs tonight to another win. Book it.
Kawhi Leonard was very solid on the defensive end. On offense, he needs to be more assertive. If the Maverick’s defense continues to switch, Leonard will get a lot of time with a smaller defender on him. Those smaller defenders will most likely be Devin Harris or Monta Ellis. The Hand needs to take advantage of that and go back to his post game. There’s no way Ellis, Harris, or Jose Calderon can stop that.
Lastly, Devin Harris was the biggest thorn in the Spurs’ side on Sunday. As fellow staffer Paul Garcia pointed out:
Charted Devin Harris’ 19 points on 8/16 shooting in G1: 1/8 vs. Parker, 6/7 vs. Mills, 1/1 vs. Belinelli. Mills played 14 mins only.
— Paul Garcia PS (@PaulGarciaPS) April 23, 2014
This may possibly be why Carlisle has already stated that Calderon will start for game two over Harris. Harris had the matchup advantage running through all those screens. If Harris continues to score the ball at a high clip, especially from outside, the Spurs could adjust and tell Mills to go over the screens, instead of under, which he did nearly every time in game one. Going over the screens prevents Harris from getting open looks from three, and forces him to make a play inside the perimeter with more dangerous defenders lurking. This is the biggest adjustment the Spurs will have to make for game two.
If the Mavericks continue to leave that paint open, Parker needs to continue to score in the paint. Getting Leonard more involved in the paint will only help. The bench scores much better, and the Spurs win this one by 10-15 points.