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Spurs vs. Mavericks: A Quantitative & Qualitative Preview

“What I do know, is we don’t have to think at all about what happened in the regular season,” said Manu Ginobili Wednesday evening, before finding out his team would be facing the Dallas Mavericks in the opening round of the 2014 NBA playoffs. “If we start thinking that, ‘Oh, we swept both (the Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies),’ it would be really stupid, that it would be counterproductive. In the playoffs, you start from scratch.”

As Ginobili said, relying on the four regular season games where the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Mavericks by an average 11.5 points per game, wouldn’t be the best way to prepare for the upcoming series. Instead, more data and observations would be needed for a thorough preview of the upcoming series between the two teams. Below is a look at different numbers, variables, and observations regarding both the Spurs and Mavericks, as they prepare to face off in their Texas rivalry Sunday at Noon CST in the AT&T Center.

The Offense and Defense of each team

The numbers below were averaged at different points in each teams season. For the Spurs, I used the data from March 02 – April 06, when the team played 19 games together, and of those 19 games, 16 of them featured the entire lineup of core players. The Spurs went 18-1 during the 19-game stretch, but also went 8-1 against current playoff teams at that time. I used to the Post All-Star Break stretch to assess the Mavericks, as they went 17-11 during the 28 game part of the season, and all eight of their core players played in each of those games.

Points Per Game – Spurs 110.9, Mavericks 106.7

Points allowed – Spurs 94.7, Mavs 103.8

Offensive rating – Spurs 112.4, Mavs 111.1

Defensive rating – Spurs 97.1, Mavs 107.4

Net Rating – Spurs +15.3, Mavs +3.7

Pace – Spurs 98.11, Mavs 94.62

Quick Thoughts: Just based on the numbers above, it’s clear the Mavericks’ prime issues will be on the defensive end of the floor. There will be more specific details about the Mavericks’ defense further in the article.

Field Goal Percentage – Spurs 49.4%, Mavs 47.8%

Opponent field goal percentage – Spurs 42.7%, Mavs 46.9%

3-Point shooting – Spurs 42.4%, Mavs 39.8%

Opponent 3-point percentage – Spurs 33.6%, Mavs 35.7%

3-point attempts – Spurs 23.3, Mavs 24.4

3-Pointers allowed – Spurs 18.3, Mavs 24.5

Quick Thoughts: The Mavericks allow 24.5 three pointers per game, and the Spurs shoot 23.3 per game – an indicator that is saying, so long as the Spurs move the basketball, their preferred outside shots are expected to be available.

Personal Fouls Drawn – Spurs 19.7, Mavs 20.5

Free Throw Attempts – Spurs 20.9, Mavs 21.0

Free throw shooting – Spurs 79.3%, Mavs 78.7%

Rebounds – Spurs 45.9, Mavs 42.4

Offensive rebounding – Spurs 9.9, Mavs 11.2

2nd Chance points – Spurs 12.4 points, Mavs 13.8 points

Opponent Second Chance Points – Spurs 11.6, Mavs 14.8

Assists – Spurs 27.7, Mavs 24.1

Assist percentage on made baskets – Spurs 65.6%, Mavs 60%

Opponent assists – Spurs 20.1, Mavs 22.3

Turnovers per game Spurs 13.8, Mavs 13.8

Opponent Points off Turnovers – Spurs 15.9, Mavs 16.5

Opponent turnovers – Spurs 13.6, Mavs 15.8

Points off turnovers – Spurs 15.4, Mavs 18.1

Thoughts: While both teams both give up 13.8 turnovers per game, the Mavericks are the team that really feast when the ball is given up, scoring 18.1 points off their opponent’s turnovers. In their season series, the Mavericks forced the Spurs to cough up 15.3 turnovers per game, which is close to the Mavericks’ average (15.8) they force their opponent to turn the ball over each game.

Fast Break Points – Spurs 12.8, Mavs 12.4

Opponent Fast Break Points – Spurs 12.4, Mavs 17.0

Thoughts: Players on the Spurs’ roster like Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard could have a field day scoring in transition when the Mavericks either turn the ball over or allow the Spurs to run with a defensive rebound. In the season series, Leonard averaged 4.5, Danny Green 3.8, Patty Mills 3.5, and Parker 3.3 fast break points per game against the Mavericks’ defense.

Points in the Paint – Spurs 46.2, Mavs 42.4

Opponent Points in the paint – Spurs 40.7, Mavs 45.9

Thoughts: Allowing close to 46 points in the paint could be an area of concern for the Mavericks’ defense, but it will be even tougher defending the Spurs when Tim Duncan is down posting in the block, and Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw are rolling off screens or cutting to the basket.

Steals – Spurs 7.6, Mavs 8.2

Blocks – Spurs 5.8, Mavs 4.6

Fouls – Spurs 18.2, Mavs 19.5

In the Fourth Quarter

The data below is taken on from the fourth quarter of each team, during their selected times in their seasons from what was noted above.

Spurs – 28.7 points, 3.2 turnovers, shooting 49.6%, 3-point shooting 39.0%, Free Throw Attempts 6.4, Free Throw Shooting 81.0%, Rebounds 11.2, Assists 6.5, Blocks 1.0, Fouls 5.1, Personal Fouls Drawn 5.5

Mavs – 25.8 points, 3.7 turnovers, shooting 48.1%, 3-point shooting 38.5%, Free Throw Attempts 6.8, Free Throw Shooting 73.7%, Rebounds 10.2, Assists 5.3, Blocks 1.1,  Fouls 5.5, Personal Fouls Drawn 5.8

Where each team likes to shoot from

Here’s each teams shot charts from the selected points in the season.

Spurs

Spurs chart

Mavs

Mavs chart real

What does Synergy say?

Using the Synergy Sports database, here were some of the key offensive play styles each team prefers to run. The sets are laid out by percentage of the time used, Points Per Possession, and where the team ranks in that area amongst all 30 NBA teams. Following each team’s preferred offensive play choice, the opposing teams defense is labeled with how much they limit the Points Per Possession, and where their defense is ranked in defending that type of play.

The Spurs’ Offense vs. the Mavericks’ Defense

The Spurs’ Overall offense is ranked 2nd, scoring 0.99 Points Per Possession

The Mavs’ Overall defense is ranked 14th, holding teams to 0.90 Points Per Possession

Spurs’ Pick-and-roll: 22% of the time (15.6% by ball handler, 6.4% by roll man), the Spurs scored 0.89 PPP by ball handler (ranked 2nd), and 0.94 PPP by roll man (ranked 25th).

Mavs’ Pick-and-roll defense: The P&R defense on the ball handler is ranked 6th, holding teams to 0.77 PPP. The P&R defense on the roll man is ranked 21st, holding them to 1.04 PPP.

Spurs’ Spot-Up: 20.1% of the time, they score 1.06 Points Per Possession, and are ranked 1st in the NBA.

Mavs’ Spot-Up defense: The Spot-Up defense is ranked 12th, holding teams to 0.97 PPP.

Spurs’ Transition: 13.2% of the time, the Spurs scored 1.14 PPP, and ranked 10th.

Mavs’ Transition defense: The transition defense is ranked 24th, holding teams to 1.16 PPP.

Spurs’ Cuts: 10% of the time, the Spurs scored 1.24 PPP, and are ranked 6th.

Mavs’ Cut defense: The cut defense is ranked 14th, holding teams to 1.20 PPP.

The Mavericks’ Offense vs. the Spurs’ Defense

The Mavs’ Overall Offense is ranked 4th, scoring 0.98 PPP.

The Spurs’ Overall Defense is ranked 3rd, holding teams to 0.86 Points Per Possession.

Mavs’ Pick-and-Roll: 30.5% of the time (20.8% by ball handler, 9.7% by roll man), the Mavs scored 0.82 PPP by ball handler (ranked 10th), and 1.11 PPP by roll man (ranked 3rd).

Spurs’ P&R Defense: The P&R defense on the ball handler is ranked 11th, holding teams to 0.79 PPP. The P&R defense on the roll man is ranked 11th, holding teams to 0.97 PPP.

Mavs’ Spot-Up: 18.8% of the time, the Mavs scored 1.06 PPP, ranked 1st in the league.

Spurs’ Spot-Up Defense: The Spot-Up defense is ranked 19th, holding teams to 1.00 PPP.

Mavs’ Transition: 10.8% of the time, the Mavs scored 1.22 PPP, ranked 3rd in the league.

Spurs’ Transition Defense: The transition defense is ranked 8th, holding teams to 1.09 PPP.

Core Players

The data used for each team’s core players is the averages for each player after the All-Star Break, as well as the Synergy data on the entire season.

Spurs – 9 Core Players

  • Tony Parker – 14.3 points (12.1 FGA, 49%), 2.5 free throw attempts (85% FT), 4.5 assists, 1.8 turnovers, 2.3 personal fouls drawn, Spurs were a +6.4 with Parker on the floor.

43.1% of Parker’s scoring attempts came as the Pick-and-Roll ball handler, where he scored 0.92 Points Per Possession, ranked 22nd in the NBA. Parker also scored 16% of his scoring possessions in transition, scoring 1.0 PPP, ranked 241 in the NBA. Lastly, 10.2% of Parker’s scoring possessions came in isolation, where he scored 0.85 PPP, ranked 92nd in the league.

  • Tim Duncan – 14.3 points (11.6 FGA, 48%), 4.0 free throw attempts (78% FT), 9.2 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 2.0 turnovers, 3.0 personal fouls drawn,  Spurs were a +6.6 when Duncan was on the floor.

31.4% of Duncan’s scoring possessions came in Post-Up possessions, where he scored 0.90 Points Per Possession, ranked 52nd in the NBA. Duncan also scored 20.6% of his scoring possessions as the roll man, scoring 0.91 PPP, ranked 105 in the NBA. 13.6% of Duncan’s scoring possessions came off Cuts, where he scored 1.16 PPP, ranked 127 in the league. Lastly, 11.8% of Duncan’s scoring possessions came off Spot-Ups, where he scored 0.84 PPP, ranked 265 in the NBA.

  • Kawhi Leonard – 14.7 points (10.4 FGA, 53%), 3.2 three pointers (44%), 2.6 free throw attempts (86% FT), 6.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.8 steals, 1.2 blocks, 1.3 turnovers, Spurs were a +10.0 when Leonard was on the floor.

27.8% of Leonard’s scoring attempts came off Spot-Ups, where he scored 0.97 Points Per Possession, ranked 164 in the NBA. Leonard also scored 22.1% of his scoring possessions in transition, scoring 1.29 PPP, ranked 39th in the NBA.

  • Patty Mills – 11.8 points (10.0 FGA, 45%), 4.3 three pointers (43%), 2.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.8 turnovers, Spurs were a +5.6 when Mills was on the floor.

32.5% of Mills’ scoring attempts came as the pick-and-roll ball handler, where he scored 1.00 Points Per Possession, ranked 7th in the NBA. Mills also scored 24.1% of his scoring possessions off Spot-Ups, scoring 1.28 PPP, ranked 13th in the NBA. Lastly, 13.8% of Mills’ scoring possessions came in transition, where he scored 1.26 PPP, ranked 54th in the NBA.

  • Manu Ginobili – 12.7 points (9.1 FGA, 50%), 3.5 three pointers (34%), 3.0 free throw attempts (83% FT), 4.0 assists, 2.0 turnovers, 1.1 steals, 3.2 personal fouls drawn, Spurs were a +6.7 when Ginobili was on the floor.

28.2% of Ginobili’s scoring possessions came as the pick-and-roll ball handler, where he scored 0.83 Points Per Possession, ranked 62nd in the NBA. Ginobili also scored 18.3% of his scoring possessions off Spot-Ups, scoring 1.04 PPP, ranked 110 in the NBA. 13.4% of Ginobili’s scoring possessions came in transition, where he scored 1.04 PPP, ranked 214 in the league. Lastly, 10.4% of Ginobili’s scoring possessions came off screens, where he scored 1.05 PPP, ranked 30th in the NBA.

  • Marco Belinelli – 11.6 points (8.8 FGA, 45%), 4.0 three pointers (40%), 2.4 assists, 2.3 free throw attempts (91%), 1.0 turnovers, 2.1 personal fouls drawn, Spurs were a +4.0 when Belinelli was on the floor.

26.8% of Belinelli’s scoring possessions came off Spot-Ups, where he scored 1.25 Points Per Possession, ranked 16th in the NBA. Belinelli also scored 17.4% of his scoring possessions off screens, scoring 1.04 PPP, ranked 34th in the NBA. 12.9% of Belinelli’s scoring possessions came in transition, where he scored 1.21 PPP, ranked 91st in the league. 12.7% of Belinelli’s scoring possessions came as the pick-and-roll ball handler, where he scored 0.85 PPP, ranked 51st in the league. Lastly, 10.5% of Belinelli’s scoring possessions came off cuts, where he scored 1.3 PPP, ranked 57th in the NBA.

  • Danny Green – 11.5 points (8.7 FGA, 47%), 5.7 three pointers (46%), 3.5 rebounds, 1.2 turnovers, 0.7 steals, 0.8 blocks, Spurs were a +6.5 when Green was on the floor.

37.1% of Green’s scoring attempts came off Spot-Ups, where he scored 1.12 Points Per Possession, ranked 59th in the NBA. Green also scored 22.8% of his scoring possessions in transition, scoring 1.12 PPP, ranked 159 in the NBA. Lastly, 11.1% of Green’s scoring possessions came off screens, where he scored 0.90 PPP, ranked 77th in the league.

  • Boris Diaw – 7.9 points (7.3 FGA, 45%), 1.7 three points attempts (68%), 5.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.6 turnovers, Spurs were a +4.7 when Diaw was on the floor.

25.4% of Diaw’s scoring possessions came as off Spot-Ups, where he scored 1.01 Points Per Possession, ranked 140 in the NBA. Diaw also scored 17.4% of his scoring possessions posting up, scoring 0.95 PPP, ranked 28th in the NBA. 13.9% of Diaw’s scoring possessions came off cuts, where he scored 1.2 PPP, ranked 103 in the league. 11.9% of Diaw’s scoring possessions came as the pick-and-roll man, where he scored 0.81 PPP, ranked 138 in the league. Lastly, 10.8% of Diaw’s scoring possessions came in transition, where he scored 1.03 PPP, ranked 219 in the NBA.

  • Tiago Splitter – 8.2 points (6.1 FGA, 50%), 3.0 free throw attempts (71%), 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.3 turnovers 2.4 personal fouls drawn, Spurs were a +7.5 when Splitter was on the floor.

25.9% of Splitters’ scoring possessions came as off cuts, where he scored 1.09 Points Per Possession, ranked 161 in the NBA. Splitter also scored 20.4% of his scoring possessions as the roll man, scoring 1.13 PPP, ranked 26th in the NBA. 18.4% of Splitter’s scoring possessions came posting up, where he scored 0.78 PPP, ranked 116 in the league. Lastly, 13.1% of Splitter’s scoring possessions came off offensive rebounds, where he scored 1.14 PPP, ranked 52nd in the NBA.

Interesting/Odd Note: The Spurs finished the season 33-1 when Splitter scored 7 or more points in a game, and 24-1 when Splitter scored 10 or more points in a game.

Mavericks – 8 Core Players

  • Dirk Nowitzki – 21.7 points (16.0 FGA, 51% FG), 4.5 three pointers (38%), 4.3 free throw attempts (88% FT), 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.6 turnovers, 4.6 personal fouls drawn, Mavs were +3.8 when he’s on the floor.

34.6% of Nowitzki’s scoring attempts came posting up, where he scored 1.06 Points Per Possession, ranked 12th in the NBA. Nowtizki also scored 17.9% of his scoring possessions off Spot-Ups, scoring 1.02 PPP, ranked 130 in the NBA. Lastly, 16.3% of Nowtizki’s scoring possessions came as the roll man, where he scored 1.22 PPP, ranked 11th in the league.

  • Monta Ellis – 18.5 points (15.9 FGA, 43%), 3.1 three pointers (36%), 4.8 free throw attempts (76% FT), 3.9 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 3.1 turnovers, 1.6 steals, 4.8 personal fouls drawn, Mavs were +1.4 when he’s on the floor.

46.2% of Ellis’ scoring attempts came as the pick-and-roll ball handler, where he scored 0.87 Points Per Possession, ranked 40th in the NBA. Ellis also scored 13.1% of his scoring possessions off Spot-Ups, scoring 0.94 PPP, ranked 189 in the NBA. Lastly, 12.6% of Ellis’ scoring possessions came in transition, where he scored 1.24 PPP, ranked 69th in the league.

  • Vince Carter – 13.1 points (10.9 FGA, 41%), 5.4 three pointers (44%), 2.4 free throw attempts (82% FT), 3.9 rebounds, 1.3 turnovers, 2.3 personal fouls drawn, Mavs were +3.8 when he’s on the floor.

32.3% of Carter’s scoring attempts came as the pick-and-roll ball handler, where he scored 0.94 Points Per Possession, ranked 20th in the NBA. Carter also scored 25.4% of his scoring possessions off Spot-Ups, scoring 1.09 PPP, ranked 71st in the NBA.

  • Shawn Marion – 10 points (8.8 FGA, 51%), 2.0 three pointers (34%), 6.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 1.2 turnovers, Mavs are -.6 when he’s on the floor.
  • Jose Calderon – 11.0 points (8.7 FGA, 47%), 4.8 three pointers (46%), 4.5 assists, 1.4 turnovers, Mavs are a -.4 when he’s on the floor.
  • Devin Harris – 7.4 points (6.2 FGA, 36%), 2.7 three pointers (29%), 2.8 free throw attempts (79% FT), 4.8 assists, 1.8 turnovers, 3.0 personal fouls drawn, Mavs are a +4.6 when he’s on the floor.
  • Brandan Wright – 8.5 points (5.6 FGA, 68%), 4.1 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, Mavs are a +1.3 when he’s on the floor.
  • Samuel Dalembert – 7.1 points (5.3 FGA, 55%), 7.7 rebounds, 1.3 turnovers, 1.4 blocks, Mavs are a +0.9 when he’s on the floor.

The Blair Factor: In the season series, DeJuan Blair also received more playing time against the Spurs versus his Post All-Star break minutes. In the four games against San Antonio, Blair averaged 7.8 points (61% FG), 6.3 rebounds, 1.0 steals in 16.8 minutes, but the Mavs were a -3.5 when Blair was on the floor. Blair spent a majority of his time defending Duncan in the season series, and a bit more on the matchup will be presented below.

Dallas’ Defense vs. Tony Parker

Via NBA.com, Parker was mainly defended by Calderon (16:42 minutes), Wayne Ellington (3:02 minutes), and Shawn Marion (3:01 minutes) throughout the season series. Per the article, Parker shot 14-of-25 against the trio in three games this season (56%). By the eye test, Calderon had a tough time staying in front of Parker when he was using multiple screens with the ball in his hand, and Parker was more prone to attack Calderon one-on-one. Ellis had trouble running around screens when Parker was without the ball, and when Parker would catch the ball, Ellington was still trying to catch up, which gave Parker the upper hand. Marion mainly defended Parker in the first match in December, and also would have trouble recovering around screens. One tactic the Mavericks might use is running a 3-2 zone defense, which they did a few times in the season series to try to slow down Parker’s penetration and play off screens without the ball. In his last two games against Calderon and Ellington, Parker shot 16-of-23 against the two guards (70%).

As written above, Parker prefers to scoring mainly by being the pick-and-roll ball handler (0.92 PPP), scoring in transition (1.0 PPP), and scoring off isolation (0.85 PPP). Here’s how the Mavericks’ main defenders defend some of those areas.

P&R Ball Handler: Calderon (0.78 PPP, ranked 97th), Ellington (0.69 PPP, ranked 38th), Marion (0.88 PPP, ranked 190)

Isolation: Calderon (0.91 PPP, ranked 200), Ellington (1.63 PPP, not enough possessions to rank), Marion (0.89 PPP, ranked 189)

Thoughts: Based on the eye test and data, it seems Dallas just doesn’t have the personnel on the perimeter to really limit Parker’s abilities. Though they didn’t do it much, the Mavericks’ best chance at limiting Parker may be to run the 3-2 zone defense. Against the Mavericks this season, Parker averaged 23.3 points, shot 54%, threw 5.7 assists, and had 3.7 turnovers, in 31.3 minutes per game.

Dallas’ Defense vs. Tim Duncan

From the eye test, Duncan was mainly defended by Dalembert and Blair in the majority of the four games in the season series. Duncan shot 11 of 21 (52%) in the four games against Dalembert. Dalembert lingers in the paint for a majority of the possessions, but when Duncan sets a pick-and-pop screen, Dalembert tends to be aggressive in recovering. Against Blair, Duncan shot 10-of-19 (56%)against his former teammate. One thing Blair will do a majority of the time when defending Duncan, is leave Duncan open on his mid-range jumpers. Duncan will have to knock down his mid-range shot at an efficient percentage, or else Blair will continue to be an extra body clogging the paint.

From above, Duncan prefers scoring mainly by posting up (0.90 PPP), as the roll man (0.91 PPP), off cuts (1.16 PPP), and off Spot-Ups (0.84 PPP). Here’s how the Mavericks’ main defenders defend some of those areas.

Post Up: Dalembert (0.89 PPP, ranked 160), Blair (0.89 PPP, ranked 160)

Roll Man: Dalembert (0.95 PPP, ranked 75th), Blair (1.08 PPP, ranked 104)

Spot Ups: Dalember (1.06 PPP, ranked 283), Blair (0.92 PPP, ranked 115)

Dalembert allows 6.1 opponent field goals at the rim on 52% shooting per game via the SportVU data. Blair allows 3.6 field goal attempts at the rim on 55% shooting per game.

Thoughts: Like the matchup with Parker, Dallas doesn’t seem to have the players needed to limit Duncan in the paint. An interesting little wrinkle was that Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle began to go away from using Blair in the last two games of the season against the Spurs, and instead gave Wright a few chances at defending him. In the four games against Dallas, Duncan averaged 18.5 points, shot 51% from the floor, drew 5.5 personal fouls per game, shot 8.0 free throws per game (81% FT), grabbed 12.5 rebounds, had 3.5 turnovers, and blocked 1.8 shots in 33.8 minutes per game.

Spurs’ Defense vs. Dirk Nowtizki

Via the NBA SportVU article, both Diaw and Splitter were the primary defenders on Nowtizki in the season series. Diaw spent 18:16 minutes on Nowitzki, and held him to 12-of-24 shooting (50%) in four games, while Splitter spent 7:52 minutes on Nowtizki, and held him to 5-of-10 shooting in three games. In the final meeting between the two teams, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich also allowed Leonard to spend some time defending Nowtizki, but Nowitzki had little trouble with Leonard defending him, as he shot 5-of-6 against Leonard (83%).

By the eye test, both Diaw and Splitter have the speed and strength to fight through screens that Nowitzki tried to use in the low block, to buy himself some daylight to shoot. Both Diaw and Splitter can also use their length to contest Nowitzki’s post shots at a decent output. The areas where Nowtizki can escape their clutches, is when he sets a pick and goes out for a pick-and-pop jumper, or when he goes around a screen, and a smaller guard or forward has to switch onto him, then he has the upper hand.

As written above, Nowitzki prefers scoring mainly by posting up (01.06 PPP), scoring off Spot-Ups (1.02 PPP), and scoring as the roll man (1.22 PPP). Here’s how the Spur’ tandem defended those areas.

Post Up: Diaw (0.90 PPP, ranked 174), Splitter (0.70 PPP, ranked 38th)

Spot-Up: Diaw (0.93 PPP, ranked 129), Splitter (1.11 PPP, ranked 313)

P&R Roll Man: Diaw (0.67 PPP, ranked 9th), (0.82 PPP, ranked 38th)

Thoughts: Though Nowitzki is most likely to score over 18 points per game in the series, he’s going to have to work out of his comfort zone for those points. During the season series against the Spurs, he was held to 18.5 points on 48.4% shooting, he shot 4.0 free throws per game (81.3%), grabbed 5.8 rebounds, and tallied 1.0 steals, in 32.0 minutes per game. Both Splitter and Diaw seem to be a comfortable tandem ready for Nowitzki.

Spurs’ Defense vs. Monta Ellis

Leonard, Green, and Ginobili were the Spurs’ main defenders who spent time on Ellis throughout the season, with Leonard being the primary defender. Against Leonard, Ellis shot 13 of 35 (37%) on the season. Ellis’ only chance of escaping Leonard’s clutches were when he got a slither of daylight with his crossover into a jump shot, or when Leonard was delayed in trying to get around a screen. Still, a majority of those times, Ellis’ best shot was a lengthy outside jumper, not a drive to the rim. Against Green, Ellis shot 4 of 13 (31%). Green too defended Ellis fairly well by picking him up near the half court line. The times when Ellis has an advantage over Green is when Ellis is already running in transition, goes around a screen, and can dash to the rim. Ellis connected on 9 of 13 shots (69%) against Ginobili. This was the one matchup when presented in three of the games where Ellis looked most comfortable, as Ginobili had a tough time keeping up with Ellis’ speed, as Ellis either attacked the rim or settled for his more natural outside jumpers.

As noted above, Ellis prefers scoring mainly as the pick-and-roll ball handler (0.87 PPP), scoring off Spot-Ups (0.94 PPP), and scoring in transition (1.24 PPP). Here’s how the Spurs’ trio defends those areas.

P&R Ball Handler: Leonard (0.61 PPP, ranked 10th), Green (0.70 PPP, ranked 45th), Ginobili (0.67 PPP, ranked 30th)

Spot Up: (0.91 PPP, ranked 154), Green (0.96 PPP, ranked 180), Ginobili (1.00 PPP, ranked 221)

Ellis: Unless Ellis’ outside jumper is absolutely on fire, he’s going to need a ton of shot attempts for his point production as both Leonard and Green will take away a majority of his penetration attempts, and force him into lengthy inefficient outside jumpers. Ellis averaged 21.3 points, shot 48.6%, drew 4.3 personal fouls, shot 4.0 free throws (755 FT), threw 5.5 assists, had 2.5 turnovers, and gathered 1.5 steals in 38 minutes per game against the Spurs this season.

Series Prediction

Due to the Mavericks’ numerous matchup problems on the defensive end, and the expectation that the Spurs will be able to limit both Nowitzki and Ellis, while also having so many weapons on the offensive end, I’m picking the Spurs to sweep the Mavericks 4-0 in the series.

Predicting X-Factors for each team: Patty Mills (Spurs), Vince Carter (Mavericks)

(All data, numbers, and shot charts used via nba.com/stats, mysynergysports.com, and the SportVU data.)

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.

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