Game 5 is going to be a tough game for the Mavericks but more so for the San Antonio Spurs, being tied 2-2 to the 8th seed in the West postseason.
The first games of the series were sloppy and ugly, to say the least. Game 3 was a vast improvement, offensively, compared to the previous two games. Of course, Game 4 was a win and that’s all that matters.
However, this is the team that has blown through half the league to getting the best record in the NBA and home court advantage throughout the playoffs.
So, what needs to be done to fix it? What adjustments need to be taken care of come game 5?
First off, the Spurs need to focus a lot of their attention on defense. They are a more efficient offensive unit compared to past Championship Spurs teams, like in ‘03. Whereas in the past, previous Spurs teams were built around defense. The 2003 Spurs were ranked 3rd in defense overall, and gave up an average of 90.4 points per game. 2001 Spurs: 3rd in defense, only gave up an average of 88.4 points per game. These stats clearly show that during the prime of San Antonio’s championship runs, defense was the name of the game.
This being said, the Spurs need to put some focus on defending the pick and roll better. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is having the guys go under the screen as if they are defending LeBron James, this worked in the 2013 NBA Finals.
However, this series is against the Dallas Mavericks and their star shooter is Monta Ellis who seems to be taking each game in his own hands. Lebron James and Monta Ellis are different types of shooters. James is not the elite jump shooter that Ellis is. In game 3 against the Spurs, Ellis shot 54% from the field and scored 29 points. A lot of Ellis’ points came off wide open jumpers from the pick and roll. The Spurs do not need to put all focus on Ellis but at least putting a hand in his face on his jumpers could limit his offensive efficiency.
Then, still on the defensive side- San Antonio’s defensive rotation should be quicker. The Mavericks are shooting nearly 40% from the 3-point line. This may not be a great statistic to argue on but the Spurs are one of the best at shooting and defending the 3 point shot. In this series, the Spurs have been slow to recognize the open man and rotate over. In other words- the help defense needs vast improvement for game 5.
San Antonio does not seem to be running as many plays which results in a lot of forced shots. There has not been as many open 3 point shots, and the Spurs sure don’t seem to be passing the ball as much as they were during the regular season. They are still 1st overall in the league for assists, but the first 3 games of this series would not have showcased that.
Unfortunately, this is resulting in more turnovers that do not normally happen, and less wide open shots. During the regular season, it was natural to see San Antonio pass the ball 4-7 times in a play. As of right now, it seems to be more of one-on-one basketball.
Aside from the play of the game, half the players on the roster are not playing to the level we’ve been accustomed to seeing. Starter Danny Green is struggling to say the least. In the regular season Green shot 43% from the field, and 41% from the 3 point line. The Spurs have not seen Green show up yet and I think the rest of San Antonio is awaiting his arrival as well.
And where is Marco Belinelli?
If the Spurs’ bench shows up and defense steps up, while limiting turnovers and offensive rebounds, game 5 should result in free coffee in San Antonio come Tuesday morning.
These adjustments are necessary for getting the Spurs to take the series lead. Sure, Dallas is peaking at the right time but this 2013-14 Spurs team has exceptional talent along with coaching to go down against the 8th seed.
Stats and Info from ESPN.com and Basketball-Reference.com