AT&T CENTER – In their Game 1 victory against the Miami Heat Thursday, the San Antonio Spurs did something the Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trail Blazers, or Oklahoma City Thunder had not allowed San Antonio to do in the playoffs – throw 30 assists.
When you take out the 23 turnovers that gave Miami 28 extra points, the Spurs were sharp in moving the ball, as they assisted on 30 of their 40 made baskets (75% assisted), shot 58.8% from the floor, and connected on 13-of-25 three pointers.
After the game, Spurs guard Manu Ginobili, who had 11 assists himself, talked about how the ball movement was key in the win, and why if they make fundamental passes, there’s a chance they won’t turn the ball over as much going forward.
“For sure it was good ball movement,” said Ginobili after the game. “That was the reason why Danny Green was open so many times and he wasn’t before. We were a little sloppy moving the ball. As we talked about, 20 turnovers in three quarters. We were not that sharp. So, you know, the fact that we moved the ball that well making silly passes, sometimes you think you’re going to make a pass to the guy next to you and it’s not fancy enough, and it’s not cool enough. But that helps because we rotate, get the defenses moving, and that’s why Tony got that three, and Kawhi got his, and Danny got three.”
Ginobili was referencing the Spurs’ ball movement in the fourth quarter, where the team put 36 points on the scoreboard, assisted on 12 of their 14 makes in the quarter, and shot 6-of-6 from 3-point range, with those made 3-pointers coming from Green, Leonard, and Parker.
“So sometimes we gotta think more about that, making a simple pass, moving on their defense, and it breaks easier on that aspect,” continued Ginobili. “If we hold the ball and wait fifteen seconds to play a pick-and-roll, it’s harder. They are more athletic than us and stronger than us and the defense is pretty sharp.”
Against the Mavericks in round one, the most assists the Spurs collected in a game was 26. Against the Blazers, 27, and against the Thunder, 28. With Miami’s rim protector’s being Chris Bosh, Rashard Lewis, and Chris Andersen, the Spurs were especially effective in attacking the rim by running the pick-and-roll with Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter.
Per Synergy, the Spurs ran nine Pick-and-Roll Man plays, which usually involved Duncan and Splitter. The Spurs scored on 56% of those plays, as Duncan finished with 21 points, while finishing shooting 90% from the floor. Splitter shot 83% from the floor, for 14 points. Both players also shot a combined nine free throws, and the Spurs as a team scored 48 points in the paint, while shooting 24-of-35 in the paint.
By Synergy’s data, the Spurs scored on 49.5% of their 101 scoring possessions, while they turned the ball over roughly 23% of the time on their scoring possessions.
Heading into game two, the turnovers are something the Spurs can clean up, as some of them were unforced, like traveling calls, offensive fouls, and just really lazy or uncharacteristic passes. The Heat defense, however, will have their hands full heading into game two, as San Antonio was able to essentially get efficient shots on most of their scoring possessions that didn’t involve turnovers.
For Miami, it can’t be a good sign their defense has already given up 30 assists in the opening game, something the Mavericks, Blazers, or Thunder, never allowed San Antonio to do.
(Statistics via NBA.com/stats, Synergy Sports)