Dissecting Spurs’ Scoring Droughts from Game 4 vs Grizzlies

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If you follow on Twitter, you’ll know that since mid-January, the ‘6-Minute Increments’ charts have been created that basically take any San Antonio Spurs game score this season, and track the scoring by 6-minute segments, rather than the traditional 12 minute increments. The most recent chart for Game 4 of the Spurs’ 110-108 overtime loss in Memphis can be seen below.

By stretching the time clock in a different format, you can see where a team had some of its peaks or droughts offensively, while on the flip side, you can see a stellar time-frame of lock-down defense or atrocious defense. Let’s say the average team is aiming to score 100 points in a game. Then their target goal would be to score 25 points in each quarter, which would mean 12.5 points per every six minutes of the game.

In game four, there were three stretches of six minutes where the Spurs fell into a drought offensively, in the beginning of the second quarter (5 points), the beginning of the third quarter (4 points) and the first part of the fourth quarter (7 points). Two of those droughts came during Kawhi Leonard’s usual resting period, the beginning of the second and fourth quarters, while the other drought came with Leonard on the floor in the beginning of the second half.

After re-watching the film of those possessions during those three specific time-frames when the Spurs couldn’t consistently put the ball in the basket, the following notes are provided:

Beginning of Second Quarter (12:00 minute – 6:00 minute mark): Spurs 5 points, Grizzlies 14 points

The Spurs had 11 offensive possessions during this timeframe, with nine field goal attempts and two turnovers. With Leonard out resting, the Spurs primarily ran multiple pick-and-roll sets with Tony Parker as the ball handler, and either LaMarcus Aldridge or Pau Gasol as the roll man. The Grizzlies’ big men either switched or went under screens most of the time and didn’t allow Parker to penetrate much, which forced the Spurs into mostly tough mid-range contested jumpers. Parker did make one mid-range look when the Grizzlies went under a screen and then on a double drag screen play (when two bigs set a screen up high at the same time), Parker beat Marc Gasol going under for a layup and foul.

The Spurs also ran post-up sets for Aldridge in this time-frame, and he too had trouble against the Grizzlies’ defense. Aldridge couldn’t get solid position against Zach Randolph and either had to take a contested shot or kick out to a wing player. The Grizzlies also swarmed Aldridge into a turnover on a possession, as Andrew Harrison left Parker (who isn’t considered a spot-up shooter) and stole the ball from Aldridge in the post on a help opportunity.

Beginning of Third Quarter (12:00 minute – 6:00 minute mark): Spurs 4 points, Grizzlies 9 points

At the start of the third quarter, with Leonard in the game, the Spurs went away from the spread P&R attack that worked for them in the first quarter. Instead, they ran more angle P&Rs with Parker and either David Lee or Aldridge, or post-ups for Leonard. Leonard did score on the initial post-up against James Ennis, but by the time the Spurs tried it a second time, Gasol was there to help contest the shot. The Spurs only ran one post-up for Aldridge during this segment, and though he had to kick the ball out, it got Danny Green a driving floater. When Leonard tried to run an angle P&R with Lee, the Spurs turned the ball over twice. First, Leonard kicked to Green in the corner and Green stepped out of bounds on the drive, then Leonard tried to thread a pocket pass to Lee on the roll, but it was deflected.

While the Spurs only made two of their nine shots during this segment, it should be noted that they did generate some quality open mid-range spot-up looks that just didn’t sink through the net during that time-frame. That should be a positive for the team heading into Game 5.

Beginning of Fourth Quarter (12:00 minute – 6:00 minute mark): Spurs 7 points, Grizzlies 9 points

The beginning of the fourth quarter might give the Spurs’ second unit some hope heading into Game 5, as they created multiple wide open looks from the outside and even on a drive, but the ball just refused to go into the basket for them. Whether it was with the spread or angle pick-and-roll, or even post-up possessions, the Spurs were able to generate efficient looks early in that fourth quarter before Leonard had to be subbed back in.

The Spurs tallied 11 possessions during the first six minutes of the fourth quarter with no turnovers on 2-of-9 shooting.

Going forward

As the Spurs head into Game 5 with the series tied 2-2 Tuesday, they know that the scoring issues are still a concern for their team, but now, after leaving Memphis, their defense has also become an issue during different times in the games, as the Grizzlies have scored over 100 points in the last two games. The Spurs went from holding the Grizzlies to 92.6 Points Per 100 Possessions in San Antonio to allowing Memphis to score 111.8 PP/100 in Memphis.

When picking apart the individual quarters of the series, it’s mainly the third quarter where the Spurs have consistently had their most trouble against the Grizzlies. In the four third quarters, the Spurs are scoring just 97.9 PP/100 and allowing 102.2 PP/100 to Memphis.

The Spurs’ shooting woes on the road are also something to look at considering there will be a Game 6 back in Memphis Thursday. In San Antonio, the Spurs as a team had a True Shooting Percentage of 63.9%. The True Shooting percentage accounts for free throws and 3-pointers in the percentage. On the road in Memphis, San Antonio’s True Shooting dropped down to 53.5%.

Just how much did the Spurs rely on Leonard in Memphis? With him on the floor in 74 minutes, the team had a Net Rating of +7.4. When he was off the floor in 27 minutes, the Spurs had a Net Rating of -41.4. That’s correct, MINUS 41.4.

As Game 4 showed, even if Leonard goes to another level, it doesn’t guarantee a win for San Antonio. Leonard will need help from the Spurs’ other two key playmakers in Parker and Aldridge, while role players like Mills, Green, Gasol, and Manu Ginobili will also be relied upon to help Leonard put points on the scoreboard. The one positive wrinkle for the Spurs in Game 4 was Davis Bertans. In two lineups where he spent three minutes on the floor in each lineup, the team had a Net Rating of +74.9 and +50.5 when he was in the game.

Will the trend of the series continue with each team winning on their home floor, or will Memphis carry the momentum of Games 3 and 4 and come out with a win in San Antonio? Only Tuesday will tell.

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