On Thursday morning before the San Antonio Spurs 107-97 loss to the Boston Celtics, I wrote a piece titled “Who must step it up?“. In the column I discussed why Richard Jefferson was the main Spur who needed to use these last few games to step up his performance for the playoffs.
I wrote that Jefferson had the potential to increase his scoring between to 14-15 points without having any offensive plays run for him.
During the Spurs-Celtics game, I scouted Jefferson every time he was on the court to see if he’d be more aggressive. Here is a running analysis of how he played:
Jefferson made an open three pointer from the middle of the key. 1-1 FG, 1-1 3PT, 3 points.
Jefferson missed an open three pointer from the corner. 1-2 FG, 1-2 3PT, 3 points.
Jefferson drove in, kicked to Manu for an open three pointer, Manu missed. (1 slash for Jefferson)
Jefferson made an open three pointer from the top of the key. 2-3 FG, 2-3 3PT, 6 points.
Jefferson drove in, but missed an 8-foot one-handed fade away. 2-4 FG, 2-3 3PT, 6 points. (2 slashes)
Jefferson drove in and kicked out. (3 slashes)
As Celtics coach Doc Rivers pulled forward Paul Pierce out of the game, Gregg Popovich pulled Jefferson out of the game with a minute remaining. Jefferson played 11:12 in the first quarter.
Jefferson returned at the 6:11 mark (along with Pierce).
Jefferson missed a right-sided top three pointer. 2-5 FG, 2-4 3PT, 6 points.
Jefferson drove through the lane and hit a leaning bank shot. 3-6 FG, 2-4 3PT, 8 points. (4 slashes)
Along with Pierce, Jefferson played all the way until halftime.
Jefferson made a left-sided top three pointer. 4-7 FG, 3-5 3PT, 11 points.
Jefferson missed a corner three pointer. 4-8 FG, 3-6 3PT, 11 points.
Jefferson drove through the lane and got rim checked on a flawed Jermaine O’Neal posterization dunk. 4-9 FG, 3-6 3PT, 11 points. (5 slashes)
Jefferson is taken out in the final minute of the third quarter, along with Pierce.
Jefferson returned with seven minutes remaining, along with Pierce.
Jefferson drove in and got fouled, non-shooting foul. (6 slashes)
Jefferson drove in again and got fouled, non-shooting foul. (7 slashes)
Jefferson missed a top left-sided three pointer. 4-10 FG, 3-7 3PT, 11 points.
Jefferson made a garbage time three pointer. 5-11 FG, 4-8 3PT, 14 points.
Jefferson played 36-minutes as Pierce logged 37-minutes.
Even though Pierce scored 21-points on 8 of 16 shooting, Jefferson made him earn his points in the first half. In the second half the Celtics were able to get Pierce away from Jefferson and Pierce took advantage of making shots over smaller players like Gary Neal and Tony Parker.
Looking at how Jefferson played defense, Popovich relies on him not to necessarily shut down great wing players, but at least make them earn their points. Jefferson has the talent and skill to do this, thus his minute to minute play with Pierce.
Offensively, Jefferson never had a designed play run for him, he was able to slash seven times while still shooting eight three pointers at 50%. That entails a balanced effort on his part of driving and shooting.
The best non-statistic you saw from Jefferson was that he was not just waiting on the perimeter for a pass to come to him. He made Pierce work hard on the defensive end by slashing when he’d catch the basketball. If Jefferson can continue to provide a mixture of slashing and three pointers the Spurs may have just found themselves another threat on the offensive and defensive end.
For those that say the “Big three” will lose their touches, here’s the counter: Tony Parker shot 16 times, Tim Duncan shot 12 times and Manu Ginobili shot 13 times. Matt Bonner also shot 9 times and Gary Neal shot 12 times. There is plenty of room for everyone on the team to get shots, including Jefferson.
I’ll keep a close eye on Jefferson through these last seven games to see if he will continue to stay aggressive or revert back to his seasoned self.
Maybe he’s becoming the player we all thought he had the potential to be; then again, it’s just one game.
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