The Day Off: After Blowout Win vs Knicks

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With 43% of their season complete, the San Antonio Spurs sit 5th in the Western Conference at 18-13, and they’re 2-2 since coming out of quarantine, while still missing multiple rotation players. Let’s jump right into the day off after the Spurs’ impressive blowout win against the New York Knicks on the second night of a back-to-back.

Here are the three topics we’ll be exploring in this edition.

  • Luka Samanic’s Play on Both Ends in the Last 4 Games
  • Forcing Opponents to Take More Floaters
  • Moving into the Top 5 of Opponent Free Throw Rate

Luka Samanic’s Play on Both Ends in the Last 4 Games

Let’s look at Luka Samanic’s shot profile with his increased minutes in the last four games.

Samanic is sticking to the two modern basketball shots, just paint attempts and threes. 56% of Samanic’s shot attempts have come from three and 44% from the paint. He hasn’t attempted a single mid-range jumper.

Samanic has made 47% of his 15 three point attempts and 60% of his 3s have been wide open, where he’s made 33% of those attempts.

Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich said after Tuesday’s game against the Knicks that Samanic’s decision making with the catch-and-shoot three has been evident since he returned from his play with the Austin Spurs in Orlando.

On defense, two stats that stick out for Luka are defensive field goal percentage and defensive rebounding. Now, before revealing these stats, it’s important to keep in mind Samanic has only played 80 total minutes this season and he’s only played regular minutes in the last four games, so the previous minutes were mainly during garbage time.

Samanic is second on the team in defensive field goal percentage at 41.2%, behind only Jakob Poeltl. In per 36 minutes, Samanic is collecting a team high 7.7 defensive rebounds.

Samanic is also showing his versatility defensively, where he’s now had to defend a wing in Lu Dort, two guards in Josh Hart and Tyler Johnson, and a frontcourt player in Julius Randle as his main matchups in the last four games.

After Tuesday’s game, Samanic mentioned how he’s working on switching from different positions and how he wants to improve on guarding whoever Popovich assigns him as his matchup for each game.

Forcing Opponents to Take More Floaters

In the paint, the Spurs have started to see some success in deterring opponents from shooting near the restricted area, the closest area of the basket. Opponents are now attempting 29.4 shots in the restricted area, bringing the Spurs to 26th there. That seems bad still, but keep in mind the Spurs have been dead last in that category a few times this season.

The Spurs are effective at holding opponents to a low percentage in the restricted area, where they’re 4th, allowing opponents to make 60.4% of their shots there.

A lot of that credit goes to the defense of Poeltl around the rim. Opponents make just 54.7% of their shots in the restricted area when Poeltl is on the floor, the lowest mark for an Spurs player.

The Spurs have also moved to 10th in forcing opponents to take 15.6 shots per game from the non-restricted area, which is that floater range that has a very poor accuracy percentage historically.

Moving into the Top 5 of Opponent Free Throw Rate

The Spurs have moved into the Top-5 defensively in not putting opponents on the free throw line. The Spurs are ranked 4th in opponent free throw rate, at 21.3.

Even with multiple rotation players out this last week, the Spurs kept opponent free throw makes below their season average in 3 of the 4 games, demonstrating the team still sticks to its defensive principles, regardless of who is on the floor each night.

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