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Monday, January 26, 2009

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posted by David Friedman @ 5:42 PM

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4 Comments:

At Monday, January 26, 2009 9:09:00 PM, Blogger vednam said...

Hey David, did you watch the Lakers-Spurs game yesterday?

I think the Lakers match up very well with the Spurs. They seem to have found a way to keep Tony Parker out of the paint. With Duncan having to expend so much energy dealing with all the Lakers' big men, the Spurs are basically reduced to chucking up three-pointers all game whenever they play them.

I was wondering, is it just me or is Manu Ginobili driving to the basket much less this year than in years past? He used to be fearless going to the hole and very good at finishing. This year, he's been looking like an Argentinian Michael Finley. The Spurs desperately need for Ginobili to be more than a 3-point shooter. When he's driving to the basket and moving around, he opens up their entire offense. He really looks like he's declining. (Isn't it silly how a year ago some "experts" were declaring that he, and not Duncan, was the Spurs' most valuable player?)

I've commented before on how people always forget about the Spurs when they shouldn't. I'm beginning to feel, however, that the Spurs are starting to deserve getting overlooked. Besides Duncan and Parker, the team consists of slow-footed bigs, and wing players who do nothing but shoot three-pointers. On top of that, they are playing statistically the worst defense of the Duncan era. And they have nothing of value (not even expiring contracts) to make a significant trade before the deadline. The Lakers seem too young, energetic, and athletic for the Spurs this year.

 
At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 4:01:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Vednam:

Yes, I saw the game.

The Lakers do match up well with the Spurs, but I would not read too much into just one game. As the ESPN announcing crew noted more than once during the telecast, Popovich likes to use these regular season games to test out different individual and collective matchups. The Spurs know that they are going to make the playoffs and, barring serious injuries, they know that they are going to have a good seed, so all that matters to them is being healthy and performing at a high level come playoff time.

I think that the Spurs are most effective defensively when Duncan is paired with another true seven footer or at least a defensive minded frontcourt player. In other words, come playoff time I expect to see more of Oberto and/or Kurt Thomas and less of Matt Bonner.

I'm not sure what the deal is with Manu. I know that he was hurt last year but I'm still not sure to what extent he was injured at various times; I predicted that he would be the X-factor versus the Hornets--which he was--and that he would struggle against the Lakers, which he did. So he did what I expected him to do in both series, but some people who commented here felt that I did not say enough about how his injury affected him. I didn't really know what to say, because he never talked much about it and his performance matched my expectations.

This year, Manu is averaging 4.6 three point attempts per game, above his career average (3.7) but below his average last season (5.3). His free throw attempts have dropped from 6.0 per game last year to 3.7 this year. His rebounding, assists, steals and blocked shots are right around his career norms, as are his FG% and FT%. His scoring average (14.7) is exactly at his career average but this is his lowest scoring average since his second season after averaging a career-high 19.5 ppg last year--but his minutes are also down from last year. My suspicion is that, like the Spurs team in general, Manu's goal is to be peaking come playoff time.

The idea that anyone other than Duncan is the Spurs' best player is absurd, though Parker had an excellent series in the 2007 NBA Finals (I covered the Cleveland games in that series and when I talked with some other media members I said that I still thought that Duncan was the Finals MVP because of his defensive impact in helping to keep LeBron out of the paint but of course Parker won the Finals MVP).

I would not read too much into the defensive stats because they include a bunch of games with the team at less than full strength. The Cavs had mediocre stats last year thanks to holdouts and injuries but they took the Celtics to the final minutes of the seventh game.

The Spurs are not the class of the West like they were in some seasons but I still think that they are the biggest threat to the Lakers out west.

 
At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 8:46:00 AM, Blogger Joel said...

I think the Spurs need another piece to knock off the Lakers, specifically a starter-quality big man who can offer some resistance to Bynum or Gasol. Thomas is solid defensively but doesn't have the size or length, while Oberto and Bonner will get abused by whoever Duncan isn't guarding at the time.

Regarding Manu, it's worth noting that his game relies heavily on energy and athleticism. Maybe he has reached the point where he simply isn't physically capable of playing at that level over the course of an 82-game season. The most important thing for the Spurs is that he performs like an All-Star in April, May, and June.

 
At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 3:04:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Joel:

Without question, it would help the Spurs to have another quality big man, but the same thing could be said of just about every team in the league, including the Celtics. The fact is, good big men are hard to find.

We agree that Manu and the Spurs are much more interested in peaking in late spring than in peaking now.

 

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