Sunday, May 22, 2005

Western Conference Finals

The Spurs put on an absolute clinic in the desert today, both on offense and on defense. Now, you may look at the 114 points allowed and wonder how that qualifies as a defensive clinic, but having watched the entire game, it's clear that the Spurs put a premium on forcing the Suns to score in the half court. San Antonio's transition defense was excellent, as they forced a number of turnovers via blocks and steals on fastbreaks the Suns normally execute in their sleep. As Dallas did in their victories in the previous series, San Antonio picked their poison, allowing Stoudemire to drop 41, and Nash to 29 and 13 assists. But Shawn Marion and Quentin Richardson combined for only 10 points in a combined 80 minutes of play. Phoenix has shown that they are most effective when they spread the scoring load amongst their starting five, because they can never count an any contribution from the bench. Though Jim Jackson chipped in 20, it seems as if the Suns would be better off getting 20 from Marion, 15 from Richardson, and 10-15 from Jackson. These scoring spread would mean that they are scoring off the break instead of the half court, or to put it another way, are winning their way.

Then again, it's tough to score on the fast break when your opponent shoots 52% and grabs 13 offensive rebounds. The Spurs, especially in the 4th quarter, maximized the value of their possessions by deliberately working the shot clock down and moving the ball until a high percentage shot could be taken. It was textbook half court offense, with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili providing the penetration needed to set up Duncan's 29 points and Brent Barry's backbreaking 21 points, 13 of which came in the Spurs-dominated 4th quarter. Time after time, Parker and Ginobili would dish out to a wide-open Barry at the top of the key. It appears as if the Suns have no one to guard Parker or Ginobili. Nash does not have the lateral ability or long arms necessary to adequately guard Parker, and Ginobili is far too athletic for Richardson and Jackson. This is where the Sun's lack of a true center is really exposed, because Marion is the one guy who does have a shot at Ginobili. Instead, Marion has to guard whomever the Spurs have at power forward.

After watching Game 1 today, I don't see any reason why San Antonio can't do the same things offensively over the course of the entire series. Even if Phoenix adjusts and starts pressing on the perimeter to reduce the number of open looks Barry gets, that will leave all the more space inside for Duncan on the post or for drives by Parker and Ginobili. However, I wouldn't put it past the Suns to start averaging 120 points a game, or something ridiculous like that, which they are capable of. If they improve their efficiency on the fast break and create more balance in their offense, they will be able to take Game 2 at home. Winning in San Antonio, however, seems like a dicey proposition.


Anonymous Josh said...


also, i was lucky enough to be on hand for matt clement's complete game against atlanta yesterday. let me know if boston is a possibility this summer and i'll look into sox tickets...good luck with the apartment situation!

9:12 PM  

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