Tag: Los Angeles San Antonio

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Two

Gregg Popovich’s main adjustment: Hope his guys just shoot better


LOS ANGELES — Gregg Popovich made adjustments to how his Spurs defended and attacked the Clippers between Games 1 and 2 of what is now a tied series 1-1 heading to San Antonio for Game 3 Friday.

For example, he tweaked how they defended that double high pick-and-roll the Clippers have gone heavily to (and still are having success with despite the adjustments). On offense, you see the Spurs using a lot of what they did against Miami in the Finals last year (because the Clippers’ defense is similar), coming off the high pick then passing back to the middle of the floor.

But his main adjustment — hope his guys just shot better.

Seriously. For all the talk of an Xs and Os chess match, Popovich said before Game 2 that the real key was just that the Spurs do what they do best better than in Game 1.

“It always gets overplayed, when you lose you need to make an adjustment or two, and if you win you just go with the flow,” Popovich said. “You have to do what you do well. For instance, we can change pick-and-roll defense and do something different on Blake (Griffin), but I’m not sure that’s going to make us shoot better. We would like to shoot better tonight, we’d like to actually get back in transition D like it mattered. So if you do that it’s got nothing to do with Os and Xs and strategy things that you do. You’ve got to get back on defense or you’re in trouble. You’ve got to make shots or you’re in trouble. You can’t turn it over or you’re in trouble. Don’t do those things and the adjustments don’t mean a whole lot. We’ll make adjustments, so you guys think I’m doing something, but I’m hoping we do that stuff better.”

They did.

The Spurs shot 36.6 percent in Game 1, 46.2 percent in Game 2. Their eFG% (which accounts for the bump from made threes) jumped from 41.9 percent to 50.5 percent. The Spurs adjustments and ball movement got them seven more uncontested looks in Game 2 (40 to 33) and they hit a higher percentage of them (45 percent to 39.4 percent). The Spurs also did a much better job of getting back in transition and taking away some of the Clippers’ easy buckets.

This isn’t just a sound bite for Popovich. Doing what they do better was a core part of his message to the team. Look at what Patty Mills said after the Spurs Game 2 win.

“That was a game of grit, and grind and competitiveness,” Mills said. “We showed competitiveness at the toughest times, which is good. We lacked that in the first game so we knew that before any Xs and Os in this game we needed to show we could come out and compete for 48 minutes — and even more tonight.”

Doc Rivers and Popovich will both make adjustments heading into Game 3, and those tweaks will have an impact on the outcome.

But so will the answer to this simple question: Which team can do what it does best, better?

Lakers send message to Spurs (and anyone else watching)

Kobe Bryant, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili

Phil Jackson did not treat this like any other game.

He spent extra time in film preparation for this game, according to ESPN Los Angeles’ Dave Miller (a former Hornet assistant coach).

He sent Kobe Bryant back into the fourth quarter of a blowout, when Kobe usually has ice on his knees. With 3:11 left in the game and the Lakers up 20, he sent Pau Gasol back in from the bench.

Championship teams don’t normally try to send messages in the regular season. Phil Jackson is not usually the message-sending type. But the Lakers clearly felt they needed to and did with an absolute thumping of the San Antonio Spurs, 99-83 (and it wasn’t nearly that close) on national television. After slumps that had some questioning if they were really championship material.

The message — we’re still here and if you want that Larry O’Brien trophy you are going to have to rip it out of our cold, dead hands.

The veteran Spurs heard that message but you can bet were not intimidated. If they meet the Lakers in late May — in the Western Conference Finals — you can bet they will remember Kobe and Gasol in at the end of the game. The Spurs have their motivation, their pride, too.

The actual game itself was a thrashing from the opening tip. The Lakers clearly learned a lot from a similar beat down the Spurs gave the Heat a few nights before. The Lakers defense chased the Spurs off the three-point line all game long. The Spurs were 2-11 from three in the first half.

But the real key to that was Andrew Bynum — the Lakers center controlled the paint. Every time a Spur tried to get a shot off in the lane, he altered or blocked it. Then he got the rebound. That allowed the perimeter defenders to pressure guys at the arc. Pretty soon the Spurs were reduced to what they have reduced other offenses to for so many years — the contested midrange jumper. You don’t win games with that shot.

The Lakers meanwhile played their best game of the season. They ran the offense and it was fluid. They had just two first half turnovers.

The Lakers were up 21 in the first quarter and this was the preverbal boat race. Kobe Bryant had 26 (but needed 25 shots), Pau Gasol had 21 (on 12 shots). The Lakers length was dominant, their bench was solid, every decision they made seemed to be the right one.

The Lakers looked like champions. They looked like a team that has won seven in a row.

You can bet the Spurs will be ready next time. They are champions as well, they know what it takes. But the message has been sent — the Lakers are back and ready to defend their turf.

Time to see if the Lakers have figured out the Spurs puzzle

Tim Duncan,  Kobe Bryant
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If it is not Lakers vs. Spurs in a May best-of-seven series to be the Western Conference champion, it will be a little disappointing.

Sorry Mr. Cuban, Mr. Durant. It’s not personal, we do like you. You’re teams are entertaining and quite good. But Lakers/Spurs would match the two teams in the West best built for a title run right now, and it carries the weight of tradition.

Right now, if the Lakers and Spurs met, the Spurs should be the favorite.

They are 51-11, they have beat the Lakers both times the teams met this season. They are playing better than any team in the NBA right now — they dismantled the Heat by 30 points in a dominating performance just a few days ago. It was a clinic. They made 17 threes and shot 60.7 percent from beyond the arc. They still had 42 points in the paint. They had 22 points in transition. They had eight players in double figures scoring and nobody took more than 15 shots. The Spurs are not just defense anymore — although they still are seven in the league in points given up per possession.

And the Laker have yet to figure the Spurs out. They have yet to score 90 points on them in a game this season. In the teams first meeting the Spurs just crushed the Lakers. A more recent meeting saw the Lakers score about 11 points per 100 possessions below their season average against the Spurs.

Sunday, we’ll see if the improved Lakers that have found their own defensive energy of late and won six in a row can figure out these Spurs. This is not a statement game, because veteran teams like this don’t really take any one regular season game that seriously. But it is a test. It will show us where the teams are now and if the Spurs match up advantages are still that dramatic.

Here are three things to watch:

• Do the Lakers run the triangle offense? The Lakers need to run their sets, start the ball inside and work cutters off Pau Gasol in the high post, they need to establish the paint. Not only because they score more efficiently that way, but also because that can help slow the Spurs fast break attack. With that, the Lakers need to attack the offensive glass with their length and make the Spurs pay a price for running. Watch how many offensive rebounds the Lakers get, it will be telling. On the other hand, if Kobe Bryant decides to go rogue and take over the offense early, it could be a bad sign for the Lakers.

• Ron Artest on Manu Ginobili. The Lakers defensive surge since the All-Star break has been about Andrew Bynum playing well in the paint and Ron Artest on the perimeter. Can he slow down Manu? See if he can keep Ginobili from getting into the middle — the Argentinian likes to drive middle no matter where he gets the ball on the court, if you can keep him on the wings he is less effective (but still pretty effective).

• Tony Parker and Derek Fisher. Tony Parker should just dominate this matchup, but to the extent that Fisher can pull tricks out of his veteran bag of tricks to not let Parker take over — if he can force him to drive to help and not knock down floaters in the lane — the better for the Lakers.