In Game 2, Richard Jefferson scored 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting. For some guys in this league, that’s a walk in the park. For Jefferson this season, it my be closer to a modern miracle. After being touted as one of the keynote acquisitions by any team last off-season, RJ has disappointed time and time again, with his decent scoring performance in Game 2 standing as one of the ’09-’10 campaign’s few comforts.
Or maybe not. Maybe Jefferson was simply doing exactly what the Suns wanted him to do: shoot. From Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News:
But as if to prove Jefferson’s point about aggression having nothing
to do with his involvement in the offense, Phoenix forward Jared Dudley
said it all was by design — Phoenix’s design.
“We hung our hat
on defense, and made the right people shoot the ball,” Dudley said.
“Who we wanted to (shoot were) Richard Jefferson, Tony Parker from
outside, George Hill.”
The Suns game plan has obviously been geared towards stopping Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, and although Duncan finished with 29 and 10 on Wednesday night, the Suns made him work for it. Ginobili, on the other hand, had to settle into a role as a distributor, and could manage just 11 points on 2-of-8 shooting to go along with his 11 assists.
Other than Duncan staying effective, the Suns are getting what they want defensively. Jefferson taking 13 shots while Ginobili takes just eight has to be considered a win for the Suns’ defense, even if RJ did show a bit of life and manage to contribute. Likewise, if they can keep Tony Parker out of the paint as they did on Wednesday (Parker managed just one field goal attempt at the rim in Game 2), Phoenix will be wisely playing the odds; Tony, like just about every other player in this league, is much more effective around the basket than he is shooting long, two-point jumpers.
George Hill’s ability to hit the corner three could be a wild card, but thus far the Suns have done a decent job of contesting that particular shot. They may give him pull-up jumpers or various looks from mid-range as part of their defensive scheme, but clearly the lethality of the corner three was not lost on Alvin Gentry and his staff.
Something has to give eventually, though. If San Antonio can put enough pressure on the Phoenix from a few different angles, Hill could be left wide open from the wings with enough room to fire comfortably. Tony Parker could look to catch-and-drive rather than catch-and-shoot when Manu Ginobili kicks it out of a double-team. Richard Jefferson — well, the Spurs will just have to hope that he keeps making the looks that he gets. With a defense geared to take the ball out of Manu’s hands, San Antonio needs another scorer to keep pace with the super-efficient Suns.