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.”
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?