San Antonio and Utah: By The Numbers
This post is part of our playoff preview series here at Hickory-High, complete with both statistical and video breakdowns. Check out the rest of the previews here
[table id=54 /]
Spurs – Opponent’s Points In The Paint - Given that their big man rotation was built on an aging Tim Duncan, alongside Tiago Splitter, Matt Bonner, Boris Diaw and DeJuan Blair it’s impressive that the Spurs were able to keep such a tight hold on the interior this season. They held their opponents to just 40.0 points in the paint per 48 minutes, right around the league average. The Jazz will be looking for any opportunity to work close to the basket, posting their big men, crashing the offensive glass, cutting and penetrating looking for easy buckets. The Spurs given how their season series went, the Spurs seem up the challenge, but they’ll need to maintain that focus on forcing the Jazz’s offensive action out to the perimeter.
Jazz – ORB% - The Jazz were the second best offensive rebounding team in the league this season, grabbing 30.2% of their own misses. Extending possessions was the heart of their above-average offense, a system that struggled to create and make easy shots. Their eFG% on the season has been just 48.1%, 19th in the league. Those shots aren’t going to all of a sudden start falling against the stout Spurs’ defense, so the Jazz will have to hang tough as best they can on the offensive glass. In Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors, and Enes Kanter they have the frontline depth to keep pounding. If this advantage in size and athleticism translates into an edge on the glass, the Jazz can make this series competitive.
Players to Watch:
Spurs – Manu Ginobili - Ginobili had his way with the Jazz in two games this season, with per 36 minute averages of 34.7 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists. His shooting percentages were an incredible 65.0% from the field, 50.0% on three-pointers, and 93.3% from the line. The Jazz don’t have the perimeter defenders to deal with both Parker and Ginobili, and will have to do plenty picking of poisons. If they attempt to go big, looking to take advantage on the glass, Ginobili will have plenty of opportunities to matchup with Josh Howard and Gordon Hayward; matchups he will be looking to exploit at every turn.
Jazz – Devin Harris – The Jazz may have a hard time creating quality shots against the Spurs’ defense, but Harris may be one weapon they can deploy. Harris played very well against the Spurs in the regular season, scoring 21.6 points and attempting 8.2 free throws per 36 minutes, while shooting 42.1% on three-pointers. Harris was particularly good in the pick-and-roll this season, scoring 0.98 points per possession and creating plenty of good looks for Jefferson and Millsap. The Spurs displayed some vulnerability in the pick-and-roll this season, particularly to ball-handlers where they gave up 0.89 points per possession dead last in the league. If Harris can use those high screens to jump start the offense it could be a big boost to the Spurs.
Lineups to Watch:
Spurs – Tony Parker – Danny Green – Kawhi Leonard – Boris Diaw – Tim Duncan – There are so many options to choose from here. The Spurs have played 192 minutes against the Jazz this season and no five-man unit has played more than 13 minutes. The Jazz will be overmatched in plenty of areas against the Spurs, but as was mentioned above the will likely look to exploit an advantage on the offensive glass. In 13 minutes against the Jazz this lineup grabbed 64.7% of the total rebounds, and kept the Jazz from grabbing a single offensive rebound. Utah’s offense needs to extend possessions on the offensive glass if they are going to keep pace with the Spurs. Lineups like these, with Leonard at small forward, give the Spurs a chance to hold their advantages offensively and defensively, while keeping the Jazz’s possessions to one shot.
Jazz – Devin Harris – Gordon Hayward – Paul Millsap – Derrick Favors – Al Jefferson – This lineup played just 65 minutes together on the season, with 13 of them coming against the Spurs. In those 13 minutes they were able to replicate almost everything the Jazz will need to do to stay in the series. They dominated the glass grabbing 65.5% of the total rebounds, including 38.5% at the offensive end. They stifled the Spurs defensively, holding them to an eFG% of 31.8% and forcing turnovers on 13.6% of their possessions. Most importantly, they were able to get easy points at the free throw line, 14 attempts in those 13 minutes. This group can be vulnerable defensively but when Leonard is on the floor for the Spurs, Millsap should be able to hold his own at the small forward especially with Jefferson and Favors protecting the basket. This is not a conventional look for the Jazz, but they will have to do some experimenting to find a recipe for success against the Spurs.
Statistical support for this story from NBA.com