San Antonio’s Search for Offense
The Houston Rockets handed the San Antonio Spurs a 126-99 loss in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals. Are there two words to describe this performance by Coach Popovich and the Spurs? Yes and they both begin with “u”. Ugly and uncharacteristic. The Rockets shot 22 for 50 from behind the arc and led by as many as 39 points. The team scored at will and possessed six players in double figures, including 20 points and 14 assist from James Harden. The Spurs must do a better job defending the three-point line as well as scoring. The following players must enhance their game on the offensive end in order to help the Spurs avoid a 2-0 deficit.
After signing a four-year, $80 million MAXIMUM contract, you cannot disappear come playoff time. In Game 1, Aldridge went M.I.A. scoring four points on 2-7 shooting. His plus-minus was -36, the worst by any Spurs player in a playoff game under Coach Popovich. These are not numbers to expect from a max contract player. One could argue L.A. breaking out come Game 2; however, his numbers have been lackluster this entire postseason. In seven postseason games, Aldridge is averaging 13.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. The former All-Star forward must improve, as he is the Spurs best big man. Without a threat in the low post, the Spurs are limited on offense.
If Green isn’t hitting the three ball, what exactly is he providing to the team offensively? The shooting guard is averaging 6.1 points, 0.7 assist and 2.9 rebounds, while shooting .273 from behind the arc this postseason. When Kawhi Leonard or Tony Parker drive to the basket, they need a reliable spot-up shooter to knock down shots. Green is a career .400 three-point shooter. The Spurs need the Danny Green of old to show up and provide a threat.
The Spurs desperately need a spark off the bench. Mills needs to answer the call. In Game 5 against the Memphis Grizzlies, Mills provided 20 points, while shooting 7-10 from the field including 5-7 from three. While the Spurs would love a 20-point performance from the Australian every game, the guard is only averaging 9.7 points per game this postseason. Mills playing well would benefit the second unit. If he is knocking down shots, it will create more shots for others. He will also have to help defend offensive threats Eric Gordon and Lou Williams.
Lee is the key to the Spurs success. No, seriously the Spurs are more successful when the former Warriors center scores in double digits. Lee scored double digits in 25 games and in those games the Spurs are 18-7. This could be a coincidence or just what the Spurs need. Pau Gasol is no longer a factor and Lee is their second best big man. Lee receives most of the minutes at center and must take advantage.
Is Leonard the obvious answer to solving the Spurs offensive problems? The answer is yes. With Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili passing the torch to Leonard, this is his team and this series he must play above an MVP level. Leonard needs to put on a “LeBron” type of performance. “The Claw” will also need more help from his fellow starters. The Spurs’ starters combined for 27 points on 8-28 shooting. Leonard is averaging 29.7 points 6.7 rebounds and 4.1 assist. Those numbers need to rise to possibly 33 points 9 rebounds and 7 assist to give the Spurs a chance and avoid another Texas sized beat down.
Information and stats courtesy ESPN, Basketball-Reference, Yahoo Sports