Scouting Breakdown: Spurs vs. Hornets By David Thorpe
Updated: May 2, 2008
These two teams, though not mirror images of each other, are strikingly similar in many respects. Both have very special point guards who control the game. Both have special power forwards. Both have dynamic scorers off the bench. And both teams like to grind things out, but are blessed with players who excel in transition when the situation calls for it. The teams split four games this season, with each team taking a road win.
The interesting comparisons do not stop there. New Orleans finished third overall in the regular season in 3-point field goal percentage at 38.9 percent. San Antonio finished third in field goal percentage defense from 3, allowing just 34.2 percent. Each team dispatched its first-round opponent in five games, and used a higher-octane offense to do it. (New Orleans scored 5.9 more points per game in its four wins, while the Spurs improved by 5.1 points in regulation.)
Defending each other's pick-and-roll will be the telling aspect of this series. Keeping their bigs out of foul trouble is of utmost importance, so getting weakside help will be pivotal. New Orleans shot so well from deep against Dallas that the Spurs must really focus on whom they want to leave open when Chris Paul comes off a ball screen. Peja Stojakovic and Jannero Pargo are deadly, Tyson Chandler will dunk anything thrown near the rim, and David West always must be accounted for. When those four guys are around Paul, the Spurs will be in a definite bind. They might try to make Paul a scorer only, cutting off his passes to the perimeter and taking away the lobs -- forcing him to finish over a big that hangs back a little instead of hard-hedging. It's risky, as Paul can explode for 40-plus points. But playing him with classic "show, rotate, recover" strategies can lead to a 35-point and 15-assist night -- which means he'll have accounted for 65 points. Paul is a "pass-first" point guard, so taking away the passing lanes might take him off rhythm for a bit, but he's ultracompetitive and will be only too willing to do what it takes to get a win. Expect the strategies to change from half to half and game to game.
It's just as tough on New Orleans, with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili slicing off Tim Duncan or Kurt Thomas and getting to the rim or pulling up for a midrange jumper. Trailing them off ball screens allows them to get to the rim, potentially drawing fouls on their front line, which is thin. Going under might be the better ploy on them, but each is capable of huge scoring numbers when his jumper is on, which happens frequently. And not pressuring the ball means their guards have an easier time passing to Duncan. Phoenix ultimately committed almost everyone to the paint to help on San Antonio's ball screens. It worked to a large extent, but Phoenix finished the season as the second best shot-blocking team, and New Orleans finished 28th. Again, the defense will have to adjust each game based on how the Spurs are shooting.
Re: Scouting Breakdown: Spurs vs. Hornets By David Thorpe
I think this is going to be a great matchup, much more interesting than the Spurs/Suns series. Obviousl I want the Spurs to win, but I want to see a great, hard fought battle, which is what I think we'll get.