Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Grizzlies swept by Spurs

What a crappy way to end a really good season. That was close to a dominant performance by the Spurs. All of the games were close aside from game 1. But the Spurs are clearly the better team, both in regards to having the better players and the better coach. This series wasn't complicated. The Grizz like to throw the ball down to ZBo and Gasol in the post and play really good defense. The Spurs like to let Tony Parker run the pick and roll where he gets an open shot for himself or finds an open 3 point shooter. And they play an underrated defense.

Those are their strengths. The weakness of the Grizz was 3 point shooting, both making them and defending them. The Spurs don't really have any offensively (maybe Duncan not being a low post player anymore). And defensively they were probably not great at defending the post, which everyone thought the Grizz could exploit. Given all of that most people thought this would be a close series, going 6 or 7 games. So what happened?

The first thing that happened is Tony Parker. He was fantastic, shooting over 50% and getting a lot of assists. The rest of the Spurs offense was pretty good. But as good as they were, the Grizz defense was pretty good. They gave up 105, 93, 104, and 93, with two of those games going into overtime. So it wasn't that the Spurs were scoring an inordinately high number of points. They averaged 103 during the regular season and we held them to 99 in this series. The bigger problem was us scoring 88 points per game in this series, 5 points lower than our regular season overage of 93.

While most of the attention for our offensive struggles has been placed on ZBo, he wasn't the only one to struggle. Gasol and Conley were pretty bad too. ZBo was terrible, shooting below 40% and 50% from the line. Gasol only shot 40% and Conley shot 38%. They were all much worse offensively than they were in the regular season. But the blame isn't all on them. Greg Popovich knows Tony Allen and Tayshaun Price aren't good shooters. So decided to focus on making it more difficult for ZBo and Gasol while largely ignoring Allen and Prince. This strategy seems so obvious that I have to wonder why the Clippers and Thunder didn't do the same thing. But I guess that's why the Clippers fired their coach and Scott Brooks will get fired probably sooner rather than later despite having an elite team.

While that was all happening, Lionel Hollins was standing on the sideline doing something, I'm not sure what. If he made adjustments they were wildly ineffective. The offensive strategy throughout the series seemed to be the same it was all year; let Conley dribble around aimlessly until something happens, throw it down to ZBo and let him create something, or give it to Gasol in the high post and let everyone run around until something happened. There were very few drawn up plays that got us easy baskets, which the Spurs seemed to get on a regular basis. One thing I'll give Lionel for is recognizing that we are a better team with Quincy Pondexter on the floor. His good 3 point shooting opens things up for the rest of the team. This was a big reason ZBo played better in 2nd halfs and the team was able to keep things close late in games. Other than this adjustment, I think Lionel got badly outcoached.

I don't want to sound all gloom and doom. We had a very good season and I'm very proud of the team, the organization and the fans. I'm just giving my objective take on the situation. And while we are a good team, the Spurs clearly demonstrated why they are the class of the league. We have to make some across the board improvements to get to where they are. And I don't think we are that far off. The improvements don't need to be vast, just some tweaks here and there.

Conley, Gasol and Randolph are the core of this team. They are locked up for the near future. I worry about Randolph as he ages. But he should be ok for the next year or two. But if Randolph all of the sudden falls off, we have Ed Davis (who is a free agent, restricted I think and hope). Despite the playing time Lionel gave him, Davis is a good player who we should definitely resign. Tony Allen is an unrestricted free agent who is entering his 30s. I love Tony, aka The Grindfather. He has offensive limitations. But he's so good defensively that overall he is a good player. I'd like to resign him for a reasonable price for 3 years at the most, preferably two.

Tayshaun Prince is a free agent who I think we should let walk. Quincy Pondexter is good enough to start and is on a cheap contract. Most importantly he gives the offense what it badly needs, 3 point shooting. Depending on what we do with Tony Allen, I think our main focus in filling the SG and SF positions should be 3 point shooting. We have to close that hole in our game and I'm confident there are relatively cheap options on the market (Mike Dunleavy jumps to mind).

Lionel Hollins seems to have his limitations as a coach. But overall I think he's done a solid job with this team. At worst they play hard for him. If we put the right players around him I think he can be fine as an in game coach. Maybe not Popovich, but good enough. I hope with a more analytically minded front office we can find the right players for Hollins. It shouldn't be too hard with the core we have and the cap situation. So I'm pretty optimistic about the future of the team.

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