Wayne Vore
@wayneTBF

Bart got this crazy idea the other day that we should answer some questions about the playoffs before the playoffs started. I got a crazy idea to ask a few people if they wanted to join us.

Well, we’ve got some of the biggest Spurs fans in all of Spursdom at the table. Tim Varner from 48MoH, Tim C and Mark V (SilverAndBlack_Davis) from PtR, Eric Blase formerly of PtR, Bart and me from here, Jeff and Dan from Spurs Dynasty, and Ana from Twitter.

I hope you enjoy the read as much as we enjoyed doing it. NOTE: I haven’t received Ana’s answers yet.

Q1: How do you assess the way the playoff brackets broke for the Spurs?

Wayne Vore
@WayneTBF
Just short of perfect. The only thing better was if the Warriors had slipped into the 8th spot while starting five rookies. The two teams that I fear the most are the Thunder and the Lakers and they’ll have to beat each other up first. You know that will be a nasty series after Artest bludgeoned Harden. I also expect the winner will come out damaged. Either injuries or suspensions.
Bart Herridge
@BartTBF
In the dream playoff bracket I constructed in my head a few weeks ago, the only differences from what happened were Phoenix instead of Utah in the 8th seed and the Clips had homecourt over Memphis. I’m positively thrilled with the way this played out. The road to the Finals means we only play one of the Lakers, Thunder, or Mavs? Yes, please.
Eric Blase
@BlaseEW
Favorable for the most part. Phoenix would have been a little more preferable, but Utah is definitely the West team you want to play. They aren’t last year’s Memphis. Lakers and Thunder are on the other side which is another plus. I also think the Grizzlies and Clippers could be a tough series for the winner. I’m getting ahead of myself, but I expect the Spurs to go into round 2 in a much different place than the winner of that match up.
Tim Varner
@Varner48MoH
About as well as possible. This is crazy talk, but I see the Spurs sweeping the first two rounds. Utah is terrible at defending the three point line, and, well, the Jazz are just not a good defensive team on top of that. The Clippers are a year aware from serious contention and I suspect the Spurs would tear through the Grizzlies as an exercise in self-cleansing.
Tim C
@TimC_PtR
I love it. The Spurs are pretty lucky to have the Lakers, Thunder and Mavs all on the other side of the bracket. The scariest team on their side is a Memphis side that’s been weakened since last season.
Mark V
@sbdavis_PtR
Just right. I don’t think they can ever get a perfect bracket — they will eventually have to go through at least one of the monster frontline teams (Grizzlies and Lakers), and if they get to the West finals, OKC. The Jazz matchup can be a positive, as it serves as a great preparation for all the physicality that will happen in the later rounds.
Ana
@ABLeyton
Jeff
@saspursdynasty
I couldn’t be more pleased. The issue for me was always who ended up on the other half of the bracket, regardless if we were the #1 or #2 seed. In order, the teams I’d most like to avoid in the first two rounds are the Lakers, the Thunder, the Mavs, and the Grizzlies. Three of those teams ended up on the other side of the bracket (and will hopefully beat each other up). I’m secretly excited to exact revenge on Memphis in Round 2.
Dan
@saspursdynasty
I think it’s a mixed bag. Call me sentimental, but I would have loved to have seen the Spurs whip Steve Nash and the Suns one last time, instead of facing Utah’s bigs, who will make our guys work hard. Facing the winner of the Grizzlies-Clippers series in the second round…. the Spurs have a score to settle with Memphis, but that team still presents some matchup challenges. Facing the Lakers in the second round would have been more fun, and probably a bit easier. Assuming the Thunder beat the Mavericks, then the Lakers-Nuggets winner, they will be a tough opponent in the Western Final. Regardless, the West is the Spurs to lose.

Q2: Who is your preferred 2nd round opponent?

Wayne Vore
@WayneTBF
The Grizzlies. First, and foremost, I want revenge. Next, I’d rather not deal with Chris Paul. I think the Spurs would beat the Clippers handily, but if Chris Paul gets into a groove then he can carry a team through a series. I think we are a much better team this year than last at matching up with the Grizzlies as well.
Bart Herridge
@BartTBF
I think the Clippers, but it’s close. I still don’t think Memphis is as good as last year’s team, largely because Rudy Gay’s presence takes shots away from their bigs and changes their style significantly. Gay can be a pretty inefficient scorer when goaded that direction. In addition, Zach Randolph is not yet Zach Randolph after his injury. But with the Clips, they have no bench at all and DeAndre Jordan does not need to be guarded farther out than 5 feet. Bonner might be huge in a series with them, dragging either Jordan or Griffin away from the lane.
Eric Blase
@BlaseEW
Anytime I consider a question like this, I have two battling driving questions. One, who is the best (read, easiest) matchup for the Spurs? Second, what series do I want to see as a fan that will take my level 10 playoff excitement to an 11? Neither team here takes it to an 11, but I prefer Clippers to both questions. Memphis would be a more competitive opponent, but taking on these new look Clippers would be a little more exciting.
Tim Varner
@Varner48MoH
Memphis. I also like big picture concepts like justice and rectitude. It’s the mid-westerner in me.
Tim C
@TimC_PtR
I’d like to see the Clippers in the second round. First and foremost, for purely selfish reasons, as I’d like the chance to attend a Spurs playoff game. But second, they’re the worst defensive team in the playoffs, and the Spurs would utterly destroy them.
Mark V
@sbdavis_PtR
I want the Grizzlies. As long as we’re healthy coming in, the Spurs’ play will be further motivated with revenge on their minds. Also, if you’re going to win another “asterisk” championship, might as well go through the tough road to further add to the legitimacy.
Ana
@ABLeyton
Jeff
@saspursdynasty
If we continue to play as well as we’ve been playing, I don’t think it honestly matters. I think the Clippers might be a bit easier for us, just because they are so inexperienced in the playoffs, save for Chris Paul, who we have a good track record of containing (and by that I mean we let him score a bunch, but limit his ability to get the rest of the team involved, similar to our Steve Nash plan from the mid-2000s). No one on that team really scares me. But I really want Memphis. I’m tired of hearing about last year’s playoffs, people ignoring the fact that Ginobili broke his arm two days before the playoffs began, how we can’t compete against size, etc, etc. I want to destroy them.
Dan
@saspursdynasty
I’m indifferent. Watching the Spurs face Blake Griffin and Chris Paul would be a lot of fun, and perhaps easier, but again, the Spurs have a score to settle against the Grizzlies.

Q3: Who’s the team you would most not like to see in the Western Conference Finals?

Wayne Vore
@WayneTBF
The Lakers. I think we match up much better with the Thunder.
Bart Herridge
@BartTBF
The Mavericks. If they get that far, it means that they have fixed whatever woes were hindering their offense and their defense has been pretty good all season. They have several guys besides Dirk who can get hot and hurt you and in a 7-game series, that only needs to happen two or three times. Make no mistake: the Lakers are concerning and scary and all of that. But if Dallas is there at the end, they present a world of problems for this configuration of the Spurs.
Eric Blase
@BlaseEW
Well, this is directly driven by my excitement comment; Nuggets. Defending champ Mavs in a Texas showdown, sure! Lakers in a Kobe-Duncan legacy battle, sure! The most exciting young team trying to dethrone the old guard (Spurs, Lakers, Celtics), sure! Lakers are the toughest team that I would be the most nervous playing though. I hate the Bynum-Duncan matchup at this point in their careers.
Tim Varner
@Varner48MoH
The Lakers, I suppose. But none of the Western Conference teams scare me. The Spurs match well with the Thunder and the Lakers are not a great team anymore. But Andrew Bynum’s 30 rebounds still put fear in my heart.
Tim C
@TimC_PtR
The Lakers. Even though I would selfishly enjoy having the Spurs in town(see my answer to the previous question), they’re the only Western team that legitimately scares me. The Spurs do not have an answer for Bynum, so they’re forced to send double teams. Eventually, a team with the Lakers’ talent level will figure out how to make them pay,
Mark V
@sbdavis_PtR
Forget about them being coached by Vinny del Negro. Chris Paul in the playoffs is very hard to stop, so I’d rather avoid that. The Clippers have also been gathering momentum, and came out with one of the best records in the league after the all-star break. Memphis has their hands full with that team.
Ana
@ABLeyton
Jeff
@saspursdynasty
The Lakers. I feel they are the only team that has any real sort of psychological edge against us. Despite beating the crap out of them two games in a row, that first game showed some vulnerabilities. What scared me the most was how scared the Spurs seemed to be to play them. They didn’t run their normal offense, and they just sort of rolled over. I think Kobe is a bit over-hyped at this point in his career, and that team is a hot mess; but something about them always makes me nervous.
Dan
@saspursdynasty
No one scares me against this Spurs team. Not the Lakers, not the Thunder, not the Grizzlies. Not this season.

Q4: Which Eastern teams would present the Spurs the most problems?

Wayne Vore
@WayneTBF
The Bulls. I think their defense could really put a cramp on our offense. I think we’d score plenty on the Heat. The Heat defense doesn’t handle ball movement very well.
Bart Herridge
@BartTBF
Chicago and Miami, obviously, simply because they are so talented. I think in some ways the Spurs would match up better with Miami, though. Chicago’s bigs and offensive rebounding ability are serious and the Bulls did the best job of any team I watched all season of getting the Spurs out of their offensive rhythm (albeit in a very small 1-game sample size). I might have said Orlando if Howard were healthy.
Eric Blase
@BlaseEW
Chicago is a threat because the team buys in to Thibodeau’s defense and if healthy, Rose is a go-to player. I don’t think their home court would be critical. Miami on the other hand is scary just because of the athleticism and that they could easily go 40+ minutes to their big 3 every game. Home court for us and getting a solid start to the series would be key. I like the Spurs against both though.
Tim Varner
@Varner48MoH
I’m torn between the Bulls and Heat. Tom Thibidoeau reminds me so much of Popovich that my respect for the Bulls is often irrational. Chicago is fine team, in the same sense that the Spurs are a fine team. Emphasis here on team. But LeBron James is the one player in the world who is virtually unguardable. As Spurs fans know from earlier this season, sometimes he’s capable of winning games based solely on other worldly skill.
Tim C
@TimC_PtR
Luckily, the two best Eastern teams(the only ones that can make the Finals, really) don’t have dominant frontcourt scorers like the Lakers. But they both scare me. But Miami’s greatest defense weakness is the 3-ball, and we’re all aware that the Spurs are the league’s best 3-point shooting team by now. Chicago defends the arc better than any team other than the Celtics, and they’re also one of the best pick and roll defenses in the league. They’re the only team that can cause the Spurs’ offense to grind to a halt consistently, or at least the only one with a shot at the finals.
Mark V
@sbdavis_PtR
Chicago and Boston. The slow-it-down, grind-it-out teams with good perimeter defenders and overall team defense are always going to give this Spurs team problems. The perimeter is where the Spurs’ point of attack begins, and if you stop that, the whole offense just seems to sputter.
Ana
@ABLeyton
Jeff
@saspursdynasty
With a healthy Derrick Rose, I think the Bulls are the biggest challenge to the Spurs. I felt like they were the team that beat us the most convincingly this season, at home nonetheless. I actually would love a chance to play Miami in the finals, and I think Boston would be a great series. But Chicago scares me the most.
Dan
@saspursdynasty
No doubt, it was the Bulls until today. Without Derrick Rose, Chicago is still a great defensive team, but aren’t likely to make it out of the East without him. The Heat would be tough.

Q5: Of the Spurs three late season acquisitions, who will have the biggest impact in the playoffs?

Wayne Vore
@WayneTBF
Boris. I don’t think Mills will play much at all (unless Gary Neal is out for a couple games with the neck thing). I think Stephen Jackson will make some big plays. But, I think Boris is going to have a big influence. He’s a much better man defender than I thought he would be, he rebounds better than Bonner, and he’s a great passer.
Bart Herridge
@BartTBF
Boris. He needs to play well starting in this series and continuing with the Grizz, if that’s who wins that series. Pop’s dead-on – his defense right now is more important than his offense, which has been fantastic. Such a great pickup. I hope they sign him to a long term deal this offseason.
Eric Blase
@BlaseEW
To me this is a no brainer; Diaw. He is so much more of a team player than I expected and I think he has made Blair pretty expendable at this point. Diaw can play with any of our other 4 bigs or with Kawhi if we wanted to for some reason. Mills is a hybrid of Parker and Neal but his minutes will be driven by the score deficit. Jackson could be a spark in a game or two, but he just doesn’t seem as explosive. His rebounding and unselfishness have been a surprise. Jackson has the exact same RPG number as RJ, just on 1.9 less MPG, and playing a more diverse positional role.
Tim Varner
@Varner48MoH
Boris Diaw. Defensively, Diaw has helped the Spurs at their weakest point, which is guarding nimble power forwards. And, despite his odd love affair of passing up open layups, he’s an excellent passer who usually finds the open man. The Spurs did the right thing by waiting for a big man to come onto the market. Yet another feather in the front office’s cap.
Tim C
@TimC_PtR
Stephen Jackson. I realize that Jack doesn’t have the best shot selection, and he’s more turnover-prone than the players we’re used to. But he also won’t be meek and passive when things get tough, or when the three-point shot is taken away. He’ll ratchet up the intensity and aggressiveness, and that more often than not has a positive impact on the team’s success. I’m also afraid that Kawhi isn’t ready for the pressure, which makes Jack even more valuable.
Mark V
@sbdavis_PtR
Boris Diaw. The Spurs’ big men aside from Diaw are far from being proven in the playoffs and in big moments. Diaw is a veteran who’s been in some playoff battles, and his overall skills are a great fit paired with any of the Spurs big men. On offense, his work and passing in the high post will give the team another wrinkle when the pick-and-roll, drive-and-kick games aren’t working.
Ana
@ABLeyton
Jeff
@saspursdynasty
Boris Diaw. It looks as if he’s already supplanted Blair in the rotation, and his skill set meshes perfectly with Duncan. He’s kind of a hybrid Blair/Bonner; he has the nice soft hands inside with great passing, but he can still extend his offense out to the 3-point line. And he’s magically become a pretty stout post defender. Which isn’t to take away from Jackson. I think he’ll play huge and important minutes for the team, and will help to swing a game or two. But with our biggest flaw being size, the guy who offers the most of it helps the most.
Dan
@saspursdynasty
Boris Diaw, but Stephen Jackson has shown flashes of his old self, and could be key to the Spurs’ success in the post-season.

Q6: Which of the Big 3 do you think has to be awesome in the playoffs, or which of the Big 3 can they least afford to be off his game?

Wayne Vore
@WayneTBF
Tony Parker. Tony needs to build on his spectacular regular season. He didn’t play well in the playoffs last year and it hurt us. Manu is still going to do Manu things, but doing Manu things means peaks and valleys. What we need from Tony is consistency and his speed. Tony needs to be attacking all game of every series.
Bart Herridge
@BartTBF
I’m not sure how the answer to this question is anything other than “Tony Parker”. He’s been the key to this regular season and I think he’s the key to the playoffs as well. When he’s on, the offense moves at a speed and pace few teams can match, Manu and Tim need to be good too, without question, but Tony needs to be in control.
Eric Blase
@BlaseEW
Tough question. This might depend on the matchups for the big 3. My immediate answer is Parker because he sets the table, gets the ball rolling, etc. He’s been amazing this season.
Tim Varner
@Varner48MoH
Odd year, this. The answer is Parker. The Spurs’ play as fast side to side as the Suns once did baseline to baseline. The Spurs’ offensive action begins with the high pick and roll and San Antonio is virtually unstoppable when Parker begins with the ball.
Tim C
@TimC_PtR
Manu. As great as Tim and Tony are, they don’t have Manu’s creativity or unpredictability. To put it another way: teams can develop a game plan to take away what Tim and Tony do best, but as Shane Battier famously said, Manu is a statistical freak, and there’s no one way to defend him that’s better than any other. If he’s on his game, it opens things up for everyone else.
Mark V
@sbdavis_PtR
Tim Duncan. Tony and Manu can take turns dictating the offense when one is off, but on defense, our at-rim protection begins and ends with Duncan. When he’s off on that end, nobody will be able to pick up the slack. Maybe Splitter to some extent, but the refs seem to have him on a tight leash at the moment.
Ana
@ABLeyton
Jeff
@saspursdynasty
I never worry about Duncan. At this point in his career, we need him to be a floor leader, a rebounder, and a defender. Any sort of offense we get from him is gravy. We can survive slow offensive games from him. I also never worry about Ginobili, save for injury. He has the type of all-around game that can always impact a game positively, even when other areas are off. But when Parker is on (as he has been much of this year), the offense is an unstoppable force. Again, the Lakers games are prime examples. He played poorly in that first game, played back up to his level in the next two. The results speak for themselves.
Dan
@saspursdynasty
I know Pop likes to say that without Ginobili, the Spurs can’t win a championship, but I don’t buy that this year. This is Tony Parker’s team. The Spurs will win a fifth title depending on how he plays.

Q7: Who is going to be the unsung hero of these playoffs (the non-Big-3 guy who plays a big role)?

Wayne Vore
@WayneTBF
I can’t decide. Danny Green. Kawhi Leonard. Danny Green. Kawhi Leonard. Eeny, meeny, miney, mo. Ok. I’m taking both. Both are young and I think both will have disappointing games where they disappear. However, I also think they will alternate having great games. Danny Green will have a couple 4-5 games from 3-pt with several rebounds, steals and blocks. Then Kawhi will do those weird Kawhi things like grab 5 offensive rebounds, go coast-to-coast with defensive boards, and make 4 steals in a game.
Bart Herridge
@BartTBF
Lots of choices here. I think it could be any one of three guys (and each very well could have their own moment in the sun): Gary Neal, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard. Neal had some huge moments last year and I believe he’s the most likely to do it again. Of the three, he’s the only one who is playoff-tested. But I don’t think you’ll see Green or Kawhi shrinking in any way. These guys have been too good all year to wilt now and I think they bring the right temperament to these playoffs.
Eric Blase
@BlaseEW
I see it being a different guy every night! I think Neal has the courage and loves the spotlight to be the guy we look back on as that guy though. He will have a horrific game at some point, but it will be worth noting as the anomaly. Neal is flashy though. Tiago and Diaw are more likely to go unsung because their positives aren’t as tangible. Neal is just the hero that isn’t the big 3.
Tim Varner
@Varner48MoH
I’m tempted to say Tiago Splitter, but I honestly believe this is Matt Bonner’s year. He’s an amazing shooter, and the Spurs’ offense becomes so much more potent when they force an opposing big man to chase Bonner off the arc. And if the other team sags, Bonner makes about half of his attempts. Matt Bonner, this is your moment.
Tim C
@TimC_PtR
Danny Green. Just a feeling.
Mark V
@sbdavis_PtR
Gary Neal. Forget about Patty Mills or even Stephen Jackson. This guy has gotten a taste of playoff drama last season, and hit that big game 5 winner. He shot poorly overall that series, but time and again he’s shown he’s not afraid of pressure situations. Oh, let’s hope his shoulder stinger is back 100%.
Ana
@ABLeyton
Jeff
@saspursdynasty
Do I have to choose just one? I think any one of six players could reasonably fit this bill! But I’m going to go with Danny Green. His game has settled into this nice middle ground, where you rarely notice what he’s doing anymore, but all of a sudden he has 18 points on four made 3-pointers and he’s playing lockdown defense on the other team’s best perimeter player. That sounds kind of like ‘unsung’ to me.
Dan
@saspursdynasty
I expect to see a different unsung hero (or two) every game. Danny, Tiago, Matt, Kawhi, Cap’n Jack and Boris could all have a big game or two. I’m not so sure about DeJuan or Gary, based on how they’ve played lately.

Q8: Who might be likely to shrink under the glare of the playoffs?

Wayne Vore
@WayneTBF
I’m going with Matt Bonner here. Partially since it is my running joke the last couple games of the season that his clanging from 3-pt was him getting his playoff shot ready. The other is that the refs allow teams to be more physical under the basket and away from the ball, and I think Matt tends to get bullied more in those situations.
Bart Herridge
@BartTBF
The right answer is Bonner, but I so hope it’s not true, even though it has been true in years past. I hope this is the year he stops putting so much pressure on himself and just plays. But if he falls apart, Diaw does a pretty good impression of a stretch-4.
Eric Blase
@BlaseEW
I’m much more confident in Green than earlier in the season, but he’s a big part of the team. I keep telling myself that he was a winner in college though. Kawhi offensively could really disappear but I think he does enough without scoring to not get criticized.
Tim Varner
@Varner48MoH
Kawhi Leonard. My opinion of Leonard is outrageously high, but he’s not only a rookie, he’s a young rookie. Without question, I see him as the only Spur who might come unglued this postseason. Although, Leonard is amazingly mature for his age, and is nothing if not focused. I’m not predicting he’ll drop off, but I’d forgive him if he did.
Tim C
@TimC_PtR
Kawhi. The guy has been inconsistent already the last couple of weeks, and rookies don’t traditionally fare well in the playoffs. I will say this: the kid seems unflappable. I can only hope he bucks the trend.
Mark V
@sbdavis_PtR
Matt Bonner. His monthly shooting splits show he peaked in February and has since gone down in March and April. It worries me. The Spurs will need his shot to be accurate if they are to make full use of him.
Ana
@ABLeyton
Jeff
@saspursdynasty
Bonner seems to [shrink] every year, but I’m hoping he reverses course. As a rookie, Leonard certainly has that potential, but I don’t expect him to. Through no fault of his own, I have a hunch Blair will be a non-factor for most of the playoffs.
Dan
@saspursdynasty
Kawhi or Danny, maybe. We’ve seen young players shrink in the playoffs before. However, if any young players can play like seasoned vets, these two can.

Q9: Assuming Pop shortens the bench a bit in the playoffs, who are the odd men out?

Wayne Vore
@WayneTBF
Patrick Mills, Corey Joseph, DeJuan Blair, and James Anderson will probably never see the court in a competitive situation.
Bart Herridge
@BartTBF
Easy question. Look at who played big minutes at Golden State: James Anderson, Patrick Mills, Byars, Cory Joseph, and to some extent, DeJuan Blair. DeJuan may be the most feast-or-famine player in the lineup. He’s incredibly valuable using his speed when there’s a smaller 4 for him to guard, but if Garbage Time DeJuan shows up, there’ll be a quick hook for Diaw or Splitter. I think we’ll see Blair a fair amount against the Jazz, but when they play the Favors-Millsap-Jefferson lineup, he’ll be on the bench.
Eric Blase
@BlaseEW
I don’t want Pop to shorten the bench. I think Pop should at the least treat the Utah series like the regular season in terms of rotation. If you just looked at the numbers and knew of Pop’s reputation, you’d think the minutes were so low because Pop rested the players every night. It’s easy to rest players when your regular rotations are up by 15+ going into the 4th quarters. Mills, Anderson, and Blair are the lowest players in the depth chart but I expect Mills and Blair to both play some. I believe Utah is a favorable matchup for Blair if he comes in the right mindset. Some of the games at the end of the season were a little sloppy.
Tim Varner
@Varner48MoH
DeJuan Blair.
Tim C
@TimC_PtR
Blair, Mills, Anderson. I think Pop keeps a 10-man rotation.
Mark V
@sbdavis_PtR
DeJuan Blair is the obvious choice for many reasons focused on his defense. Patrick Mills is also expected to sit a lot, although he might provide a spark when the offense grinds to a halt.
Ana
@ABLeyton
Jeff
@saspursdynasty
This is where it gets tricky to figure out. I see at least 10 players having earned legitimate playoff playing time! Duncan, Bonner, Splitter, and one of Diaw and Blair seems to be necessary. So that’s four right there. Leonard and Jackson seem to be sharing the SF spot, so now we’re up to six. And a four-man guard rotation of Ginobili, Parker, Green, and Neal seems fairly set, too. Does this work? Can we legitimately play 10 in the playoffs? I can’t see any of those 10 not playing. As for odd men out, Patty Mills, James Anderson, and Blair. I do think Mills will get some playing time and probably hit some big shots in some random second
quarter, but won’t see that much court time.
Dan
@saspursdynasty
James Anderson is a given. So is Patty Mills. DeJuan and Gary, and maybe Matt, could be odd men out in a series or two. It depends on the matchups and how they perform.

Q10: How would you rate the defense now, as compared to the beginning of the season?

Wayne Vore
@WayneTBF
It’s much better than the beginning of the season for two reasons: Kawhi and Manu. Manu was hurt and Kawhi was a rookie. Both are guys who make plays. They rebound, deflect passes, jump passing lanes, draw charges, etc. All things we were missing early in the season. I also think it helps that Tiago will probably play more, Diaw will play more, and Jack will play some and also makes plays. In short, we have a lot better set of playmakers on defense now than we did then. And I didn’t even mention Danny Green.
Bart Herridge
@BartTBF
Better. Not great, but better. I think we have improved pick-and-roll defense (so say the numbers) and are playing better – not great, but better – against post-iso players. The transition and 3-point defense is still a bit of a work in progress based on who is on the floor. So, it’s a better team defensively than early on. That’s something.
Eric Blase
@BlaseEW
From a personnel standpoint, I think much better. Kawhi and Green have more experience defending top talent. Manu is healthy. Diaw reduces Blair and Bonner’s minutes and is a better defender than either. I also love our team’s defensive rebounding. Green, Kawhi, Jackson, Manu, Neal and Parker are all good to excellent backcourt rebounders. Parker’s numbers don’t show it because of his teammates. Green, Manu, and Jackson are all in the top 11 for defensive rebounding rate. Oh yeah, and there is still Duncan.
Tim Varner
@Varner48MoH
We’re actually about to run a post on this at 48MoH. Our resident statistician, Aaron McGuire…well, I shouldn’t spoil it. But since you asked, the answer is that the Spurs are dramatically improved on defense.
Tim C
@TimC_PtR
Probably about eleventy billion times better. Seriously, the first month of the season, we were actually worse than the Clippers on D. Jack and Boris have made a real impact on that end, and should continue to do so in the playoffs.
Mark V
@sbdavis_PtR
It looked awesome when Ginobili was out and Splitter was leading the 2nd unit. Not blaming Manu, but it did seem like team defense as a whole regressed when he came back. Although to be fair, it’s hard to be engaged defensively when you’ve been blowing out opponents in the last few games.
Ana
@ABLeyton
Jeff
@saspursdynasty
I think the defense has gotten a lot better over the season. All Spurs fans know that we’ll never be the lockdown team of years (and championships) past. But the league has changed, too. Nobody can play that type of defense any more. What has impressed me about this year’s team is their ability to play ‘spot’ defense, to really lock in at key moments, in fourth quarters, and to do all of the little things that matter, like defensive rebound, and box out, and make the proper rotations. We still stick to the core principles of Pop’s defense, which will always make us better than average when it counts.
Dan
@saspursdynasty
I’d give the Spurs defense a B+ now, compared to a C- early in the season.

Q11: Can the Spurs keep up a faster pace in the playoffs, when things tend to slow down?

Wayne Vore
@WayneTBF
Yes and no. I think the Spurs will continue to run up court just as fast as they did in the regular season. The teams they face, though, will be better at transition defense. The thing about the Spurs running was that it got them into their offense faster to start passing the ball. This will continue. We may work deeper into the shot clock to get a shot, but we’ll keep running and passing. I think the offense will be fine.
Bart Herridge
@BartTBF
Yes. Not as fast as the regular season, but yes. Parker’s job is to push tempo and very few teams can run with the Spurs this year (it feels weird just saying that, but it’s true) so I think that will be a point of emphasis, as Pop likes to say.
Eric Blase
@BlaseEW
This is probably why Tony Parker is the most important of the big 3. We need him to will the team to the pace we want to play. We can’t have shooters passing up good looks to make an extra pass unless the pass is going into the paint.
Tim Varner
@Varner48MoH
I think so. I said this above, but the Spurs’ speed is not predicated on end-to-end breaks. It’s predicated on getting into the high pick and roll quickly, and from there San Antonio tends to break teams by moving the ball side to side. In this sense, they’re more like the Adelman Kings than the D’Antoni Suns. But what’s important for this conversation, is that side to side speed is just a function of good offense, not an offensive gimmick, which sound defense tends to stifle.
Tim C
@TimC_PtR
It’s going to depend on the matchup. In the first round, it should be no problem, since the Jazz like to run. If they get Memphis again, the games will inevitably slow down. But the Spurs half court offense is a thing of beauty, so pace shouldn’t really matter.
Mark V
@sbdavis_PtR
I think they can. Last year proved to be a good experience. The guys probably panicked a bit when the Grizzlies went physical with them. Hopefully they learned from it, and as long as they trust their system, the points will come. This team has some similarities on offense to last season’s Dallas Mavericks, but we have better shooters and a deeper bench.
Ana
@ABLeyton
Jeff
@saspursdynasty
That’s the age-old question, isn’t it? The Spurs tried to answer it the other way against the Suns for several years. I think it will slow down some, but that it won’t hurt the offense too much, since our efficiency is based more upon spacing, ball movement, and execution — all things that shouldn’t change in the playoffs. Plus, most of our ‘quick’ action comes on secondary breaks, rather than fast breaks. Unless Tony Parker is charging ahead on his own…which I still expect to happen.
Dan
@saspursdynasty
I think so, but it depends on how much Pop relies on Tim, Tony and Manu. If he trusts his bench as much as he has during the regular season, and keeps Tim and Manu’s minutes down, the Spurs should be able to play as
fast as they have in April.

Q12: Why should we believe that this year’s top-seeded Spurs will fare better than last year’s top seeded Spurs?

Wayne Vore
@WayneTBF
We were awful last year at the end of the season. Tim hurt his ankle. Tony got dinged. We lost 8 of 12 and our swagger. Then Manu sprained his elbow. This year we have Manu healthy, Tony healthy, and Tim healthy with all three playing really well. We also have better playmakers on the wing. Last year we had Richard Jefferson and a scrub named Danny Green. This year we have a Most Improved Player candidate Danny Green, the freakish Kawhi Leonard, and the scrappy Stephen Jackson. As role players go, they are light years better.
Bart Herridge
@BartTBF
3 reasons: first, the Spurs have more depth everywhere, but especially upfront, as opposed to last year; second is health: Manu is healthy, Tony is healthy, and Tim looks like the Tim from 2007; and third, the matchups are much more favorable this time around.
Eric Blase
@BlaseEW
Memphis lost at the end of the regular season to play us because they knew the matchup was favorable. Manu is healthy. Parker is playing his best. Tim looks younger than last year as I’m getting more used to his dunks. Tiago and Neal have more time in the system. All of the new players to the playoff rotation: Kawhi, Green, Diaw, Jackson, and potentially Mills. The key losses are RJ and Hill. RJ was benched last year. Hill created lineup issues for us as our fourth best player. Playing him with Tony and Manu was too small and this was the lineup you needed to close games or come back when down.
Tim Varner
@Varner48MoH
Completely different team. But here’s one thing to remember, and it doesn’t involve Manu Ginobili’s injury. Last year’s Spurs team stumbled into the playoffs. If you recall, they struggled through a slump over the final 20 games. This year’s team is shredding opponents night after night. This year’s Spurs team is everything Popovich would want, healthy and peeking at the right time.
Tim C
@TimC_PtR
That team stumbled into the playoffs after all of the big 3 missed games with injury during the last month of the season, and had a terrible record during that time. They had a terrible record in that last month, were completely out of rhythm, and the most important player to breaking down the opponent’s game plan(Manu) had a broken arm. I still credit the Grizz for playing out of their minds to win, but pretty much everything that could go wrong after a great start, did go wrong.
Mark V
@sbdavis_PtR
Three things: 1) everyone’s healthy; 2) a slim, rejuvenated and focused Timmy; 3) Tony Parker developing into a bona fide point guard who’s able to control the offense.
Ana
@ABLeyton
Jeff
@saspursdynasty
Because last year was a lot of smoke and mirrors, some lucky breaks, and running up the record early in the season and coasting into the playoffs. This year the team is deeper by a significant factor, our point differential shows our true dominance, and we’ve been rolling downhill all season, getting better with each passing month. We’ve only lost three games all season when the team has been at full strength. That’s insane.
Dan
@saspursdynasty
Why shouldn’t we?! The Spurs are healthy, deep and peaking at the right time.

Q13: Are these Spurs good enough to win a title?

Wayne Vore
@WayneTBF
Yes. No doubt. We’ll need to be fortunate enough to stay healthy. If we do, we’ll make it deep into these playoffs.
Bart Herridge
@BartTBF
I’ve said yes since February and it’s much harder to argue that now than it was then. I think the Eastern teams have real potential to give the Spurs trouble if they get that far, as opposed to previous title years when the WCF was the Finals, however.
Eric Blase
@BlaseEW
Yes.
Tim Varner
@Varner48MoH
Yes. In fact, I think they will only drop two or three games between now and the Finals. One statistician is giving them 50% odds—against the field. As John Hollinger said the other day, the Spurs are so good that if they were located in NY or LA, their recent play would have broke the Internet.
Tim C
@TimC_PtR
Yes. And what’s more, I don’t feel the need to justify my response. Anyone who has been paying attention to this team over the last few months can see it.
Mark V
@sbdavis_PtR
As long as they dictate the pace of games and are able to play stretches of terrific defense, the path to the title may not be as difficult as people think. (Yeah, either I’m that confident or delusional)
Ana
@ABLeyton
Jeff
@saspursdynasty
Yes. Every team is flawed, no one has risen above the pack. If playoffs usually come down to match-ups, depth, and talent, I like the Spurs in all of those categories, save for talent against a few teams. But other than extreme length, I don’t think there is one glaring weakness for this team. And I think our offensive precision, corporate knowledge, and supreme coaching gives us the edge over most any other team in the league.
Dan
@saspursdynasty
Absolutely. Anyone who disagrees hasn’t been paying attention.

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7 Responses to Spurs Playoff Fanalysis: A Roundtable

  1. Jleithart says:

    Hey Wayne, this was very difficult to read because I couldn’t tell when one person’s thoughts began and when the previous one’s ended.

  2. Wayne Vore says:

    I’m thinking your forgot your smiley face.

    I spent a couple hours messing with the formatting so that it was readable. :)

    I’m guessing the sub-text is “all these people have the exact same thing to say”, no?

  3. LasEspuelas says:

    Perhaps he was referring to the RSS feed. It is continuous text (at least on my phone)

  4. Wayne Vore says:

    Apparently, the orange lines don’t show up on FireFox. Could be that as well.

  5. LasEspuelas says:

    I am looking with Firefox right now and I see the orange lines (maybe you fixed it?)

  6. Wayne Vore says:

    No, I didn’t fix it. It works for me in FF as well. Not sure what is up.

  7. Jleithart says:

    Ah that’s it, I don’t have any orange lines on my browser. Must using the wrong version of FF. Thanks!

    And yes, I believe I did forget my smiley face earlier… :P