The Runner Sports

How The Spurs Can Respond In Game 2?

The Houston Rockets waxed the floor with the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1, winning 126-99 in San Antonio. We saw a Spurs team that we have never seen before in the Gregg Popovich era. The Spurs looked confused, disorganized, and helpless. It seems liked whatever they tried failed against the explosive Rockets. San Antonio was the best defensive team in the league this year, and beat the Rockets three out of four times this year. People expected a close series, some picked the Rockets, but no one could have predicted what happened in Game 1. I personally had the Spurs in 7, so that’s not looking good. As bad as Game 1 was, I expect the Spurs to respond. Let’s examine what went wrong in Game 1, and what adjustments the Spurs can make for Game 2.

Game 1

James Harden was in complete control from the get-go in this game. Harden would sniff out David Lee for a pick and roll, and when Lee went to hedge, or trap Harden, Clint Capela would roll to the rim for an easy lob dunk. The Spurs at times put LaMarcus Aldridge on Trevor Ariza. Houston countered by using Ariza as a screen, which led to five easy threes for Ariza. If the Spurs tried to switch it, Harden would pull up for three of his own over Aldridge. When Aldridge was on Ryan Anderson, it was also a problem. Anderson spotted up for deep contested threes four times. This led the Spurs to being spread out, and more room for Harden and the Rockets to operate. Danny Green did a fine job on Harden himself, as Harden only had 20 points. Harden hurt the Spurs with the pass, though, as he had 14 assists. Most of these assists led to threes, as the Rockets converted 22 threes for the game.

San Antonio was big with Lee and Aldridge starting, and Houston exposed them by putting them in constant pick and rolls and spreading them out. On the other end, Houston, not known for its defense, played great. Trevor Ariza, who was the hero of the game, played some great defense on Kawhi Leonard. Ariza limited Leonard to 21 points. San Antonio’s main problem was getting nothing from LaMarcaus Aldridge. Aldridge only had four points.  He missed open shots, wasn’t aggressive, and was just awful. They need a lot more from him if they want to win this series. There really was no positives for the Spurs in this game, so let’s look forward to Game 2.

Game 2

Game 2 is tonight in San Antonio, and you know Gregg Popovich will have some adjustments. The 22 threes Houston had in Game 1 has to be what concerned Popovich the most. I think Pop benches David Lee, Lee can start against Memphis, not against Houston. Dewayne Dedmon should start and needs more minutes. Dedmon’s more mobile and can survive in switching situations. He also brings great rim protection. Capela will not get 20 and 13 if he is in there. Dedmon starting should help stop the bleeding inside, but the counter is he brings less offense.

For more offense and better perimeter defense, the Spurs should go smaller. San Antonio is one of the few teams that usually don’t go small, but I think they have to in this series. This means more minutes for Jonathan Simmons and Kyle Anderson and less for David Lee and Pau Gasol. Simmons and Anderson would allow the Spurs to switch more pick and rolls on defense. Their athleticism gives them a better chance of staying with Houston’s shooters, as both are comfortable defending in space. A lineup I would like to see is LaMarcus at the 5, Kawhi at the 4 with Simmons at the 3, Green at the 2, and Patty Mills at the 1. I think this lineup gives the Spurs the best combo of offense and defense. Simmons may need to play 25-plus minutes in this series. David Lee and Pau Gasol may only be good for 10-15 minutes in this series. There are times where the Rockets are comfortable putting Harden on those two. A smaller lineup would also make Harden work more on defense.

Finally, the Spurs have to get LaMarcus Aldridge going. He needs to punish Ryan Anderson on the block and look for some early post ups, then get into more pick and pops with Tony Parker or Kawhi. This is his shot and it was there in Game 1, he just missed. Aldridge has to be assertive all game as Kawhi desperately needs a secondary scorer. If Anderson is on him, go to the post. If it’s Capela or Nene, go to the midrange. This is a simple adjustment, it’s just a matter of Aldridge going out there and playing to the level he is capable of.

Prediction

I like the Spurs to respond at home in Game 2. San Antonio will do a better job of running Houston’s shooters off the line and make them put the ball on the floor. I wouldn’t be surprised if they let Harden get his buckets and stay on the shooters. Containing the bench duo of Eric Gordon and Lou Williams will also be critical. This is a veteran team with a proven track record, they know how to respond. If they make the necessary adjustments they should win Game 2. However, there is no question Houston presents them serious matchup problems and this will be a long series. Stay tuned!

Evan Dyal

Evan Dyal

Charlotte Hornets Writer at The Runner Sports
Evan Dyal