Last night, the San Antonio Spurs faced the Los Angeles Clippers at home to start their second round playoff series. I picked the Spurs to win the series in 5 for good reason, and they only strengthened my view last night.
The Clippers offense is too predictable for a great coach like Gregg Popovich to not be able to break down. The San Antonio Spurs covered the pick and roll well last night–something that the Grizzlies couldn’t do–by trapping Chris Paul as soon as he used the screen.
Ultimately, the Spurs weren’t worried about the roll man in any of these situations. When Paul uses the pick, again, his man will go over or under. The roll man’s man will switch temporarily and be one on one with Paul for a split second. Then in an instant, Paul’s man will recover and get back to him. They’ll trap Paul upon his man’s return which, by default, leaves the roll man open. The Spurs will live with that, though, because Paul doesn’t have a roll man that can create his own offense consistently or hit a 15 foot jumper consistently.
You can see that in the video below with the Paul/Griffin PnR early in the first quarter.
Parker fights over the Griffin screen and recovers to Paul. Griffin’s man, Diaw, never returns to him which leaves Griffin open. Paul is able to deliver the ball to Griffin, but there isn’t a clear path to the rim as Diaw is able to establish position in front of the rim easily. Griffin’s choices are take the jumper or drive to the rim with the possibility of taking a charge. This was perfect defense by San Antonio.
Because of the roll man’s ineffectiveness, Paul is forced to become a scorer and take shots. While he is comfortable in this roll, it isn’t something that he wants to do. The Clippers win games when Chris Paul is able to get everyone else involved and not only himself.
The Spurs are saying if he’s going to beat them in any way, it won’t be passing the ball; he’ll need to score it. That’s exactly what Paul tried to do in the video below.
This time around, the roll man was Reggie Evans. Evans isn’t known generating any type of offense outside of 3 feet of the rim–barely even that really. The Spurs definitely weren’t worried about him here. Paul received the screen and Tiago Splitter instantly hedges out to him. Parker eventually recovers and then they double Paul. Reggie Evans is allowed a free roll to the rim, but the Boris Diaw comes over to bump him and make his path less easy. Paul has no choice but to put up a difficult shot here.
Without his teammates being able to make plays on the other end of his passes, he’s left having to do it on his own. In the video below, Paul runs a PnR with Kenyon Martin. Danny Green and Tim Duncan end up covering him, and forcing him into a difficult shot.
Here Martin provides no help by remaining stagnant at the free throw line. The Spurs will let him have that spot every time he touches the ball because he can’t consistently hit from there. The Clippers played right into the Spurs hands with this one.
Late in the game, Paul seemed to move at a much faster pace than the rest of his teammates as well. This was likely from the frustration that was built up from not being able to score the ball himself and having no one else who could do it for him without getting close to the rim. You can see that Paul rushes this three point attempt in the video below. He doesn’t even use the screen to his advantage.
The Clippers will need to fix this problem as soon as possible. The problem is that the Spurs defenders aren’t being made to move. They know what to expect because of the lack of ball movement and the sticky fingers of Chris Paul. To counter this, Chris Paul should play off of the ball more and the use of pin down screens should be increased for him. The defense will be forced to shift as Paul will be able to pick it apart when he’s able to curl off of the pin down screen. In that split second, he can figure out where and who to attack. It gives him the option of attacking off the dribble or taking a shot.
You can also have a screener ready for him as he comes off of the pin down. They’ll need to be careful with the spacing, but it should allow for a three on two matchup for a split second on one side of the floor. That will simplify things for the Clippers and make it easier for Paul.