Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The Spurs are really really good. With a record of 31-11, they have remained in contention for another season by owning the third best record in the NBA. The San Antonio Spurs have won at least 50 games in ever season since the 1997-98 season, excluding the lockout-shortened season of 1998-99 but even including the lockout-shorten season last year.
This season, they are in the top five in offensive and defensive efficiency and have generally looked unbeatable against average or below average fodder. 6 of their 11 losses have been to the Clippers, Knicks, Heat or Thunder. In fact, their only loss to a team not in the top 8 of their conference has been to the New Orleans Hornets.
To say this will be a challenge is a large understatement, especially for a team without Lou Williams, possibly Anthony Morrow, and the limited services of Al Horford and DeShawn Stevenson. The Spurs will be without Manu Ginobili, but boast many long range threats in his place as usual.
Tim Duncan is having a year that would put him in the MVP discussion if he played enough minutes. Per 36 minutes, he is averaging 20.7 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 3.3 blocks. The same could be said for Tony Parker who is averaging almost 20 points per game on 52% shooting (53.8 eFG% and 58.4 TS%) and an assist to turnover ratio of 3:1 in only 32.6 minutes a game. These two have lead the Spurs for years and it should come as no surprise that in limited minutes they are excelling in Gregg Popovich’s offense.
However, the most surprising revelation has to be that of Tiago Splitter, the third year Argentine. He has refined his post game and become a menace on the offensive boards. For stretches, it will be important to also contain DeJuan Blair and Kawhi Leonard, as mobile undersized forwards have bit the Hawks in recent games.
There are a few areas that the Hawks may be able to exploit, however. Like the Hawks, the Spurs lack of size in the post makes them a below average rebounding team, according to rebound rate. Al Horford may only receive limited minutes because of a tight hamstring so it is important Zaza Pachulia and Ivan Johnson can pick up
2. Force turnovers
For such a well disciplined team, it is odd seeing the Spurs sport one of the highest turnover rates in the league (14.4 turnovers per 100 possessions, third worst in the NBA). The Hawks do a great job swiping guard from behind to start a fastbreak. It will be important to get a number of easy buckets in this game against a tough opponent.
3. Don’t settle for jumpshots
The Spurs are not a team the Hawks want to try to match jumpshots with. Per Hoopdata.com, the Spurs are a top 3 shooting team from 10-15 feet, 16-23 feet and from three point land. While the Hawks have the long range firepower to match, they have thrived on getting to the rim with their quick point guards in recent days and will most likely be doomed trying to outshoot the Spurs.