- Created on Sunday, 30 December 2012 21:53
- Last Updated on Thursday, 16 May 2013 07:51
- Written by Jeff Noital
Mike D'Antoni was forced to do that with the Lakers by placing Darius Morris, a point guard, into the shooting guard spot next to Steve Nash. That allows the Lakers to be quicker in the back-court and have some advantage against opponents with Kobe Bryant moving to the small forward position. There was a time when Spurs fans would think that the team either had to choose going with a traditional lineup and defending better or going with a more versatile lineup (or small ball) to outscore their opponents and depend on help defense to stop their opponents.
This year, the Spurs have made that decision easy for their fans: they're scoring in bunches with a traditional lineup. This is pretty uncommon for the Spurs since they used to score in the lower 90's when they would play players in their normal positions, but with a new mentality of scoring as fast as they can (taking good shots in the process), this mentality has paid off. Last year when San Antonio wanted to outscore their opponents, they had to start Dejuan Blair but sacrificed defense with him playing a big position at 6'7". This season, the Spurs owe this success to a couple of players:
Tiago Splitter: Before this year, he was known as a guy who could score if he had the ball right under the rim without posting up or cutting to the basket. This year his offense and role is similar to what Blair brought: great screens and cutting fast to the basket for the score. He's adopted a reverse layup to help against shot blockers.
Boris Diaw: One of the catalysts of the Phoenix Suns in their heyday, Diaw brings a unique mix to the Spurs. A small forward converted power forward, he can spot up shoot and put the ball on the floor for a layup. What makes him irreplaceable are his passing skills. You can compare them to a point guard in the center position. If teams decide to go small against him, he can post up small forwards with ease. All these intangibles make him an all over player.
Stephen Jackson, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green: The Spurs' small forwards and starting shooting guard are in the same category because they bring in the same mentality: defense with as minimal help as possible and make three point shots. Leonard is being groomed to be the replica of Bruce Bowen and with Jackson off the bench, there's no rest for whoever the opposing team's best scorer is. Danny Green brings the same defense to the SG position and his 3 point making has been making it easy for the Spurs to seal games early.
The Big 3: These three men have made it possible to play this way. They've left their former style of playing to adapt to one that makes the team better over carrying the team themselves like in prior years. Tony Parker has worked on his passing skills and has worked on a 3 point jumper to help the rest of the team get an easier look in the paint. Manu Ginobili is still playing his style but relying more on jump shooting and improving that department. He's no longer driving to the lane the majority of the time (which is a good thing for his health) and becoming a more reliable jump shooter, which helps the team by keeping him on the floor. Tim Duncan is perhaps the player on the team that's changed his game the most. With his cleaner diet, he's adapted a more reliable jump shot and that's helped save his legs for protecting the paint. He can still do an occasional "4 Down" play, but with his jumper on point he gives an open lane for Parker, Ginobili, or any other Spur that wants to drive or big that wants to post up.
Gregg Popovich: If this man didn't accept the thought of adapting a new style with new plays, none of this would be possible. A coach with a mentality of "defense first" burned in his mind, it's pretty hard to think a faster paced game with more possession and more points all around would even think about changing his coaching style. With the league changing and going with a faster pace, Spurs fans should be glad he made the right choice. Although the games have more possessions, the Spurs' defense has been on tact for the majority of the season. They've scored over 100 numerous times and the majority of the times their opponents have scored over 105 points, they've been with the third string players in a game that's already been decided.
This new style the Spurs have been playing is what's giving their fans a reason to believe there's a chance at a 5th trophy and a chance to send Tim Duncan off to the sunset in style.