Diversifying the Spurs attack against the switching Mavericks defense

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs will need to tweak a few things about their offense if they want it clicking in all cylinders against the smart Maverick defense.

The Mavs' switching defense got all the headlines after an unexpectedly close game one of the series and for good reason. Holding the Spurs to a below average offensive night is not easy and Dallas did it. But it wasn't just the uncharacteristic methods Rick Carlisle implemented, Dallas managed to do one thing remarkably well: contain Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Or is that two things?

Regardless, here are some adjustments the Spurs can implement to get their wings involved while still trying to take a advantage of the good match ups that result from switches.

Continue to attack on switches -- in moderation

First of all, I have to say there's nothing inherently wrong with taking advantage of favorable switches. The problem comes when -- possession after possession -- the offense settles for isolations or post ups after a switch, killing the ball movement. There are ways to attack a switching defense other than in ISOs, and the Spurs would be foolish not to explore them. Unfortunately, that's what happened in Game 1. The Spurs weren't expecting that type of defense and settled for one-on-one attacks.

That's obviously not ideal even if the Spurs led comfortably after the first quarter. But going away completely from those match-ups isn't the answer either. Tony Parker scored 17 first half points by going to the rim while Samuel Dalembert futilely tried to stay with him. Looking to involve other players should always be on Parker's mind, even if he's champing at the bit to score himself. But sometimes it's a good idea to take advantage of what the defense is conceding.

Change the angle of attack to get Leonard involved

The Spurs try to draw Dalemebert away from the paint by having his man work as screener on pick-and-rolls while Dirk provides help defense. It's a very smart thing to do in theory. But because the Mavs had Marion on Parker, those pick-and-rolls ended up involving the Mavericks' two best defenders: Dalembert and Marion. Meanwhile, Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon and Nowitzki could simply stay with their men to prevent open shots.

What the Spurs can do instead is involve the best defenders in the play and then change the point of attack to put the weaker defenders on the spot.

They can do that by taking a page out of the Mavericks playbook. As Ian Dougherty mentioned, Dallas often has P&R options on both sides of the court. They often start a P&R set with Nowitzki and Calderon on the strong side only to swing the ball to the weak side for Monta Ellis to run a quick P&R with the second big man. The Spurs don't have a second killer pick-and-roll ball handler like Ellis in the starting lineup but giving Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter a chance to exploit the Dirk-Monta duo on quick actions could prove fruitful.

To do that, they simply need to have Danny Green on the strong side corner as Parker and Duncan go into a typical side pick-and-roll set. The Mavs will likely switch to avoid helping from the corner on the roll. That's when Tony can pass to the weak side, where Leonard will catch and receive a quick screen from Splitter. If there's a shot for either, they take it. If the Mavs switch again, there will be mismatches all over the floor. As long as the Spurs get into their sets quickly, there should be enough time to take advantage of them before the defense can re-adjust.

Posting up Leonard on Ellis is smart. But it gets predictable and takes the Spurs away from their sets as much as having Parker go one-on-one. By going with this adjustment, the Spurs could effectively attack weak defenders while maintaining ball and player movement.

Use misdirection to free up Green

The starter that struggled the most was Danny Green. The Mavs took him out of the game by simply staying home with him instead of helping. That likely won't change so the Spurs will need to get tricky. The Spurs "Hammer" plays are effective because of the perfect use of misdirection and flare screens. Here's an example from this fantastic post from SBNation's Doug Eberhart:

It looks like Ginobili is attacking the rim when in fact the play is designed specifically to free Belinelli.

The Spurs' zipper series (of which "Loop" is an example) also offers options designed to free up shooters. Starting at 0:24 in the following video, you'll see a few options that show how the Spurs can use that familiar set to create open looks for shooters. Obviously, "Loop" has surely been scouted. But it takes one small mistake for Green to get a wide open three point look.

Getting Green some looks could get him going and the Spurs' offense is never more scary than when the threes fall.

*   *   *

These are just some simple adjustments. I'm sure Pop has more (and better) things planned. And even if he doesn't, with a normal performance by the benches, the Spurs should win game two and the series handily. They are simply the better team.

That doesn't undermine the importance of figuring out ways to get Leonard and Green involved going forward to prevent other teams from employing the same strategies. Diversifying the attack when the starters are in the game has to be on the to-do list.

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