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The Armchair Coach: Potential Adjustments for Game 4

So, the Spurs got shellacked in Game 3, and Scott Brooks has rightfully been given much credit for making adjustments that kept the Thunder out of an 0-3 hole. Zach Lowe does a great job of breaking down those adjustments over here, and if you somehow still haven't read that yet, you need to. Here, I'm going to suggest/predict some possible adjustments that the Spurs need to make in order to keep from getting out-athleticized by the Thunder again.

From Zach Lowe's piece:

The larger adjustment, though, might simply be playing with more precision - faster reads, quicker passes, assertive backdoor cuts and instant dribble-drives from secondary players whom the Thunder are leaving open and will thus have to close out on aggressively. All of these things are in San Antonio's toolbox. You don't set the league on fire for 50 games without being able to adjust and work fourth and fifth options.

I agree with that analysis, but it's not fun to write "The Spurs need to try harder" so I'll add they also need to be more aggressive, and throw out some other things too.

It seems to me that the logical counter with the Thunder going small is for us to go small with them- since we have some of the most versatile small ball players in the league. I think Kawhi Leonard needs more minutes, and I think Stephen Jackson needs more minutes. And I think playing both of them together gives us an incredible amount of versatility on both sides of the ball. I would bring Jackson in for Diaw at the same time Manu comes in for Green. If the Thunder still have two bigs out there, who cares? I'd rather Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka try to post up Jackson/Duncan than have Durant, Harden, or Westbrook go off.

As for our guard rotation, more so than any other game this season game three was where we noticed the loss of TJ Ford. 14 turnovers is entirely too many, and while many of them were committed by our starting lineup, Neal takes too long to get us our offensive sets. The Neal/Manu backcourt has problems playing with pace and keeping the offense in rhythm when the Thunder have both Westbrook and Sefolosha on the floor. Obviously, TJ isn't coming back, so this is a more difficult problem to solve. But I think the answer is getting Diaw more time with the second unit. Another answer (and one we've seen Pop ease into) is playing James Anderson more. Anderson is a better ball handler then Green, and with Green not shooting well the advantages of playing him over Anderson are lessened.

As a consequence of playing Diaw more with the bench, Dejuan Blair needs to be brought back in. It's one thing to make mistakes when you're being too aggressive- it's another thing entirely to make mistakes because you're too passive. The majority of the Spurs mistakes in both game one and game three came from being too passive. One thing nobody has ever accused Blair of being is not aggressive enough. In the fourth quarter (garbage time) of game three he almost put up a double double in ten minutes. He doesn't look like he's gained any weight like he did last year; in fact it looks like he's trimmed himself up even more and he looks absolutely cut right now. While he doesn't have the same skill set as Diaw I still think Blair presents matchup problems for the Thunder especially when the Thunder play small. Particularly, his ability to get offensive rebounds is a huge advantage against a smaller Thunder team. One of the consequences of Oklahoma City's adjustments in game three is that their defense is now cheating further off of weakside players. Defensively, Blair shouldn't have too many problems lined up against Derek Fisher or Thabo Sefolosha. I think playing a lineup of Parker, Ginobili, Jackson, and Kawhi Leonard combined with any of the Spurs bigs (but especially either Duncan, Splitter or Blair) is the most effective small ball lineup.

With Bonner's shot being colder than his winter shoes, it might be time for Blair, Diaw, and Jackson to eat his minutes. While I'm usually the last one to get off the Matt Bonner bandwagon, I'm pretty sure I'm the last one on it now. The Thunder play the lineup of Fisher, Sefolosha, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Ibaka. We tried playing big with Duncan and Diaw against that lineup and we weren't successful. Therefore we either need to put another big in other than Diaw or Bonner.

Or we need to go small and exploit the lack of quickness of Derek Fisher and the lack of strength of Durant and Ibaka. If we play Parker, Ginobili Leonard and Jackson together that accomplishes that goal because there's nobody that Derek Fisher can hide against.