The Spurs and the Warriors are now going to battle it out in a best of three series with the Spurs having home court advantage. So as you see, the situation is not as gloomy as it seemed after the gut-wrenching loss in game four. That being said, there are some trends that have developed over the series could require some adjustments from Spurs. The problem with making drastic changes this late is that they are often the result of fear, more than a potential strategic advantage. Let's take a look at some potential changes and determine if they are panic moves, good adjustments or simply viable new wrinkles.
If the Spurs start Manu Ginobili the Warriors won't be able to hide Stephen Curry. By making Curry defend on a weak ankle, the Spurs might be able to slow him down on offense. And with the Spurs' offense sputtering and Pop playing the big three heavy minutes, maximizing the amount of time they spend on the court together is paramount.
Verdict: viable new wrinkle
The Spurs could do this and have Ginobili on the floor for the first three or four minutes guarding Barnes and making Curry chase him through screens, fight over picks and push back in the post. Then Green comes in and gets a few minutes with the starters. After that Manu comes in with the second unit. The reason why Pop might hesitate to do this is that it could likely result in the Spurs trying too hard to make Curry work, abandoning their offense in the process. The damage done to the second unit wouldn't be too great since the subs are not getting a ton of minutes.
Going too big or too small
The Spurs could dictate how the game is played by playing ultra big or ultra small lineups. Parker-Leonard-Diaw-Splitter-Duncan can guard Curry-Thompson-Barnes-Landry-Bogut just fine, they would rebound well and could get some match-up advantages on the other end. Parker-Joseph-Neal-Green-Blair/Diaw on Curry-Jack-Barnes-Green-Ezeli has the potential to allow the Spurs to apply full court pressure and run and gun their way into a lead.
Verdict: panic move
The Spurs shouldn't go to lineups they are not used to using because it can result in even greater offensive disarray. Pop found a starting lineup that works great and some subs he can easily throw in there and integrate with the starters. But that only works in some lineups. Trying to go back to units that have worked in the past is a much better recipe for success than trying new stuff at this point in the season.
Playing the subs more
The Spurs could give guys like Blair and Mills a couple of minutes here and there and extend the time the regular rotation guys get. if one of the units that includes subs gets hot and the team is doing well, Pop could stick to that lineup for a little longer instead of adhering to his substitution pattern. Riding the hot hand and throwing different combinations might cause some problems on defense for the Warriors.
Verdict: good adjustment
It's natural for the Big Three to be getting more minutes in the playoffs and Leonard and Green are both young so heavy minutes shouldn't affect them that much. But you can see Duncan and Ginobili slowing down at the end of games and Leonard has missed a lot of shots he used to make when he was playing less. Going with the bench when the game is under control could backfire, since the subs are not great defensively and the Warriors can get hot in a hurry. But if the subs can hold their own, the Spurs' stars would only need to put the final nail in the coffin. And as bad as some of the deep bench guys are defensively, they can do some damage on the other end, which the Spurs desperately need.
Giving Blair some minutes
The Spurs could try giving DeJuan Blair some minutes against the Warriors' back up bigs. With Landry and Bogut starting, the Dubs are bringing the likes of Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green off the bench as their back up bigs. Blair can handle guarding one of those guys for sure and could possibly even check Bogut since he is not a serious scoring threat. DeJuan could provide some energy and rebounding and could go at someone like Green on the other end, since unlike Diaw or Bonner, he doesn't lack aggression.
Verdict: viable new wrinkle
Blair could have a match-up advantage on Draymond Green down low and he could provide a good option as the dive man on pick and roll sets. Landry is the guy that might give him some trouble since he can score inside and out, but he shouldn't have major problems guarding the other bigs. His rebounding has been solid all year long and that's what the Spurs need from him against an opponent that has no great post threat or guys that can attack the paint and take advantage of Blair's lack of height. Bonner and Diaw have been a bit up and down throughout the playoffs so it wouldn't be a bad idea to give Blair some minutes and see if his energy can help the team.
Tracy McGrady is long and multi-talented and could both spare Leonard for a couple of minutes or provide a good alternative to Neal in small ball sets. The lack of shooting range is a concern but he could help facilitate on offense, which could improve the ball movement. And on defense he could be hidden to a degree on a spot up shooter like Barnes.
Verdict: panic move
I'm basing this on the ridiculously few minutes I've seen McGrady on the court this season but he is looking out of shape. If he doesn't have the ball in his hands on offense I could see the Warriors playing off of him and taking their chances on T-Mac hurting them from outside. He is a smart player but the explosiveness just doesn't seem to be there to make them pay on sharp cuts to the basket. On defense he could, in theory, check Barnes but the Warriors would try to force switches like they are doing now, and instead of only having the chance to post up Barnes on the smaller player, they would also have the opportunity to take advantage of McGrady guarding either Jack or Curry out in the perimeter. The Spurs should only play McGrady limited minutes to see if he can take advantage of a smaller defender in the post.
Do you agree with my assessments? What other adjustments, if any, would you like to see?