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When should the Spurs hack DeAndre Jordan: Sometimes, Always, Never?

Gregg Popovich has had two games to try and get an advantage out the Clippers' worst free throw shooter. How have things gone so far?

Best lefty shooter of all time, or best Jordan of all time?
Best lefty shooter of all time, or best Jordan of all time?
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

"The Clippers are 15-1 when the 'hack a Jordan' strategy is used"

First, I'm going to call it "hack a Shaq" and stop trying to make something fit with every other name. We don't try to adapt the names of other tactics to suit the victims. An arm bar is an arm bar, not a Carmbar when Ronda Rousey does it to Liz Carmouche, or a Charmbar when she did it Charmaine Tweet. To me, it's hack a Shaq, and I'll leave it at that.

Second, this is what's called a "spurious relationship". It's like saying that McDonald's is responsible for world peace because no countries that have had a McDonald's have ever gone to war. Do we really think there's an actual relationship there? No. There are other things that have caused that peace. The Clippers 15 wins when faced with hacking strategies are not a result of that hacking strategy. Much like the number of people who fall into a pool and drown has nothing to do with the number of movies released in a year by Nicolas Cage. Teams turn to hacking strategies when they are desperate or have no alternative (much like movies looking for a male lead turn to Nicolas Cage), meaning they are likely to have lost the game anyway (this is similar to "selection bias" in statistics, if you are so inclined). Additionally, the Clippers are just really good, and are therefore good enough to overcome the hacking strategy throughout the rest of the game.

With that said, should the Spurs be using it in this series? Let's look at this scientifically. We have a couple hypotheses:

H1: The Spurs benefit from employing the hacking strategy

H2: The Spurs are harmed by the hacking strategy

H0 (the null hypothesis): There is no relationship between the hacking strategy and the outcome of the game.

Evidence in favor of H1:

Jordan went 6-17 from the line, for 37%. The Clippers as a team shot better than that from the field at 42%. The only way hacking doesn't work is if the Spurs could have held the league's best offense to less than one point per possession without doing so, because that's what they got while we were employing the hacking strategy, in spite of us botching the rebound on a number of possessions and giving them extra opportunities. Additionally, Doc Rivers has shown a willingness to take Jordan (easily the Clipper's best defender) out of the game if it starts to damage the offense too much. This is a bit of hyperbole, although not nearly on the level of Doc's, but Jordan means about as much to the Clippers as Kevin Garnett did to the Celtics. He is the last line of defense, he is constantly communicating, he is capable of covering immense amounts of space, and of helping and recovering. His impact this series has nearly been beyond quantifying.

Getting Jordan out of the game means an easy path to the rim, as long as you can circumnavigate Big Baby Davis quicker than it took Ferdinand Magellan to circumnavigate the globe. The hacking strategy very clearly impacts the game, and gives the Spurs opportunities that they would not otherwise have. Jordan is also by far LAC's best rebounder, having double the rebounding rate (the percentage of available rebounds snagged) of Blake Griffin. We've witnessed him go over and around Tim DuncanTiago SplitterBoris Diaw in order to get boards and tip ins.

Evidence in favor of H2:

The Clippers were able to outscore the Spurs in the quarters the hacking strategy was used. That is, admittedly, strong evidence-- but does it have anything to do with the strategy, or is it just coincidence? As a skeptic, I'm not inclined to believe in coincidences, so let's dive deeper. One possibility is that it allows the Clippers defense time to get set, and therefore it limits our offensive efficiency, but I don't think that's any more true than if LA was making baskets, which they did through the rest of the game. I think we can rule that out as an explanation. Maybe it takes the Spurs out of rhythm. Given that San Antonio is a mentally tough team that has used this strategy for over a decade now, I think this is less true for the Spurs than the Clippers. I'm open to the idea but I'm not sold, and I'm inclined to rule it out.

Evidence in favor of H0:

None. The Clippers outscoring the Spurs during the implementation of the strategy, combined with the dip in offensive efficiency that the Clippers face, indicates that the strategy impacts the game. I think it's safe to say that during the regular season, the Clippers were good enough to overcome the damage done by the hacking tactics. In the playoffs, this is less likely to be true, because they will be playing better competition.

A more nuanced view would argue that if we've already put them in the bonus, there's no reason not to put Matt Bonner/Aron Baynes or any other bench player on the floor and have him foul Jordan six times straight (or, to keep him from getting any sort of rhythm, every other time down the floor or every couple possessions). We could even play super small and slide Kawhi to power forward by putting Cory Joseph or Patty Mills out there, just to foul, and benefit on the offensive side.

There are only two surefire ways to consistently stop the Clippers offense: one, make Matt Barnes shoot and, two; make Jordan shoot free throws. Other than that, they are all ridiculously efficient offensively, and present a horrible matchup for the Spurs. San Antonio should try to avoid putting the Clippers in the bonus, but once they get there, should put Jordan on the line regularly. I would like to see the Spurs treat Barnes much like the Clippers have treated Boris Diaw. Even with Barnes having a career year, he's not even close to being in the league of JJ Redick,Chris Paul, or Blake Griffin. The Spurs are better off not even rotating towards him than leaving any of LA's other options.

Failing that, however, the Spurs best option is to hack Jordan frequently once they get to the bonus. Get him out of the game and San Antonio's offense will benefit due to the Clippers' lack of rim protection and SA will be better able to crash the glass on both sides of the ball.