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Spurs ride Duncan and the bench to victory

The Spurs got a huge night from Tim Duncan, clutch play from Patty Mills and a great team effort as they bested the Clippers in an overtime thriller in Game 2.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Spurs 111, Clippers 107 - Apr 22, '15

The Spurs rode Tim Duncan's greatness to yet another crucial playoff victory, snatching homecourt advantage from a Clippers team which must be feeling pretty down after coming out on the losing end of a grueling overtime game late Wednesday night.  

Unlike Game 1, which saw the Spurs shoot atrociously from 1, 2 and 3, turn the ball over but control the glass in a losing effort, in Game 2 the Spurs out-shot the Clippers from 1, 2, and 3, took care of the ball, but lost the rebounding battle in the huge win.  Turns out good shooting and ball handling trump great rebounding, and it was great to see the Silver and Black on the right side of that equation.  

The Clippers' frantic trapping defense, so lethal in Game 1, was considerably less effective on Wednesday as the Spurs were able to get open looks and solid isolation sets as needed.  DeAndre Jordan made his presence felt every time the Spurs took the ball into the paint in the first matchup, altering shots and causing the Spurs to hesitate before going up with the ball.  In Game 2, Tim Duncan outright abused Jordan early in the game, hitting his first 8 shots and putting on an absolute clinic against the best defensive big in the league.

It felt like Duncan's repeatedly taking advantage of Jordan inside proved to the rest of the team that DJ could not in fact block every shot they took, much like Cory Joseph's posterizing of Ibaka did in last year's WCF.  I liken those plays to Achille's slaying of Hector and the subsequent fall of Troy.  But like, with a really, really old Achilles in this case... Greek mythology aside, the fact remains that after shooting 46.3% from inside 10 feet in Game, the Spurs hit a solid 54.1% in Game 2.

Another area the Spurs improved dramatically over their previous performance was ballhandling.  After coughing it up 15 times in 48 minutes in their first outing, the Spurs only turned the ball over 9 times, with just 5 of the live ball variety.  Predictably, L.A. scored just 15 points in transition after racking up 23 in Game 1.  

The biggest story of the night, though, was the enormous disparity in bench play.  The Clippers bench players combined for a mere 47 of the 265 total minutes played, 18% of the available minutes and accounted for just 9% of the Clippers' Adjusted Game Score points.  Include Jamal Crawford, and the Clippers top 6 players played a ridiculous 90% of the available minutes, and contributed all but 3.3 of the Clippers total Adjusted Game Score.  

By contrast, the Spurs bench played 103 minutes, or 39% of the available minutes and contributed 45.9 of the Spurs 111 AdjGS points, 41% of the Spurs total, meaning they actually outperformed the starters on a per-minute basis.  No doubt Parker's variety of maladies skewed those numbers a bit, but in a grueling overtime playoff game, the team with a rotation of more than 6 players holds a huge advantage.  Even after losing half their Fab Four and with one of the remaining stars turning 39 this weekend, it was the aging, injured and fouled-out Spurs who had enough left in the tank to take this one.  I can't think of a more satisfying victory.

Four Factors (def.)

Spurs Clippers
Shooting (eFG%) 51% 47%
Ball Handling (TO%) 9% 12%
Off Rebounding (OR%) 20% 30%
Shooting FTs (FT Rate) 29% 40%

Team Stats (Definitions at bottom of post)

Spurs Clippers
Pace (No. of Possessions) 93.2
Points Per Possession (PPP) 1.19 1.15
Points Per Shot (PPS) 1.22 1.16
2-PT FG% 51.5% 47.6%
3-PT FG% 32.0% 31.0%
FT% 73.1% 54.1%
True Shooting % 54.2% 49.4%
Offensive Rating 109.4 102.6
Defensive Rating 102.6 109.4
Net Rating 6.8 -6.8
Spurs Clippers
Passes / poss. 4.1 3.4
% of FGA uncontested 46.2% 37.0%
Points in the paint 54 44
Second chance points 10 11
Fast break points 13 15
Spurs Clippers
Assists 26 23
Steals 8 5
Turnovers 9 11
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
3.78 2.55
Spurs Clippers
Expected Offensive Rebounds 12.3 13.5
Offensive Rebounds 10 16
Difference -2.3 2.5

Spurs Shot Chart

Clippers Shot Chart

Players (Definitions at bottom of post, columns sortable)


Tim Duncan 44 29.2 0.66 28 Pts (14-23 FG, 0-1 3PT, 0-1 FT) 11 Reb (1 Off), 4 Ast, 1 Blk, 2 Stl, 1 TO, 5 PF 27% 59% 115.9 101.9 14.1
Kawhi Leonard 39 23.2 0.59 23 Pts (9-16 FG, 2-3 3PT, 3-4 FT) 9 Reb (2 Off), 3 Ast, 1 Blk, 1 Stl, 3 TO, 2 PF 26% 53% 112.8 103.0 9.7
Patty Mills 19 18.9 0.99 18 Pts (5-9 FG, 2-5 3PT, 6-6 FT) 3 Reb (1 Off), 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 4 PF 26% 74% 110.8 97.8 13.0
Boris Diaw 37 16.8 0.45 12 Pts (6-14 FG, 0-2 3PT ) 9 Reb (2 Off), 6 Ast, 1 Blk, 2 Stl, 4 PF 18% 53% 107.0 111.9 -4.9
Danny Green 29 9.0 0.31 9 Pts (3-6 FG, 3-4 3PT ) 1 Reb (0 Off), 2 Ast, 1 Blk, 3 PF 10% 56% 127.4 101.4 26.0
Marco Belinelli 19 5.9 0.31 9 Pts (3-8 FG, 1-6 3PT, 2-3 FT) 3 Reb (1 Off), 1 Stl, 1 TO, 2 PF 24% 39% 76.6 102.3 -25.7
Manu Ginobili 22 5.3 0.24 9 Pts (2-6 FG, 0-3 3PT, 5-6 FT) 2 Reb (0 Off), 3 Ast, 1 Blk, 2 TO, 6 PF 22% 51% 105.3 108.1 -2.8
Tiago Splitter 19 3.0 0.16 2 Pts (0-1 FG, 2-4 FT) 7 Reb (2 Off), 2 Ast, 2 TO, 1 PF 11% 34% 91.4 102.2 -10.8
Tony Parker 30 0.9 0.03 1 Pts (0-6 FG, 1-2 FT) 2 Reb (1 Off), 5 Ast, 1 Stl, 3 PF 12% 32% 113.0 97.3 15.8
Cory Joseph 1 0.9 0.89 0 Pts , 1 Blk, 0% 0% 69.4 100.0 -30.6
Matt Bonner 5 -1.9 -0.36 0 Pts (0-2 FG, 0-1 3PT ) 1 Reb (0 Off), 1 PF 17% 0% 139.4 71.7 67.7

Show Clippers Players

Tim Duncan was incredible, dominating DeAndre Jordan inside throughout the game and hitting loads of difficult shots for 28 points on 23 shots (with no free throws), grabbing 11 boards and dishing out 4 assists.  It's just crazy that in such a high pressure game and environment, the Spurs can still turn to Tim Duncan.  And turn to him a lot, as Duncan led the team with a 27% Usage Rate and a fantastic 59% Floor percentage in a staggering 44 minutes of play.  What more can really be said about Big Fun?  

Kawhi had a solid but unspectacular (for him) performance, going 9 for 16 for 23 points with 9 boards.  It's pretty encouraging that Spurs return home knotted up and without having seen the very best that Kawhi has to offer.  

Duncan may have carried the team on his back throughout this one, but the absolute hero in this one was Patty Mills, who scored 18 points in minutes to lead the team in AdjGS/minute and Floor Percentage with the Spurs scoring on a ridiculous 74% of the possessions Mills used.  I don't think I've ever seen 6 more clutch free throws than the 2 Mills sank to take this one to overtime and the 4 straight he hit to put it out of reach in OT.  Good gracious.  

Boris Diaw must've read Jesus Gomez's piece about the Clippers being a tough matchup for him and how he needed to be more aggressive attacking the basket rather than settling for jump shots, and put together a fantastic line of 12 points, 9 boards, 6 assists, a block and 2 steals.  Diaw still posted a -4.9 Net rating as Blake Griffin was able to abuse him on the other end, but the production Bobo provided on the offensive end made up for most of that deficit, and that's a win for the Spurs.

Spurs Index: 97.9 (def.)

Factor Value Score
Passing (AST%) 61.9% 29.9
Shooting (eFG%) 51.1% 19.0
Defensive Rebounding (DReb%) 70.4% 18.4
Defense (DefRtg) 102.6 19.5
Opponent % of FGA Uncontested 37.0% 11.0
Total 97.9

Clippers Spurs Index: 94.5 Show Breakdown

I think in crafting the Spurs Index, my biggest whiff was leaving out bench scoring as a measure of Spursiness.  The Spurs may have done a poor job on the defensive boards and given up a lot of points to a potent offense, but I can't think of a more Spursy outcome than the Spurs riding Tim Duncan and outstanding bench play to an overtime playoff road victory over one of the league's most athletic, star-studded teams.



eFG%: Effective Field Goal percentage. (via) Effective Field Goal Percentage; the formula is (FG + 0.5 * 3P) / FGA. This statistic adjusts for the fact that a 3-point field goal is worth one more point than a 2-point field goal. For example, suppose Player A goes 4 for 10 with 2 threes, while Player B goes 5 for 10 with 0 threes. Each player would have 10 points from field goals, and thus would have the same effective field goal percentage (50%).

AdjGS: a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds. It takes points, assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls into account to determine an individual's "score" for a given game. The "adjustment" in Adjusted Game Score is simply matching the total game scores to the total points scored in the game, thereby redistributing the game's points scored to those who had the biggest impact on the game itself, instead of just how many balls a player put through a basket.

Usage%: This "estimates the % of team possessions a player consumes while on the floor" (via). The usage of those possessions is determined via a formula using field goal and free throw attempts, offensive rebounds, assists and turnovers. The higher the number, the more prevalent a player is (good or bad) in a team's offensive outcome.

Floor%: Via Floor % answers the question, "when Player X uses a possession, what is the probability that his team scores at least 1 point?". The higher the Floor%, the more frequently the team probably scores when the given player is involved.

Offensive Rating (offRtg): Points per 100 possessions.

Defensive Rating (defRtg): Points allowed per 100 possessions.

Spurs Index: The Spurs Index © is a just-for-fun formula that attempts to quantify just how "Spursy" a particular game is, based off averages for the 2013-2014 regular season. A perfectly average game would have a Spurs Index of 100. The formula consists of four factors which the Spurs are known for and lead or nearly lead the league in: Shooting (effective Field Goal %), Passing (Assist percentage), Defensive Rebounding Rate, and Defensive Rating. These metrics are weighted as follows:

Factor Weight Average
Passing (AST%) 30% 62.1%
Shooting (eFG%) 20% 53.7%
Defensive Rebounding (DReb%) 20% 76.4%
Defense (DefRtg) 20% 100.1
Opponent % of FGA Uncontested 10% 40.8%
The values for each metric are determined based on how a particular game's performance compares to the Spurs 2013-2014 regular season average for that metric. For instance, the average effective Field Goal percentage for 2013-2014 was 53.7%. So if the Spurs shot 60% in a given game, the score for eFG% would be calculated by: (0.6 / 0.537) * 20, which would yield a "score" for that factor of 22.3.

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