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Game 17 Preview: Blazers vs. Spurs

The Spurs are acting like a juggernaut so far again this year, shooting out to a 14-3 record with only one unexplainable loss on the charts (that being to Sacramento).  That doesn't bode well for Portland today.

San Antonio continues its glacier-paced shift away from Tim Duncan as the focus of the offense and towards the guards.   A few years ago Duncan was Mr. Everything.  A couple of years ago he and Parker/Ginobili were pretty balanced.  Now Duncan is starting to cede shots and touches to his backcourt mates.  He's taken more than 15 shots in only 4 of 17 games this year.  His 18.5 average is 3 points off of his career pace.  He still shoots nearly 55% though and there's no reason to think the Spurs will ignore the weakness in the Blazer interior defense.  Parker and Ginobili have become the team's 20-point men, Ginobili shooting 49% and Parker an astounding 51.5%.  When your guards shoot like that and Tim Duncan is in your back pocket you're going to win a lot of games.  As a team the Spurs shoot .483 and average 101.6 per game.  They also still hold opponents to 92.8.  Nasty.

Most of the supporting cast is also doing well.  Brent Barry has re-discovered himself, becoming something of a 3-point specialist.  He shoots 53% from the floor and 52% from three-point range.  Bruce Bowen is his usual self and Fabricio Oberto is giving them some quality minutes as the 5th starter.  Michael Finley is more of a mixed bag, missing every shot he's taking that's not a three-pointer.

The game plan against the Spurs seems simple.  Take out one of their three scorers and they'll have a hard time getting a game-winning point total.  Run on them and get back before their defense can set up and you can score points.  The problem is they just don't let you do that.  They run on you, you don't run on them.  You can't stop Ginobili with your second unit and if you try to stop Parker or Duncan they will just get the ball to the one you're not stopping and flambé you.  You win when the Spurs don't pay attention.  It's as simple as that right now.

What I'd Like to See Today

I'm not a big fan of "we're not going to win anyway" game plans.  I hate it when people say, "We won't win anyway so why not play Player X?"  All other things being equal you have to play the guys you think give you the best chance to win even if that chance doesn't come through for you every night.  Anything else sends a horrible message to the team about what you came for and will cause guys to give up on you quickly.  That said, we're not going to win today anyway so why not run?  I mean really run.  Take the ball out of the bucket, off the board, whatever and just sprint.  Get guys some easier shots if you can.  Flood the Spurs with attempts early in the offense.  Chances are you'll lose by 20, but you'll lose by 20 if you play at their pace too.  This might energize your guys, restore some confidence (or at least a sense of fun) and has the off chance of letting you compete.  Granted it's not simple.  You're going to give the Spurs a lot of offensive rebounds.  It's going to be hard to play a whole game at high tempo.  But again those things are happening anyway.  Depend on Lamarcus or Joel to get the rebound and let Travis or Martell leak out.  Tell Blake to push it hard.  Let Sergio run a little.  (Not every game, just this one.)  Tell Lamarcus to try and beat Duncan upcourt and to get around him off the dribble.  Tell Brandon and Jarrett to drive too.  Let's just run ourselves crazy this once, then go back to normal against Memphis.  What have we got to lose that we haven't already lost?

Just a thought.

--Dave (