Game On: Spurs @ Hornets

Published: October 31, 2012

Ryan breaks down the season opener against the Spurs with the help of Andrew McNeill of 48 Minutes of Hell.  He then gives you three key things to keep an eye on.

(Note: Eric Gordon is out indefinitely.  Sigh.)

The Spurs are a strong offensive team.  The grind-it-out Spurs are a thing of the past, and last year they generated the second strongest offensive attack in the league while posting a slightly better than average defense.  They were average at drawing free throws and taking shots at the rim – what they did really well was not take long twos.  They shot the third least number of long two’s in the game.  Instead, they took the fifth highest number of threes, and were in the top 10 in shots from inside 10 feet.  Good shots.  Good offense.  Shocking, I know.   This is a team the Hornets will need to play disciplined defense against in order to prevail.  It’s unlikely they will be able to simply outscore so potent an offense.  (The Hornets have caught a break with Ginobili sitting out the game.  Of course, if Gordon sits out too, that break is null and void.)

To get more insight into this Spurs team, I fired off three questions to  Andrew McNeill of the excellent Truehoop blog 48 Minutes of Hell.

Ryan Schwan: This question may be a moot point if Eric Gordon doesn’t start the season in the line-up, but I’ve heard mixed reviews about Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard’s defense.  Are they up to par as true defensive wing stoppers that could give Gordon trouble?  Or are they still shaping into that roll?  Last season, it seemed the Spurs had difficulty defending wing players.

Andrew McNeill: Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard are both emerging defenders on the NBA landscape. I don’t think anybody would label them as true stoppers in the All-Defensive Team mold, but they’re going that direction. They both spent time last season marking the opposing team’s best players — Green usually handling point guards and smaller 2-guards, and Kawhi checking shooting guards and small forwards. Because of his physical stature and athleticism, Leonard has a higher ceiling as a defensive pest, but they’re both talented in their own right. They gained a lot of experience last season and should help the Spurs defense improve some. I would expect Danny Green to get the lion’s share of minutes defending Gordon on Wednesday night, but Leonard may get some time as well, if nothing else to give Gordon a different look and Leonard some more experience.

Ryan Schwan: One of the most surprising story-lines of last years Spurs team was Boris Diaw returning to the living, and the contributions he made in San Antonio after being dreadful in Charlotte.  In the past, he’s struggled mightily with conditioning coming into the season.  This off-season, did Diaw or the croissant win?  Will the Hornets catch a little break?

Andrew McNeill: Boris Diaw definitely came into camp in decent shape. No one will ever describe Diaw as a “physical specimen,” but he returned from his summer vacation at a decent playing weight. Playing in the Olympics with teammates Tony Parker and Nando De Colo helped, as did the general idea that he’d again be playing basketball for something resembling a contending team.

Ryan Schwan: It looks to me like the biggest key for the Hornets offense against the Spurs is going to be Ryan Anderson.  Do the Spurs have a frontcourt player who can chase a true stretch 4?  Who do you see chasing Anderson?

Andrew McNeill: The Spurs don’t have a lot of frontcourt players with the chops to do much chasing of any sort, let alone pursuing professional athletes. That said, Boris Diaw and Matt Bonner will probably get the bulk of the duty harassing Ryan Anderson. Tim Duncan’s chasing days are done and Tiago Splitter is better served hanging around the basket.

What to watch for:

I want to watch for three basic things in this game – all are fundamental, and will tell us how quickly this extremely young Hornets team will show their chops.

1.  How do they handle the Parker-Duncan/Splitter pick and roll.  The guard needs to go under – Parker is not a threat to fire away from deep, but the Hornets big man has to be ready to step out and jam Parker  because both Splitter and Duncan like to slip towards the basket and “carry” the guard with them.  If the Hornet’s big man doesn’t stay for a second and jam the guard hard, Parker gets what he wants – a clean lane closer to the basket to launch a floater or finish.  If Parker is getting close shots, the Hornets Bigs aren’t doing their job. (unless the guard is going over the pick, then Monty isn’t doing his job.)

2. Rotations.  Fundamental rotations.  The Spurs are incredible shooters and have a dozen different ways to get the corner three.  They will run post-ups, pick and rolls, and down screens all with the intent of generating either that corner shot directly or to start the Hornets defense scrambling so they can work the ball around the edge and get the second most efficient shot in the game.  If the Spurs are getting this shot off in the half-court, the Hornets defense is not doing its job.

3.  Offensive rebounding.  The Spurs for the past five seasons have been a top 5 defensive rebounding team.  If the Hornets can grab a good percentage of offensive rebounds against the Spurs, then it is likely the Hornets will be able to do it against anything.  However – don’t be fooled by raw numbers.  Compare the offensive rebounds to the number of misses the Hornets have had.  If they are grabbing better than one board for every four misses, then we should feel good.

To get this same style of preview from the other side, be sure to check out Michael and Ryan’s Q&A over on 48 Minutes of Hell, the Spurs’ blog within the ESPN TrueHoop Network.

Enjoy the game!


  1. Pingback: Previewing the season opener with Hornets 247 | 48 Minutes of Hell

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