5 Key Adjustments San Antonio Spurs Must Make to Win Western Conference Finals
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
After waltzing past the Los Angeles Lakers in the opening round of the 2013 NBA playoffs, the San Antonio Spurs battled their way into yet another Western Conference Finals by defeating the Golden State Warriors in six games.
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson's hot shooting pushed San Antonio to the limit, but head coach Gregg Popovich's adjustments would not allow the series to go any further.
The Spurs had plenty of changes to make for the conference finals against the Memphis Grizzlies, and in a surprising Game 1 result, San Antonio came away with a dominant 105-83 victory.
Here are five adjustments San Antonio must make to win the Western Conference Finals.
Note: All statistics from NBA.com unless otherwise noted.
Controlling Defensive Rebounds
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Despite all the injuries to the Lakers backcourt, Los Angeles still had Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol in the post.
Despite the Lakers having Howard and Gasol in the post, the Spurs dominated the glass and only allowed 8.5 offensive rebounds per game.
Golden State, however, crashed the boards and had 13.0 offensive rebounds per game in the conference semifinals. The Warriors had 19 offensive boards in their Game 4 win, a game that easily could have changed the series in favor of Golden State.
Through the first two rounds of the playoffs, Zach Randolph (3.3 ORPG), Marc Gasol (1.5) and the unsung Tony Allen (2.3) have been busy on the offensive glass, so Memphis has numerous weapons in position for second-chance points.
The Spurs allowed a mere 10 offensive rebounds and 11 second-chance points in the series opener to the Grizz, and it was a key factor in the blowout win.
San Antonio must continue to control the offensive glass to win the series.
Making Free Throws
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As a team, San Antonio shot 80.5 percent from the free-throw line against the Lakers, but that number dipped to 73.3 against the Warriors.
Tim Duncan (83.3 vs. L.A., 85.3 vs. G.S.) and Tony Parker (81.8, 76.2) have both held up their end of the bargain, but Kawhi Leonard (100.0, 53.8) and Manu Ginobili (71.4, 65.0) have some work to do.
The Spurs shot 66.7 percent from the line in Game 2 against Golden State, and besides Klay Thompson's unreal shooting, it was a key factor in the loss.
Memphis has sent its opponents to the line over 23 times per game in the playoffs, and capitalizing from the charity stripe will be essential to these low-scoring games.
Winning the Turnover Battle
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The Western Conference Finals will be a physical battle as each team is considered one of the premier defensive teams in the league.
According to ESPN, Memphis allowed the fewest points per game in the regular season at 89.3, while San Antonio ranked 11th-best giving up 96.6 per game. In the playoffs, however, the two teams are separated by a mere six-tenths (0.6) of a point.
The Spurs turned it over a respectable—but still not great—11.8 times per game against Golden State, and Memphis gave the ball away 10.4 times per series, so they aren't doing any favors for opposing offenses.
Not surprisingly, Parker and Ginobili were the biggest offenders at 2.5 turnovers per game each versus the Warriors, but each player keeping that number at or below 1.8 will be huge for San Antonio.
In a series that will see both teams use a lot of the shot clock, each possession will be even more crucial than it already is.
Forcing Memphis to Shoot Outside
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With Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol hogging the lane, the Grizz don't need a star on the outside.
Throughout the playoffs, Memphis has used its two star big men to its advantage, as the team has shot 53.8 percent from nine feet or closer. Outside that distance, however, the Grizz have shot 33.6 percent.
For comparison's sake, the Spurs have shot 56.6 percent from inside of nine feet while they shoot 44.9 percent from 10 feet or farther.
San Antonio allows 54.2 percent of shots from nine feet or closer to be made, but the Spurs only allow 36.2 percent outside of that mark.
Between San Antonio's solid defense and the Grizzlies' poor outside shooting and great low-post presence, it is imperative the Spurs keep Memphis out of the lane—not that it's easy to do.
Note: NBA.com lists statistics of distances for both shots taken and shots allowed, and, personally, I think it's really cool. Check it out.
Getting Manu Ginobili Rolling from Distance
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San Antonio has been consistent from behind the arc during the playoffs, but Manu Ginobili has not.
While he hit the ever-important game-winning triple in Game 1 against the Warriors, Ginobili shot a pitiful 27.5 percent while attempting 6.7 per game in the series.
Though Manu proved he doesn't have to make shots for the Spurs to win, as he went 1-of-6 from the field but had 11 assists in Game 6, San Antonio needs him to catch fire from distance.
Along with Parker, the veteran Ginobili gives the Spurs a shooting edge on the perimeter over the Grizzlies—one that must be exploited.
San Antonio shot a stellar 14-of-29 from distance as a team in Game 1, and Ginobili's 1-of-3 was a small step in the right direction.