San Antonio Spurs – Role Players Aren’t Going to Win the NBA Finals

Having Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard hit three pointers (which only one of them has been doing so far) is big for the San Antonio Spurs. Tiago Splitter being dominant on both ends of the floor is crucial, but that’s not what the team is about, and unless Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and to a lesser degree, Manu Ginobili, are able to bounce back from their game 3 performance, the NBA finals will end in a disappointing manner.

The Spurs did improve their outside shooting from game 1 to game 2 (from 30.4% to 50%), as Danny Green continues to be the only reliabel threat from outside the arc at this point. He has hit nine three pointers in the series already, including 5-for-5 in game 2 and is hitting 64.2% of his shots so far. But the second edge in this shape, Kawhi Leonard, has been struggling to give the Spurs what he did during the Memphis Grizzlies series.

Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker

Leonard is no longer just a nice player, a great steal that does all of his work on defense while his offense is merely a bonus. The Spurs need Leonard to stop shooting 33.3% from the field (while taking 21 shots in both games). His rebounding (12 per game) and defense on LeBron James has been as good as it’ll get, but maybe it’s coming at too much of a cost offensively, which the Spurs can’t make up for.

But beyond those two, and never ending list of players that simply rely on Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili getting them open shots (Gary Neal, Matt Bonner and the rest), the Spurs have been this good for so long, and have gotten this far, is because of the big three, and Gregg Popovich on the bench, saying that the intelligence and personalities of Duncan, Ginobili and Parker are at the core of this franchise’s success for most of these past 15 years.

It’s hard to believe they’ll be this bad again at home. Tim Duncan was only 3-of-13 from the field, finishing with 9 points. Manu Ginobili was held to single digits, which isn’t a rarity this season (11.2 points per game in the playoffs), but was extremely bad in more than just his scoring, but on almost any action he tried to pull off. And the Spurs’ MVP? Tony Parker? A day he would like to forget.

Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard

It seemed the Miami Heat knew what he was going to do every time, forcing him to 5 turnovers, four of them as steals that came when they trapped him off the Pick & Roll, with Parker trying the complicated insertion bounce pass each and every time. The Spurs are scoring only 0.78 points per possession of pick & roll plays so far in this series, something that’s been their bread and butter throughout the playoffs, but as long as Parker relies more on improvisations to score than actually making the most of some flaw in the Heat’s defense, the Spurs’ offense is in trouble.

You can’t ask the Spurs to stop what they do most of the time better than any team in the league, but it has to come with some tweaks in game 3. Not every pick & roll has to end with a pass into the paint or a drive to the basket. The Spurs move the ball better than anyone in the league when Parker and Ginobili are sharp, which means they need to concentrate on that. The Heat attack the screens with their “bigs”, doing it very well so far in the first two games. Drawing them even further outside, hoping to continue the good outside shooting from game 2, or creating openings closer to the basket, like the Pacers managed to do in certain stretches, might be the key for the Spurs to finally get their offense going in the finals for more than just short periods.

Images: Source