In this league, there are five types of teams. There are horrible teams, (like Philadelphia and Charlotte), there are mediocre teams (such as Milwaukee, Golden State, and Toronto), there are average to good teams (like the Wizards),there are very good teams (Houston, LA Lakers), and there are great teams. San Antonio falls into the last category, and they showed it tonight with an awesome defensive effort.
There's been lots of talk about San Antonio being too old on the perimeter, and when I asked Matthew about it, he echoed those concerns. But tonight, San Antonio proved that defensive smarts still beat great one-on-one play any day of the week. I've never seen the Wizards called for so many offensive fouls, and it says something that the Spurs took both Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler out of the game. None of the Big 3 were on their game at all, and lots of that has to do with San Antonio's physical, but smart man to man defense.
Every time the Wizards threatened, San Antonio had a response. When the Wizards cut the lead to 47-43 early in the third on a Jamison three, the Spurs responded with a devastating 15-0 run. The Spurs forced four turnovers, two offensive fouls, and got under the skin of Eddie Jordan, who was tossed with two technicals. Then, the Wizards cut it to 75-67 midway through the fourth, but Manu Ginobili hit two threes and the Spurs went on a 15-4 run to stretch the lead to 21. As Kelly Dwyer says, the Spurs are just solid. Tonight proved it.
In thinking about this game, it's the way the Wizards lost that concerns me more than the actual result. It's the process that matters at this point more than the actual score. This is the second straight game the Wizards were held under 100 points, and it's also the second straight game that they responded poorly to physical play. Antonio Daniels was the only guy consistently attacking the net, and nobody was rebounding - the Spurs held a 53-44 advantage, including a 42-25 advantage on the defensive glass. This was also Arenas' third straight poor game, making me wonder if teams have figured out how to guard him. Kirk Hinrich, Devin Brown, and Tony Parker have all played Arenas tightly, funneling Arenas to their inside defenders. It's worked very well, as Arenas had only 5 free thow attempts tonight.
My worry is that, too often, the offense stagnates when Arenas has the ball. The offensive scheme is designed to get Arenas in a scoring situation, but it often seems like the rest of the team isn't moving to give him another option. It's easy for opponents to funnel Arenas to a big guy because they don't have to worry about Arenas dishing to a cutter for an easy score. Nobody's ever there, forcing Arenas to do too much. That happened tonight far too often.
Overall, it's becoming clear that teams have figured out how to slow this offense. Now, it's up to the coaching staff to make the necessary adjustments.
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