One of the best aspects in watching sports is first seeing something develop with your eyes and then going back to a box score to see your analysis proven with real numbers.
For example, when you watch a basketball game, you might say, “Player X shoots and misses a lot of jumpers.” From there, you get home, go to the box score and find that Player X attempted 10 jump shots and only made four of them, meaning Player X is a 40% shooter.
When it comes to breaking down the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors, all we have is quantitative and qualitative data. Quantitative is four Spurs games and six Warriors games. Qualitative is what my eyes saw both in person at the AT&T Center and at home on my TV screen.
Going furthermore, in looking at the data of these two teams, you must also keep in mind that they came against two totally different opponents – The Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets, two teams that are not remotely built in the same mold of the Spurs and Warriors, and who were missing key players.
I’ve broken down both teams from a numbers stand point and will be looking at these key areas: offense, defense, clutch performance, lineups mostly used, where each team favors to shoot from, and each team’s top individual players. All numbers used are coming from the playoff games, not the regular season.
Offense and Defense
Points Per Game – Spurs 104 (3rd), Warriors 107.2 (1st)
Point allowed – Spurs 85.3 (2nd), Warriors 103 (13th)
Offensive rating – Spurs 111 (1st), Warriors 107.7 (5th)
Defensive rating – Spurs 90.6 (1st), Warriors 102.4 (9th)
As Tony Parker said after the Spurs sent the Lakers home almost a week ago, “the next series is going to be a track meet.” Parker had the right idea here as we’ll see two of the top three scoring playoff teams facing off. The only problem for the Warriors is that the Spurs’ defense is not even close the Nuggets. The Spurs’ defense got praise from head coach Gregg Popovich almost after all four games. He praised the defense in the postgame press conferences of both games one and two. The Spurs’ defense held the Lakers to 14 points in one game at their minimum and only allowed the Lakers to score 26 points at maximum in a quarter in the series. The Warriors’ defense is really shaky as it did hold Denver a few times to less than 20 points, but also gave up quite a bit of 30+ point quarters. The Spurs’ defense though must still stay true to itself because the Warriors have the potential to light up the score board with plenty of 30+ point quarters.
Field Goal Percentage – Spurs 49.1% (3rd), Warriors 49.4% (2nd)
Opponent field goal percentage – Spurs 44.2% (8th), Warriors 43.8% (7th)
You have to give the Warriors credit. For being a team that mainly scores its points off of jump shots, they do it at an efficient rate.
3-Point shooting – Spurs 35.3% (3rd), Warriors 40.1% (1st)
Opponent 3-point percentage – Spurs 27% (2nd), Warriors 31.1% (6th)
3-point attempts – Spurs 17, Warriors 24.5
3-Pointers allowed – Spurs 18.5 (3rd), Warriors 22.5 (11th)
Free throw shooting – Spurs 80.5% (3rd), Warriors 40.1% (5th)
These numbers are very high due to the quality of opponent each team faced. The Nuggets weren’t known as a dominant defensive team and even if the Lakers were healthy, they were never a top 15 defensive team throughout the year. So, the Spurs and Warriors got the 3-point shots that they wanted. For the Spurs, the 22.5 attempts the Warriors allow is a telling number that they shouldn’t have any trouble slicing into the lane and dishing passes out to open shooters. For the Warriors however, the Spurs’ 3-point defense only allowed the Lakers 18.5 three point attempts and that’s because the Lakers had a strong interior presence. The Spurs’ perimeter defense will have to be ready to make switches and make sure to run the Warriors off of the 3-point line.
Rebounds – Spurs 42.3 (6th), Warriors 43.2 (4th)
Offensive rebounding – Spurs 8.8 (12th), Warriors 10 (9th)
2nd Chance points – Spurs 10.5 (14th), Warriors 15.5 points (3rd)
Offensive rebounding will be another key area the Spurs will have to be observant in. With the Warriors taking so many long jumpers, the rebounds are favored to go into their big men’s hands. The Spurs must box out and the wing players must help the post players rebound to avoid second chance opportunities, where the Warriors are top-3 in the playoffs.
Assists – Spurs 23.8 (1st), Warriors 23.8 (1st)
Opponent assists – Spurs 18.5 (5th), Warriors 21.2 (11th)
Whenever you see that a team allows 20+ assists per game, that tells you their defense is full of holes and misses assignments. Both teams are the best passing teams in the playoffs, and while the Spurs shouldn’t have trouble carving up the Warriors defense, the Warriors might have more trouble getting some of the shots they had open against Denver, as the Spurs’ defense will take their passing out of its element.
Turnovers per game Spurs 10 (1st), Warriors 18.7 (16th – Last)
Opponent turnovers – Spurs 16.5 (4th), Warriors 14.5 (8th)
Points off turnovers – Spurs 18.3 (4th), 17.7 (6th)
When you turn the ball over five times in the final 1:37 of a closeout game, turnovers have to be a problem for your team. Meanwhile the Spurs, who averaged almost 15 turnovers per game in the regular season, really took care of the basketball and are the best team in limiting their turnovers. The Warriors could be categorized as a “hot potato” type of team coming in. If the Warriors continue turning over the basketball, they shouldn’t be surprised to see the Spurs capitalize on each opportunity, as that is what they do best - make opponents turn the ball over and score when that happens.
Steals – Spurs 10.3 (1st), Warriors 6.5 (9th)
Blocks – Spurs 5 (8th), Warriors 6.7 (2nd)
Fouls – Spurs 18 (2nd), Warriors 23.2 (9th)
Warriors - 8.3 points (3rd), 2 turnovers (Last), shooting 52.6% (4th), 3-point shooting 14.3% (7th)
This information was taken in the last five minutes of close games. The Spurs don’t have any clutch data because their sweep of the Lakers came with no close outcomes. From the Warriors standpoint, they can score in those last five minutes but are prone to turning the ball over.
Here are the top-5 lineups coach Popovich and Warriors head coach Mark Jackson have preferred to use in the playoffs thus far. Keep in mind, these lineups could change since Boris Diaw will be making his return and possibly Tiago Splitter, while David Lee’s minutes could increase as well.
1. Tiago Splitter, Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Tony Parker
2. Duncan, Matt Bonner, Leonard, Manu Ginobili, Parker
3. DeJuan Blair, Bonner, Ginobili, Gary Neal, Cory Joseph
4. Duncan, Bonner, Leonard, Green, Parker
1. Andrew Bogut, David Lee, Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson, Stephen Curry
2. Bogut, Barnes, Thompson, Jack, Curry
3. Bogut Carl Landry, Barnes, Thomspon, Curry
4. Bogut, Landry, Barnes, Jack, Curry
5. Bogut, Green, Thomspon, Jack, Curry
Where each team likes to shoot from
When it came to their shooting, the Spurs got plenty of open looks against the Lakers. However, their shooting from the outside seemed to be an issue. Whether it was an open Green, Leonard, or Neal, the Spurs just couldn’t seem to knock down their open 3-pointers. They should still be able to get some of those open looks against the Warriors, the question is will their eight days off making the outside shooting look even more out of rhythm?
As you can see, the Warriors come in shooting very well from almost all but two areas on the floor. The Spurs’ defense will have a real challenge on their hand limiting the outside shooting.
Tony Parker – 22.3 points (17.8 FGA, 49%), 5.5 free throw attempts, 6.5 assists, 1.3 steals, Spurs were a +12 with Parker on the floor.
If Parker watched the Nuggets-Warriors series, he might be licking his chops to get his chance at scoring on the Warriors’ defense. Ty Lawson, who is a speedy point guard looked like he could drive into the Warriors defense at will at times whether in the half court or in transition. Parker will most likely see Klay Thompson defend him, since Thompson also saw many minutes defending Lawson in the last series. However, Thompson has a knack for racking up fouls. With Curry gaining a lot of hype from the last series, it wouldn’t be too surprising if Parker comes out even more motivated in this series, as he usually tries to do when he faces other point guards who are in the spotlight, like Chris Paul comes to mind.
Tim Duncan – 17.5 points (14.5 FGA, 52%), 7.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 1 block, 3 fouls, Spurs were a +8.3 when Duncan was on the floor.
After battling Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, Duncan might be getting a break on both sides of the floor with Bogut, who can be foul prone, Landry, and possibly Lee. Duncan’s toughest job will be rebounding and making sure to get back on defense, as the Warriors like to push the tempo. He must also make sure to switch on shooters like Curry, or they can make him pay with an outside 3-pointer.
Kawhi Leonard – 12.3 points (9.5 FGA, 55%), 7.3 rebounds, 1.5 steals, Spurs were a +11.3 when Leonard was on the floor.
Barnes will have to decide if he wants to help on Parker and Ginobili’s dribble penetration and risk Leonard shooting an open 3-pointer, or Leonard can really get the Warriors defense guessing if he too becomes more aggressive on offense and starts attacking the rim.
Manu Ginobili – 11.3 points (7.5 FGA, 47%), 3.5 three pointers (50%), 4.8 assists, 2 turnovers, 1.8 steals, Spurs were a +13.3 when Ginobili was on the floor.
Ginobili will most likely see Jack and Thompson defend him, who are two defenders Ginobili should still be able to be productive against. In the open court, Ginobili can really make the Warriors pay with his playmaking ability.
Matt Bonner – 7.8 points (4.5 FGA, 56%), 1 steal, Spurs were a +15.3 when Bonner was on the floor.
Bonner’s minutes and role might decrease with the return of Diaw and Splitter.
Gary Neal – 7.8 points (7.8 FGA, 36%), 4 three pointers (25%), Spurs were a +8 when Neal was on the floor.
“The idea of Gary Neal being switched onto Jack or Curry on defense is terrifying” – I thought I read this on twitter, but couldn’t find the original source. Either way, it’s a statement that could mean so much for the Spurs’ second unit.
Danny Green – 7 points (7.3 FGA, 41%), 3 three pointers (33%), 4 rebounds, Spurs were a +3 when Green was on the floor.
Green could have a big role in the series because he’ll most likely have Curry defending him. If Green is hitting a high percentage from three, then Curry won’t be able to help on the Spurs’ dribble penetration. But, if Green continues to struggle from shooting from the outside, it won’t be surprising to see Curry lay off of him.
DeJuan Blair – 6.5 points (4.3 FGA, 71%), Spurs were a +10.5 when Blair was on the floor.
Tiago Splitter – 5 points (4.7 FGA, 36%), 4 rebounds, 2 turnovers, Spurs were a -0.3 when Splitter was on the floor.
Cory Joseph – 4.5 points (4.3 FGA, 53%), Spurs were a +5.8 when Joseph was on the floor.
Stephen Curry - 24.3 points (18.2 FGA, 47% FG), 9.3 assists, 2.2 steals, 3.3 turnovers, 3.7 personal fouls, 8.8 three pointers (43%), 3.5 Free throw attempts, Warriors are +8.7 when he’s on the floor.
The Spurs’ defensive game plan will be centered on Curry. Coach Popovich will probably have several schemes in store for Curry from Parker to Green to Leonard to maybe even Joseph defending him. As our own Kyle Boenitz recently wrote, the Spurs can afford for Curry to score over 10 point in a game, they just can’t let him go on those crazy 10-1 run sort of deals where he starts making Coach Popovich think he’s watching Michael Jordan.
Jarrett Jack – 18.8 points (12.7 FGA, 53%), 7 assists, 5.2 rebounds, 4 turnovers, 5.3 Free throw attempts, Warriors are +5.8 when he’s on the floor.
Jack has been a problem for the Spurs over the years, and if the Spurs limit Curry, Jack will be the one attacking for the offense. Parker will most likely have to defend Jack and Green as well. The problem could be if a bench player like Neal has to defend him.
Harrison Barnes – 14.8 points (11.7 FGA, 46%), 5.5 rebounds, 5.3 three pointers (41%), Warriors are +4.8 when he’s on the floor.
Klay Thompson – 14.7 points (13.3 FGA, 46%), 4 personal fouls, 2 turnovers, 5.8 three pointers (34%), Warriors are +4.5 when he’s on the floor.
Like Green, Thompson also hasn’t been shooting a high percentage from the outside. Offensively, he won’t be able to create a lot since he’ll be expending all of his energy on the defensive end guarding Parker.
Carl Landry – 12.8 points (9.7 FGA, 50%), 3.7 free throw attempts, Warriors are a -3 when he’s on the floor.
Andrew Bogut – 8.2 points (6.3 FGA, 63%), 10.3 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, 2.2 turnovers, 3 fouls, Warriors are a +4.5 when he’s on the floor.
Bogut can be a force in the paint on both sides of the floor as evidenced in game six of Golden States battle with Denver. However, he must do his best not to get into foul trouble.
Draymond Green – 7.3 points (4.5 FGA, 59%), 3.3 fouls, Warriors are a +2 when he’s on the floor.
David Lee – 5 points (7.5 FGA, 27%), 7.5 rebounds, Warriors are a -0.5 when he’s on the floor.
With so much of the numbers pointing in the Spurs’ favor, it wouldn’t be surprising if they defeated in the Warriors in four or five games. The offense and defense is in tune right now for San Antonio while Golden State will score, but hasn’t shown the consistency on defense and the discipline in taking care of the basketball.
Remember, all of the above data is quantitative. But if the Warriors were too somehow shockingly win the series, then that qualitative data would conquer the quantitative data.
All stats and shot charts from NBA.com/Stats