FO’ with the FOES: SA SPURS

This Friday edition of “Fo’ with the Foes” — Philadunkia’s advanced scouting series which with the help of an accomplished journalist from around the NBA beat or blog world, previews upcoming 76ers opponents — features tonight’s opponent the San Antonio Spurs who own the best record NBA.

We’re going to keep this one brief as despite their improved play of late, we don’t think the 76ers have any chance of winning this game tonight.  The Spurs are simply one of deepest, most talented teams in the League.  They’re clicking on all cylinders right now and unless the Lakers pull off a major trade, we expect SA to represent the West in the 2011 NBA Finals.  So to go through all the matchup problems the Spurs present for our “closing in on .500” Sixers would be a waste of time.        

Tonight we’re looking and hoping for one thing from the Sixers — Jrue Holiday getting back on track.  We documented his recent struggles in a post that went up earlier today.  It hasn’t been pretty lately for # 11 and Collins needs to make an effort to get Holiday going early tonight.  We fear that if Holiday’s slide continues his confidence in his own game could shortly become an issue.  That would not be a good thing for the 7-6 going forward.

For a little more insight into the Spurs team the Sixers face tonight, we turn to our man Jesse Blanchard from to answer two questions on Milwaukee from us here at Philadunkia as well as provide us with two points of analysis on this Bucks squad from an insider’s perspective. 

Philadunkia :  Obviously the Spurs are playing great basketball right now and own the best record in the NBA.  During training camp, did you see any where near this type of season coming from the Spurs and when did you realize the Spurs had something good going this year?

Jesse Blanchard @ :  I will preface this by saying the record itself is beyond anyone’s expectations.  A 69-70 win pace would have been beyond the expectations of even the Lakers (and the Heat, if you asked people who had their head on straight).  But even this time last year I felt the Spurs were capable of regaining elite status if they were able to find some health and change their approach a little.

Because of injuries, it’s been easy to forget just how good the Spurs core is.  Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker when healthy have been just as good as anyone in the NBA.  Last year Manu Ginobili showed he was still a top five player at his position.  This year, on media day, I remember Tony Parker walking in and me telling Express-News NBA beat writer Mike Monroe there goes the key to the Spurs season. From the first time I saw Parker blow past a defender, I knew this season had a chance to be special.

Philadunkia :  The West is brutally tough and we’ll see second half pushes from teams like the LAL and OKC, so what elements do the Spurs have to improve on so they can maintain their #1 seed?

Jesse Blanchard @ : The obvious answer is defense, they’ve been horribly mediocre this season. Outside of George Hill, there might not be another great individual defender on the team.  So while the Spurs are a testament to what team defense can do, if a team is patient enough and shows good ball movement, eventually they can take apart the Spurs near the end of the shot clock.But as far as keeping the #1 seed? Barring injury, it’s theirs.

 While the record is beyond expectations, none of the Spurs are individually playing over their heads.  Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are doing what they’ve always done when healthy.  None of the role players are having career seasons, and the ones we are unsure of (Gary Neal) play roles ordinary enough that it’s not hard seeing them sustain their production.  If anything the Spurs have had two important players (Tim Duncan and DeJuan Blair) and a key free agent acquisition (Tiago Splitter) play below expectations.  And one would suspect one gets it going.

Two Points of Analysis from Jesse Blanchard @ :

1)  DeJuan Blair will never be a great defender, and he might not even be an ideal starter on a contending team, but his presence in the starting lineup fits perfectly into what the Spurs are trying to do this season.  One thing each Spurs championship team has had is a chaotic big man.  That is to say, Blair is unpredictable for both teams and creates a lot of possessions and plays that aren’t in the Spurs normally scripted system.  By playing outside the system, Blair actually enhances it.

2)  Manu Ginobili is the Spurs best player, Tony Parker makes them go. For all the Spurs offensive firepower, they only have two that can create shots on a consistent basis.  Duncan has lost some of his wheels and almost all of his brakes.  Richard Jefferson and George Hill are great at exploiting driving lanes but only mediocre at creating them.  Parker might not get as many assists as his peers, but watch how each of the Spurs more limited players take advantage of the scrambling defenses and open driving lanes Parker’s dribble penetration provides them.

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