Amare talks to the media after Suns practice on Sunday, May 2, 2010. (Photo by Max Simbron)
Some quick notes from today's practice before we get into the keys to the series.
Attack Tim Duncan - Tim is a great low post defender and a great help defender, but is not as good anymore defending the pick and roll out on the floor. Against the Mavs, he was a the perfect guy to check Haywood's low post game. The Suns aren't reliant on getting their points in the paint in a way that plays into his strengths.
The Suns need to pull Duncan out of the paint and run the pick and roll right at him anytime he guards Amare (which won't be much). Without Robin, the other option is Frye who will more likely run a pick and pop but can still effectively pull Tim from the paint and make him move his feet as much as possible. Anything to keep him from resting on that end of the floor.
Attack with Rim - Tim Duncan is the only shot blocker the Spurs have. We saw how effective LB and Goran were with the second unit with their dribble penetration and they should be even more so against the Spurs. We say how speedy little Roddy Beaubois was able to penetrate and score with relative ease.
The Suns second unit, especially, needs to keep the pressure on at all times. Attack quickly and aggressively and get into the paint. The Suns can't let the Spurs rest at all during these games. Even if the shots aren't falling, keep attacking and wear them down.
Take What they Give - Historically, the Spurs have defended the three point line well and used their bigs to protect the rim and in the process were willing to give up mid-range shots. This Spurs team still allowed the fewest three-point attempts in the league during the regular season but they no long have the same depth on their front line and Duncan is getting older.
Amare should have a field day attacking the rim and drawing fouls out of isolations or pick and rolls and Jason, Grant, Goran, Steve and LB can all hit the mid-range shots if the defense sags off.
Post-up Game - Amare isn't the Suns' only post-up player. When the Spurs go small, which they do a lot, either Jason Rich or Grant Hill can back down their smaller defenders. With Amare and Frye on the floor the Suns can create space in the paint for those guys to work against Manu Ginobili or Tony Parker. The added bonus is that the Suns will be in good position to retreat on defense from this set which will be important.
All year the Suns have made teams pay for putting their better wing defenders on Nash and trying to hide a point guard on one of the Phoenix wings. In this series it will be even more important. Anytime the Spurs try and slow Nash by putting George on him, that will leave Parker matched up against a much bigger player. The Suns can and should exploit this mismatch.
"Sure, we've got big guards and we try and take advantage when we have mismatches," explained Alvin Gentry.
Transition - I think the number one priority for the Suns defense is going to be stopping Parker and Hill in transition. That might mean being a little less aggressive on the offensive glass. Against the Blazers, the Suns could afford to send five guys after their misses because the Blazers weren't going to run when they did get the loose ball. The Spurs will look to attack and we all know that it takes a small village to stop Parker in the open floor.
The Spurs offense in the half court is good, but I don't think they can win without also getting around 15 points out of their transition game.
Tim Duncan - Tim is still Tim and coming into Game 1, he's going to be well rested and will probably have a great game. But as seen in their last series, he wore down as things progressed and his shooting dropped from 60% to 30%. The same thing will happen over the course of the game so play him straight up and make him be the primary scorer. Not only will that make him work more early, but it keeps the other guys from getting hot from anywhere else.
Then if you need to late in the game, bring the double team or even a zone and make them beat you from somewhere else.
Pick and Roll - The Spurs use the pick and roll a lot differently than the Suns. Mostly it's just a way for Parker or Manu to run a defender off a screen and get into the lane. The Suns bigs have to aggressively show and stop the ball giving the guard time to come under and help stop the penetration.
Weak side rotation to cover the roll man is important, but the Spurs only look to hit the rolling big about have as often as the Suns do and while Duncan can covert when left open, he will pass out if there's a defender between he and basket (unlike Amare who can still catch the pass, side-step the weak side help and finish).
When Manu is running it, you can cheat off Parker and leave him open a bit since he's not a good three point shooter. When Parker is running it, you have to pay a bit more attention to Manu on the wing and bring help from somewhere else (usually the 4).
Rebounding - The Spurs got out-rebounded in their first round series by the Mavs who, while big, are not a good rebounding team. They get good glass work from Duncan (duh) and also McDyess and Blair in his limited minutes. The Spurs wings and guards don't rebound at all. Once again, the Suns can win this battle by keeping a body on Tim and trusting Jason and Grant to lead the charge.