Spurs have turned their offence into defence against Rockets

Jay Asser 20:53 06/05/2017
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Finding his groove: LaMarcus Aldridge. Picture: Getty Images.

Offence has been the best defence for the San Antonio Spurs in slowing down the Houston Rockets’ high-octane attack and gaining control of the second round series.

After getting hammered in a 27-point loss in Game 1, the Spurs have turned it around by focusing as much on scoring efficiently as they have on limiting James Harden and Co.

The adjustments have clearly worked, with San Antonio evening the series through a lopsided 121-96 win in Game 2 before taking the lead with a 103-92 victory in Game 3 on Friday.

Not by coincidence, the Spurs’ surge has aligned with LaMarcus Aldridge finding his rhythm as the big man has improved his scoring output from 4 points in the opener, to 15 in Game 2 and 26 in the recent outing. His shot attempts have also gradually increased from seven to 15 to 20, while his defence has allowed coach Gregg Popovich to leave him on the floor longer.

Houston shot 13-of-26 when Aldridge served as the primary defender in the first two games, but that figure dropped to just 3-of-14 in Game 3, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

“This was his best game, obviously,” Popovich said. “He felt good tonight. He was loose as far as his physical nature, his legs and everything. He wasn’t too stiff. It showed. He moved up and down the court well. He was able to push off on the block, and he felt good shooting the ball, in addition to busting his butt on D and trying to get the boards for us. He was a big help tonight.”

The Rockets’ blueprint for success was on full display in Game 1, when they shot 22-of-50 from long range and had 27 fast break points.

Houston has struggled to replicate that kind of performance ever since as San Antonio have tightened their offence to shoot 49.7 per cent overall and 36.7 per cent on 3-pointers over the past two games.

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The increased efficiency has left few chances for the Rockets to get out and run after misses, lowering their fast break points to 13 in Game 2 and 9 in the most recent contest.

“It sounds kind of counterintuitive, but it’s not really about defence,” Popovich said about defending the Rockets in transition. “It’s really about offense. Bad offense leads to transition.

“If you’re making shots, if you’re shooting free throws, there’s not a whole lot of transition you have to worry about.”

Houston have also flat-out missed open shots, converting just 19-of-67 uncontested field goals (28.3 per cent) in their losses.

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