The San Antonio Spurs don’t generally rely on 3-point shooting to win. In the 2013-2014 regular season, they attempted just 21.4 threes per game as a team; right below the league average of 21.5. If their deep shots aren’t falling, that’s okay, because they score equally well on the interior more often than not. Unfortunately, more often than not, their threes are right on the money too. The Spurs led the league in 3-point field goal percentage this year. Here’s why:
- Marco Belinelli (SF): 43.0 percent
- Matt Bonner (PF): 42.9 percent
- Patty Mills (PG): 42.5 percent
- Danny Green (SG): 41.5 percent
- Austin Daye (SF): 41.4 percent
- Boris Diaw (PF): 40.2 percent
The Spurs boast six players spanning four positions that shoot above 40.0 percent from deep. Comparatively, their upcoming opponent in the Western Conference semifinals, the Portland Trail Blazers, has just one: Allen Crabbe (SG), who will see precisely 0 minutes of postseason playing time anyway. Although San Antonio doesn’t hoist 25.3 threes per game like Portland does (third-most in the league), they are more threatening from beyond the arc.
Which begs the question: How will the Trail Blazers cope? Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum are strong perimeter defenders, but the Spurs are deep enough (five of the six players listed come off the bench) that Matthews and Batum won’t be able to cover all threats at all times.
This is especially true when it comes to San Antonio shooting guard, Manu Ginobili. Although Ginobili shot a seemingly sub-standard 34.9 percent from deep this season, he has taken twice as many threes as any other Spur during the playoffs so far. Problem being, San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich likes to use him in the secondary for extended periods of time. The Trail Blazers can’t just leave their starting wings in for 48 minutes a game in order to cover the Spurs’ closest thing to a “volume shooter” from beyond the arc.
The series could be a rough one for Mo Williams and Dorell Wright, who will be depended upon to close out on shooters when the starters are resting. As usual, San Antonio’s depth accents the team’s unique skill sets in the most flustering way. I find it unnerving that Williams, who is known for his generously termed “spotty” defense, could spend any amount of time guarding the Spurs’ leader in bench production. Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts must find a feasible workaround to avoid the Ginobili matchup when it rears its head.
The way San Antonio plays their deep game could give Stotts fits in the planning stages. Their 3-pointers are infrequent enough that they shouldn’t be the primary defensive focus, but efficient enough that they can’t be ignored even a little. A competent shot could come from anywhere and many Trail Blazers are ill-prepared to deal with that. I haven’t even mentioned Tony Parker (37.3 percent) and Kawhi Leonard (37.9 percent). We will have to wait and see how well Portland’s overall mediocre defense handles respecting every shot as a requirement and not a suggestion.