How the Spurs Make Themselves Impossible to Defend

Game 1 against the Spurs showed the Jazz that there is much work to be done if the Jazz want to make this a series. The Jazz struggled to stop San Antonio's offensive schemes. Luckily, we're not alone; this is why the Spurs are the #1 team in Offensive Rating in the entire league: their schemes and player skill sets make it impossible to defend them: you have to pick your poison.

We'll take a look at one of the Spurs' successful plays, Gary Neal's made 3 near the end of the 3rd quarter, as an example of how they do this. We'll do it Sebastian Pruiti style, with video of the play and images at key points so you can see how the offense moves and defense responds with rotation.

One of the reasons I chose this play is because it doesn't involve any of the big 3, though the threat of Ginobili keeps Hayward from being involved in the help. Instead, the Spurs bench players run one of their time-tested sets. Gary Neal begins by dribbling the ball down the floor, and DeJuan Blair comes out to set the high screen.


Luckily, pick defending expert Favors is there, and he cuts off the drive by Neal. Note how Millsap shades over to help, but is still within relatively close range to Bonner.


Indeed, the defense is good enough that Neal has to make a sketchy jump pass, which Millsap almost intercepts. You could perhaps argue that Millsap shouldn't have gambled for the steal, but the reward there of almost a certain 2 points in transition is probably worth it.


Unfortunately, Millsap doesn't quite get it, and Bonner takes advantage by driving. Tinsley, then, helps and does a good job of preventing this drive from succeeding. While doing so, Neal recovers to the favored corner 3 location of SAS. Carroll does a good job of preventing the pass to Neal while also staying close enough to Jackson that Bonner can't make the pass right away, giving Millsap a chance to recover:


This forces the Spurs to reset once again, and Bonner kicks out to Stephen Jackson. Millsap has been able to recover, but Jackson takes advantage to begin a third drive of the play:


Again, in order to stop this drive, the defense must help. This time, it's DeMarre Carroll who sags in from the outside, leaving Neal on the perimeter.


What if he had stayed with Neal? In that case, Favors would have had to step forward, leaving an easy dump off pass to Blair for the layup or dunk. Jackson does a good job of finding the open man on his drive, Neal gathers the pass and knocks down the open 3.


In this play, the Jazz successfully stop dribble penetration twice, but each time they help in order to do so, they are taken more and more out of their desired position, until a final situation is displayed which they just can't prevent. The combination of patience and relentless attack is remarkable. When stopped, the Spurs simply attack again, and do so immediately in order to take advantage of the shifts of the defense. Each time, their floor spacing gives an outlet to release the pressure and begin again, or simply take the open shot presented.

What can the Jazz do? Well, not much. This is the reason the Spurs are the number one offensive team in the league: their players are perfectly oriented and trained to run their system. Pressuring the ball early more may help; it would be nice if the initial screen came with less time on the clock, perhaps limiting them to only two drives on a given possession. That's much easier said than done, though, and still likely wouldn't have worked on this play. In the end, the only solution may be to outscore the Spurs.

All comments are the opinion of the commenter and not necessarily that of SLC Dunk or SB Nation.