[dropcap]M[/dropcap]uch like the playoffs last year, the Spurs have been battling hard to claim victory in the first round. Last season, it was a surprising Mavericks team. This season, the Los Angeles Clippers have fought tooth and nail against the stoic Spurs in a defiant bid to survive.
All series long, Tony Parker has not been moving with the liquid grace of old. The Frenchman has looked slower, and it's become more evident in these punishing games against the Clippers. Against Chris Paul and swarming help defenses, Parker has struggled to free himself, and his jumpers have suffered from a lack of space.
In five games against Los Angeles, he has taken less shots (11.6 attempts), made them at a subpar rate (32.8%), and averaged only 9.6 points a game. The dip in playing minutes (-20.5 from post All-Star to playoffs) has been a factor, but it's no excuse. The Clippers are making Parker pay for his shots, and the results are obvious.
This gap in production is more than enough to turn what could have been a solid victory, into a crushing loss. Thankfully, someone else has stepped up to the plate, and is proving his worth at the right time.
Patty's on fire!
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]fter returning to the team from offseason shoulder surgery, Patty has not looked fully fit all season long. During an interview by Benyam Kidane in February, Patty has admitted that his shoulder was "going to take some time" to get better. He also had to fight and stay productive in sporadic playing minutes; the Spurs boast a deep guard lineup, and teammate Cory Joseph thrived during Mills' absence, justifying his value and playing time to the team.
It seems like Patty has finally turned the corner when it comes to health, and has returned to top scoring form. He has scored in double-digits in three games this series, while playing 20 minutes or less. Mills has been a welcome sparkplug, and highlighted the Spurs' Game 5 victory with an incredible 13-point effort in only 15 minutes, splashing all four of his three-point attempts along with four rebounds.
Check out this play. Patty came off the Banger screen smoothly, and shot that jumper with zero hesitation, zero conscience. No doubt about it, the man's in rhythm, even with Rivers in tow, valiantly trying to defend the shot.
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Does it make sense to move Patty to the starting lineup over Parker?
[dropcap]D[/dropcap]isclaimer: This is not some crazy proposal that suggests Patty should go at the Clippers 40 minutes a game. It is however, a thought on allowing Mills to match up against Paul more, and help stretch the Clippers' defense with his shooting. This would ideally open the floor up for Duncan and Leonard to work their way inside.
It remains to be seen if Mills can remain fantastically productive with increased minutes. Parker's shooting woes however, definitely mandates a tweak on the Spurs' offensive strategy. His shooting has been effectively shut down by the Clippers, and layups are fraught with peril whenever the defensive-minded Jordan lies in wait.
The Spurs need effective offense from the perimeter, and Patty is the one to provide that scoring punch. He currently leads the Spurs by a country mile in three-point accuracy, and is only second to team sniper Danny Green in attempts; make of that what you will.
Outside of offense, Patty's proven himself to be a hard worker on defense. No statistics to back this theory up, but eyeball evidence seems to indicate that he's better than Parker at limiting Paul on the court. Placing Mills as starting guard directly against Paul could help the Spurs limit CP3's playmaking, and wear him down. Outside of throwing Green or Leonard at Paul, putting Mills (or even Joseph) on him might be something worth considering.
Lastly, there is one potential benefit to Parker. He faces reduced rim protection while Jordan is resting, and has more opportunities to slash his way to the basket against reserve big men like Big Baby, Turkoglu and Hawes. Forcing the defense to collapse against his drives allows him to co-ordinate an onslaught against the Clippers' non-existent bench; one can only imagine that being nothing but a good thing.
Should the Spurs move Patty up? It's likely the Spurs retain their starting lineup for Game 6, but at the very least, Patty should be seeing increased minutes as a recognition of his production so far.
Don't miss Game 6. The Spurs lead 3-2 in this series, and this could very well be the clincher that allows San Antonio to advance.
Now, say it after me. SPURS!
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