Series Analysis: San Antonio Spurs (2) vs. Seattle SuperSonics (3)

Don Casey has nearly 20 years of NBA experience, breaking into the league as a Chicago Bulls assistant coach in 1982. In the late '80s, Casey was the coach of the Los Angeles Clippers for a season and a half. Later, he was the head coach of the New Jersey Nets for a year and a half, including the 1999-2000 season. Casey shares his insights as to what we can expect from the Spurs, what we can expect from the SuperSonics and who'll win the series.

By Don Casey (as told to John Hareas)

One key for the Sonics is they cannot change their style of play. They have to push the tempo, look for the three, spread the floor, drive it, kick it and balance it with a little post-play. Defensively, how are they going to play the post? Are they going to play the post by committee and use up fouls? Are they going to double-team Tim Duncan?

If they stick with single coverage, Duncan will probably have a monster game like he had the second time these two teams played when he had 39 points.

How will Seattle handle the pick-and-roll? By throwing as many guys at Duncan as they can.
D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty Images

Another key is how Seattle will handle the pick-and-roll. San Antonio has a very good pick-and-roll game. Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker come off Duncan to the middle and he tends to pop back. Parker and Ginobili are so quick off the dribble so you have to honor them, hence Duncan is left open momentarily. It will be important for Seattle has to corral this aspect of San Antonio’s offensive game for them to be successful.

On San Antonio’s end, when the ball goes into Duncan, what are the other Spurs doing? Are they standing and waiting to react to how Seattle defends him? Are they sending cutters through to open up the area for Duncan?

Their other All-Star, Ginobili, has been giving the Spurs firepower coming off the bench. It has proven to be a good move for them. If Brent Barry gets off early and then Ginobili comes in, that is a pretty good one-two punch.

Another thing to look for is Robert Horry. He just seems to be a factor in post-game play no matter where he is playing. He makes big plays in a limited amount of time. The ability for him to play off of Duncan allows him to spot up and get jumpers.

There are a lot of problems for Seattle in a half-court structured set against the Spurs. They should try to counteract that with their speed game that gets up and down the floor. They do this very effectively. They have to try to wear Duncan down by making him move back and forth. Seattle also has to look to spread the floor when they speed down the court.

The Sonics should keep going to Ray Allen, no matter what. Bruce Bowen will probably be guarding him and that will be a tough matchup. But Allen has been so prolific and he has made so many big shots, I think the Sonics will try to ride him, no matter what.

Jerome James is the X-factor in this series. His shooting percentage was incredible in the first round against Sacramento. He has a nice baseline jumper and he faces up which is good for him. He does not have to play with his back to the basket as a lot of post-up players do against Duncan. This can cause problems for Duncan and it will not allow him to sit back and cherry-pick.

I think the Sonics should make it a shoot-out. They have got to get in a blistering pace, up-and-down.

No matter what style the Sonics play, though, Gregg Popovich will have an answer. They have a specific defensive scheme each game. They really channel people to their weaknesses and they help and recover in a team-defensive set. I think Popovich will try to play Seattle straight-up. But the Spurs also have to be careful on the pick-and-roll. When the Sonics run their pick-and-roll, you cannot get sucked in because they kick it out so well.

Not to belittle the Sonics, they have played at a high level all year, but the Spurs are a very sound organization top to bottom and they express this on the court. They do not mess around and they do not do foolish things. Popovich is a tough, basic coach. He will try some things, but you will not get anything clever or gimmicky.

I would be a little surprised but I would not be shocked if the Sonics tried a matchup-zone just to curtail penetration or help out on Duncan. The coaching term “improvise and adapt” could prevail in this series.

My prediction: I think the Spurs will win it in six.