The Spurs have traditionally dropped offensive rebounding in favor of transition defense. However, this year the Spurs team just isnít going t be as strong defensively as it traditionally is- at least not in the beginning of the season. In addition, weíve seen a few Spurs this year- namely Bonner and Blair- go after offensive rebounds more- especially in the case of Blair, who is natural rebounder. For a team as good as the Spurs, itís best to limit them to as few possessions as possible. Can the rebounders of Hibbert, Posey, McRoberts and Jones/Foster keep the Blair off of the offensive boards? If not- the Pacers could be in for a long season rebounding wise.
Big Man Play:
The Spurs will reportedly be without Tiago Splitter this game, as he is still battling strained right plantaris muscle injury. The spurs thus will be limited to a big man rotation of Duncan, Blair, McDyess, and Bonner, with RJ playing the four sometimes in small ball. Starting the game with Duncan and Blair, the Pacers will have a mismatch with Blair. Hibbert can shoot right over Blair, and McRoberts at the three point line will also be a problem with the Spurs. Can the Pacers take advantage of this mismatch and make them pay for having Blair in the lineup?
Meanwhile, the play of Matt Bonner will be a key to how well the Spurs can run. When Bonner can space the floor with his three and when he can hit is teardrop runner, he is a very valuable player on the offensive end for the Spurs and makes everything easier for the big three. If Bonner hits his shots early- the Pacers will be in trouble- especially if they continue to have trouble rotating.
McDyess looks very sharp and looks focused in what most likely will be his last season in the NBA. He will give the Spurs valuable minutes and midrange shooting. On the other side, the Pacers need to figure out who is their backup center. Foster was a good player but currently looks like he is an old NBA player coming back from injury. Solomon Jones has shown some promise but is also on the trading block. Is Posey the answer for them? Will his 3 point shot be a problem for the Spurs?
Blair vs McRoberts:
This is going to be a very key matchup for the game. Blair is much improved from last season and his my early favorite to win most improved player. He has added some offensive moves into his arsenal and can almost be considered an offensive threat. The Pacers will need him to fight against Blair for boards and to have a good game in general. The same goes for McRoberts- who has added a three point shot and could be a mismatch for Blair. With his excellent passing he could alos find holes in the Spurs defense- especially without Splitter. The Spurs had some problems with Channing Frye in the playoffs last season- can McRoberts provide the same spark?
The Point Guard Battle:
Judging from preseason play- Tony parker is fully healed from his injuries last season and looks very sharp and like the playoffs MVP he was in 07. With the Spurs now playing more uptempo and using a run and gun offense sometimes, Parker should have a breakout year this year. He seems to have regained some of the speed lost last season to injury. Meanwhile, Darren Collison comes in with high expectations as the point guard for the Pacers future. So far in the preseason he seems to be a bit lost, sometimes making bad decisions with the ball. However, he has been mostly scoring and passing well. The key for Darren will be how quickly will he get acclimated to the Pacers offense and can he play the pick in roll defense? As of right now he does not look the Pacers point guard of the future.
George Hill has been awful this preseason. He has shot the ball poorly and generally does not look like the player he was last year. The Spurs need him to be able to provide good point guard play and eat minutes, as well as play defense and hit the corner three. He needs to get his shot going.
Meanwhile, AJ Price has had a solid preseason- carrying over from his strong play in the last season. He looks like he is doing much better than what is expected of a 2nd round pick, and looks more comfortable running the offense and shooting the ball than Darren does.
TJ Ford will be the key to beating the Spurs. In the past, the biggest weakness of the Spurs defense is the midrange game. TJ Ford is our best midrange shooter, and he and Roy Hibbert should be able to hit those jumpers all night. TJ Ford also has great dribble penetration, and with Duncan's loss of mobility he should be able to drive at Duncan most of the night- especially if McRoberts/Posey is camped out at the three point line.
A Battle of Redemption From the Small Forwards
Both Danny Granger and Richard Jefferson had disappointing seasons last year. Danny Granger suffered from a myriad of injuries last season and just didnít look healthy. Meanwhile, Richard Jefferson had a hard time fitting into the Spurs system and looked like he was pressing for most of his time with the Spurs. Jefferson spent the summer retooling his game and going back to basics in order to fit in with the Spurs system better. Granger was selected to team USA over the summer and has had a decent preseason. Both players need to be spectacular for their teams to do well this season. Granger looks to be in the prime of his career and needs to get off to a good start. Jefferson has started showing signs of finally getting accliamated to the Spurs system Ė and with the Spurs turning into a more uptempo team he should be able to make more of an impact on the game this year While Jefferson still looks awkward sometimes while playing on the field, his confidence in his shot seems to be growing.
Mike Dunleavy will also be looking for a bounce back year, as he seems mentally checked into the game and seems focused on having a good season. In addition, he has taken the rookie Paul George under his wing which will do wonders for Georgeís growth. If Dunleavy can get to a high level of conditioning and stay focused he should be able to make the correct reads and decisions to help breakdown the Spurs defense.
New Players Making an Impact:
Expect contributions from Gary Neal, James Anderson, and Paul George.
Gary Neal turned strong summer league play into a 3 year deal with the Spurs, as his pure shooting stroke drew strong interest from the Spurs. While severely undersized as a two guard, expect Neal to be a third point guard type of player, bringing the ball upcourt and dumping to a playmaker such as Ginobili or Jefferson. The Spurs hope that he could be what Roger Mason Jr. should have been last season.
Paul George, the first round pick for the Pacers this season, has shown flashes of all star level play at times in the preseason. He seems to have good form and the ability to drive and play like a well rounded wing, and should see a lot of minutes as the primary backup wing. While he has been streaky so far, he seems to be building up from each game and should be fun to watch and should have an immediate impact.
James Anderson was hampered by a hamstring injury and did not play in the Spurs summer league. In limited minutes in the Spurs preseason, he played as expected from a rookie and seems to be learning his role in the Spurs system. He has shown good defensive effort and while his shot hasnít been falling as well as it did in his college days, he looks comfortable so far. Expect him to see a few minutes at the backup two and three.