San Antonio’s Early Sets

The San Antonio Spurs have been a defensively structured team for the majority of their run with Coach Gregg Popovich and center Tim Duncan, using a formula that’s produced more success than any team not named the Lakers since 1999, to the tune of four NBA championships.

But this season, the Spurs have been a whole different beast on offense, actually scoring the fourth most points in the NBA (106.2), while leading the NBA in three-point shooting (40.8 percent) and ranking third in assists (24.1) and fourth in overall field goal percentage (47.3 percent). And while Phil Jackson said after Monday’s practice in L.A. that Tim Duncan remains a central piece to what they’re doing on offense despite his more limited playing time (29 minutes per game) and scoring (13.6 points), the Lakers recognize that San Antonio’s early offensive flow game led by Tony Parker and often finished by Manu Ginobili and Richard Jefferson is piling up some serious points.

In fact, the Lakers video scouting and coaching staff put together a detailed description of this offensive element, which you can read in full over at the Lakers Courtside Connection, and which we’ll summarize below:

The Spurs have been buttering a lot of bread with an offensive sequence they call “WEAK,” which begins with Parker delivering the ball to the wing and making a cut over to the opposite wing, where the ball swings back his way. Duncan will use a screen to get over to that side, and if Parker doesn’t want to call Duncan’s number, he can look for the screener to pop off Tim’s man. If none of those early options are on, Parker will run another screen and roll called “WEAK ROLL” with Duncan that — in contrast with most screen rolls — takes place below the free throw line extended and changes defensive coverages.

Now, if San Antonio still hasn’t gotten a shot it likes out of that action, they can run something called “WEAK DOUBLE,” which starts similar to “WEAK” but has Parker come back to the strong side of the screens and attack the defense himself.

In addition to the myriad other sets the Spurs run, this is what L.A.’s coaches have gone through with the Lakers players, and upon what Kobe Bryant and Co. will try and focus at the 5:30 p.m. (Pacific) tip. Particularly after getting blown out twice at home, the Lakers have a bit of extra motivation to try and hand San Antonio just their third home loss of the season. How the Lakers play against San Antonio’s early offensive sets and how they respond mentally will go a long way towards seeing whether L.A. avoids a rare third straight loss.