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2012 NBA Playoffs: Spurs Depth Shines Bright

Aaron Fischman |
May 4, 2012 | 4:09 p.m. PDT

Associate Sports Editor

Although Manu Ginobili is not his usual self, the Spurs appear unfazed. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
Although Manu Ginobili is not his usual self, the Spurs appear unfazed. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
The top-seeded San Antonio Spurs cruised to two easy victories over the Utah Jazz this week. 

Tim Duncan is now 36 years old, and Manu Ginobili is still not 100 percent, but the Spurs’ impressive depth has caused problems for the Jazz. Point guard Tony Parker has also played spectacular basketball. 

To recap the first two games and look forward to the rest of the series, Clint Peterson and Michael De Leon have joined us for a discussion. Peterson writes for a number of websites, including Hardwood Paroxysm and The Utah Jazz Blog, while De Leon is the founder of Project Spurs.  

Aaron Fischman: After getting blown out early in Game 2, the Jazz were never able to recover. Through two games, I think it's safe to say that the Jazz have only truly played one half with which they can be proud. As they return home, do the Jazz have any hope of winning one or two games there? Why or why not?

Clint Peterson: San Antonio is just completely on another level of experience in this particular situation over Utah. They know how to peak at the right time, especially after learning from last season's Memphis Grizzlies punch to the gut. Pop and the gang are not taking any chances this time around.

It will be difficult, but the Jazz really feed off of that best of home crowds. I expect Al Jefferson, the center of the Jazz's current run, to play much better and try to steal one or two at home. But at this point it's baby steps. 

I also wouldn't mind if Ty Corbin loosened the reins on Devin Harris a bit. Let him run free…that’s when he's at his best. That could give the Jazz a shot. 

Fischman: San Antonio's depth is one of its main strengths. Please discuss some of the roles various Spurs play on the team. How have the Spurs benefitted from their depth this series?

Michael De Leon: Yeah, they made some huge moves midseason to get deeper at several positions. Roles are very hard to define when just about every player from 1-12 can take over the scoring load on any given night. Aside from the big three, Neal, Green, Leonard etc.. have all led games in scoring. Manu and Stephen Jackson are usually the sixth and seventh men off the bench. Tiago Splitter has had a much bigger role this season as the first big off the bench to give the Spurs some added size. Gary Neal will usually take over for Parker. Bonner is counted on for his long-range shooting and solid defense inside. I could go on, but the roles are constantly changing. 

The Spurs won't expect one player on the second unit to take over on offense. It usually changes every day, as evidenced by Stephen Jackson scoring 14 points in Game 1 and Neal scoring 11 Wednesday. Having that kind of depth means the Spurs have options on both ends of the court. When Parker or Duncan struggle, someone else usually steps up. If the Jazz look to stop one or two players, those guys end up becoming distributors and get other players rolling. It's really almost not fair to have a second unit that boasts Ginobili, Jackson, Splitter, Neal and now Blair. And in blowouts, Patty Mills will score in bunches like he did tonight. Depth is certainly their biggest weapon going forward in the playoffs.

Fischman: What's your assessment of Tyrone Corbin in his first full season (if we can call it that) as a head coach? I know no one can be compared to Utah fixture Jerry Sloan, but what kind of a job has Corbin done? What are his strengths and weaknesses?

Peterson: Seeing as there were little-to-no expectations for Tyrone Corbin coming in I'd have to say I'm a little shocked he didn't receive even one Coach of the Year vote. His winning percentage is higher than Jerry Sloan's through the same amount of games as a head coach. And Sloan had a Hall of Famer on his squad, no less. Inexperience is Ty Corbin's only enemy at the moment. He'll be fine with a few more reps.

Peterson would like to see Devin Harris unleashed. (Creative Commons/teamstickergiant)
Peterson would like to see Devin Harris unleashed. (Creative Commons/teamstickergiant)
De Leon: Devin Harris has struggled offensively and defensively through two games. If the Jazz are going to have a fighting chance to get a win or even up this series. is it going to take Harris flipping the script or does Corbin have to look elsewhere?

Peterson: The Jazz can't succeed without Devin Harris engaged in the game. When he's interested and involved, he's as good as he ever was in his All-Star year. Harris is huge key for the Jazz to move ahead, both on the perimeter and on defense; he has to try and bother Tony Parker.

Fischman: One thing that's been interesting about newly named Coach of the Year Gregg Popovich is how he's used (and rested) his best players this season. Nursing a 2-0 lead, to what extent can you envision Pop resting any of his aging stars in an unconventional manner in Games 3 or 4? 

De Leon: The best rest situation for Pop would be to get this series over as quickly as possible and rest them before the next series, so I don't see him resting them unless they build a big lead early like they did tonight. At one point he tried to sit Tony Parker in the third quarter. Parker fought back telling him, "I haven't played in three days, Pop. I'm 29 years old." So, while Pop may want to get his older players some rest, he won't do it if he’s risking losing a game.

Fischman: If you had to pick, who is the x-factor for the Jazz? In other words, who needs to perform well for the Jazz to have a shot at winning some games?

Peterson: Derrick Favors. The Jazz's +/- numbers when he's in the game are meteoric (just ridiculous). He's an instant game-changer…an ace in the hole that I'd hope Corbin remembers is up his sleeve and at his disposal.

Peterson: At what level do the Spurs need Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili to play to take home a final O'Brien trophy for Tim Duncan?

De Leon: Tony Parker has to continue playing at the level he's played all season long. As Tyrone Corbin said recently, the Spurs go as Tony Parker goes. Manu will finally be hitting his stride if the Spurs make it to the Western Conference Finals and having him playing like Manu on both ends of the floor would give the Spurs a great chance at winning it all. Unlike Parker though, and as you've seen in this series, the Spurs have enough depth and talent to make up for a few bad games by Manu, but obviously the Spurs want him back at 100 percent.

More series updates: Grizzlies vs. Clippers, Lakers vs. Nuggets and Thunder vs. Mavericks.

Contact Aaron via email or Twitter.



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