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Why is San Antonio’s new percussion not in the NBA Championship discussion?

Up until the last game of the regular season, the San Antonio Spurs had the best record in the NBA. Had they not lost Tim Duncan to six games due to injury and sitting their stars in the final two games, San Antonio would have been the best team by far in basketball. So why isn’t anybody talking about them winning the NBA championship this season?

Yep, that’s the same Spurs team that went 36-5 at home this season, tied for the best home record in the NBA with the Bulls. As the Western Conference’s number one seed and with home court advantage to boot, won’t the Spurs be hard to beat?

San Antonio finished the regular season with a record of 61-21, not bad for a team that has averaged a 0.695 regular season win percentage since the turn of the new millennia. They’ve also won four NBA Championships since the strike-shortened 1998-99 season and been to three further Western Conference finals, with a 0.610 winning percentage in the playoffs over this time. The heavily fancied Lakers only have a marginally better 0.615 playoff win percentage over this time, so why do the Spurs still get overlooked?

Tim Duncan Photo: Keith Allison via Flickr

After being swept by the Suns in last year’s playoffs, San Antonio looked like father time had caught up with them, their legs not able to keep up with the quick pace of the new athletic NBA. However, after this wake-up call, coach Popovich returned to the lab and this season has re-tuned and refined the Spurs from a dump it in to Duncan and play from the inside out, in to an offensive machine. This season, Duncan’s minutes are down, as were his scoring stats (his lowest in his 13 year NBA career), as Parker’s speed and Ginobili’s guile were utilized to the fore.

 Add to this the long ball, as the Spurs hit more threes then any San Antonio team since the turn of the century, with Ginobili, Jefferson, Neal and the ‘Red Rocket,’ Matt Bonner, given the green light to blaze away. The Spurs this season were the league’s sixth highest scoring offense and second most potent scorer at 109.4 points per 100 possessions.

NBA’s Most Efficient Offenses:

 

Pts per 100 Possessions

Denver

109.5

San Antonio

109.4

Miami

109.3

Oklahoma City

108.6

New York Knicks

108.3

San Antonio also shares the ball, with their ‘big three’ of Duncan, Ginobili and Parker responsible for 44% of the team’s points. A lot more balanced than the ‘big three’ from other playoff rivals:

 

% of team’s points

San Antonio (Parker, Ginobili, Duncan)

44%

La Lakers (Bryant, Gasol, Odom)

58%

Dallas (Nowitzki, Terry, Marion)

48%

Oklahoma City (Durant, Westbrook, Harden)

58%

Portland (Aldridge, Matthews, Wallace)

52%

Miami (James, Wade, Bosh)

65%

Chicago (Rose, Deng, Boozer)

55%

This year’s version of the Spurs has given the rest of the West something to think about. They are 2-2 against first round opponent Memphis, but the last meeting was without Duncan, leaving Zach Randolph to ruthlessly expose the Big Fundamental’s absence. So, with Duncan on the court, San Antonio has to be confident of knocking off the Grizzlies.

The Spurs have kicked on this season. Photo: Mark Redford

As for the rest of the West, the Spurs have a 3-1 record against Dallas this season; are 2-2 against Los Angeles, although the last match saw San Antonio rest all their big guns, as Kobe, Pau and the Lakers only just beat the Spurs second string. They are 3-0 against the dangerous Oklahoma City Thunder, leaving the only team that has a winning record against the Spurs in the West, which is Portland. The Blazers are 3-1 against the Spurs this season, although this comes with the huge caveat of the last two games being played in San Antonio’s six-game stretch without Tim Duncan.

So why can’t the Spurs go all the way to the NBA championship? They have home court advantage, they have a good record against the main contenders in the West and they have the experience of winning it all before. This is also probably the most exciting and fashionable version of the Spurs we have seen in a while, so they shouldn’t be slipping under the radar like teams that are not so easy on the eye have done.

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