07 Mar Flying Under The Radar: The Spurs Are Just Where They Want To Be
While the Golden State Warriors continue to dominate the headlines with the spectacular play of MVP Stephen Curry and the team’s quest for 73 wins, the San Antonio Spurs are flying under the radar with a similarly impressive season, if not better.
Record Setting Season
It was only a week ago when Stephen Curry’s best performance of the season cemented his greatness against the OKC Thunder with that out of this world game winner:
Steph Curry's absurd game winner in OKC https://t.co/5uYcXAmjVT
— The Cauldron (ICYMI) (@CauldronICYMI) February 28, 2016
Not only did he beat the Thunder with that 37 foot three pointer, he also barged into the record books with it:
Stephen Curry now has 287 3-pointers this season, breaking his own single-season NBA record. pic.twitter.com/Qg59X5noJe
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 28, 2016
Stephen Curry's 12th 3-pointer of the game, ties NBA record (Kobe Bryant and Donyell Marshall)
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 28, 2016
With the win, the best start in NBA history continued and the chase for 73 wins remained in sight.
As of Friday (March 5), the Warriors are 55-5 and are showing no signs of slowing down. But take a close look at the team standings and see that the San Antonio Spurs are just 3.5 games behind at 52-9. In another NBA season, that would easily be the best record in the league at this point of the season. But this is the Warriors’ time, their dominance.
Spurs Just As Dominant
Because of their flare, the Splash Brothers and all, the Warriors have looked more spectacular than their numbers. However, if we take a close look at the statistics, the Spurs are equally as dominant. At this point of the season, the Spurs are beating their opponents better than the Warriors are. According to Basketball-Reference, the Spurs’ Adjusted Net Rating ( point differential per 100 possessions adjusted to strength of opponents ) is 12.09 versus the Warriors’ 10.79. The difference isn’t marginal, but it’s there. Similarly, ESPN’s Hollinger Team Statistics say that San Antonio has the best defensive rating in the NBA at 95.4 while the Warriors are #5 at 100.2. On the opposite end, the Warriors have the best offensive rating in the league at 112.5 while the Spurs are third in that department at 109.0. Even at 1-1 there? Yes, but if you get the net of both advanced statistics, the Spurs are +1.3 points per 100 possessions.
Okay so in reality, the Warriors demolished the Spurs 120-90 in the first of their four meetings this season. But then that game was played at Golden State and the Spurs were without Tim Duncan, got only 5 points from LaMarcus Aldridge and just six shot attempts from Kawhi Leonard. A lot has changed since that January 25 game though.
The Warriors are 14-1 since while the Spurs are 14-2 over the same period. But it’s not that statistic that’s caught our attention. It’s how Aldridge and Leonard have played lately. In the month of February, Aldridge averaged 20.5 PPG and Leonard 22.8 PPG. Those are easily the best scoring months of the season for those two superstars. Manu Ginobili, no longer the same killer but still a key performer at 10.0 PPG this season, will be returning from a one month absence due to injury. Add those three up and that could be the difference when these teams meet again. That’s not it. As if their offensive might isn’t enough, the Spurs have added Kevin Martin to their line-up after he was bought out by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
For starters, the 33 year old Martin is a 17.6 PPG career scorer. This season, he averaged 10.6 PPG but because of a limited role more than anything else. Remember when Martin played for the 2012-2013 OKC Thunder in a sporting role? OKC went 60-22 only to lose in the 2nd round of the playoffs when Russell Westbrook got hurt. Kevin Martin isn’t a star who will carry a team. However, he’s a perfect complimentary player who knows how to contribute the best way he can. That’s what makes him a dangerous addition for the Spurs.
The Spurs just finished the annual Rodeo Road Trip with a record of 7-1. They clinched a postseason spot on week 18 and became the 9th team in NBA history to win 50 games in 60 games or fewer. Of course, the Warriors did that faster this season. But remember this is the first time in NBA history where two teams accomplished that feat in the same season. But listen to this: This is the 17 consecutive season the Spurs have won at least 50 games. This will also be the 19th consecutive time they will enter the playoffs. With that kind of track record, it’s hard to bet against the Spurs, and history at that.
The Party Spoilers?
Here’s another: If we reference December 2, the Spurs have a better winning percentage than the Spurs at .884 against the Warriors .878. Just a fraction really, but again, it’s there. It’s hard to top the Warriors theses days, especially with how good they are playing. But the Spurs have done so in ‘little ways’. San Antonio is shooting at .491 from the field while Golden State is at .488. The biggest advantage Golden State has is in three pointers made per game at 12.9 versus 7.3. But remember that the Spurs take just 18.5 threes per game while the Dubs launch 30.8 trifectas per contest. If Popovic decides to match fire with fire, then the Spurs would be averaging 12.15 per contest which is very close to what the Warriors make daily. Add in Kevin Martin’s 1.0 three pointers made this season, it’s an even game now.
There is no doubt that Golden State is dominating the league like no other before them. But then remember that the Spurs are right there with them, flying under the radar. That’s what makes them dangerous. They don’t grab headlines because they play ‘boring’ basketball. But if you take a look at what they’ve accomplished in the Tim Duncan era, you know they will give the Warriors a run for their money. The Spurs and Warriors play next on March 19 in San Antonio and then on April 7 and April 10. What if San Antonio beats Golden State in all three games? That’s a possibility. Remember that Golden State is just 3.5 games up on the Spurs. Unlikely as this may sound to you but the Spurs, like s diesel engine finishing strong, may just spoil the Warriors’ party.
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