After much scrutiny throughout the first half of the season of whether or not they have what it takes to make another Western Conference Championship run, the Spurs are proving they are still a top-tier competitor out West. Not only have they proven their worth yet again, San Antonio is making a strong argument as to why they should be favored to reach the Finals yet again.
Sporting a league-wide high win streak of 17 games and counting, the Spurs have figured out how to get all of their gears oiled up and churning efficiently in preparation of the playoffs.
With this being their second 10+ win streak of their season, it’s safe to say the Spurs are far from a fluke top seed out West. But what exactly is their method to this maddening consistency? I’ve come up with 3 key factors that the Spurs have honed in on that has been paying plentiful dividends for the better part of the last two months.
1. Balanced Scoring
In this 17-game outburst of efficient production, this San Antonio team has done something that I truly believe could never happen on any other team in the NBA. Throughout the streak, SEVEN different players have led the team in scoring on the final box score.
Not only does this show the plethora of scoring options that the Spurs have, but also how willing and able each player is to step up and shoulder the scoring responsibility on any given night. On teams like OKC and Miami, it is virtually predetermined that one of their two main offensive options will lead the team in scoring; that’s just how their offenses run.
In San Antonio, however, the offense is based heavily on motion and spacing, giving any player the opportunity to score in bunches if they can consistently shake their defender off the ball. The Spurs starters and bench alike have made it clear that they have now mastered this offense, proving that if they’re getting minutes, any one of the players on the floor can hit you for 15+ points.
2. Minutes Management
On this, the team where Father Time always seems to be the toughest opponent in the eyes of the critics, Coach Popovich has proven yet again that he knows exactly how to maximize the production of his aging roster. During the streak, only one player, Kawhi Leonard, is averaging over 30 minutes played per game.
There isn’t too much analysis behind this factor, only that Popovich continues to be the king of gamesmanship. He has had this core group of Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili with him for over a decade, so he has come to know the limits of their bodies even better than they do themselves it seems.
This extra rest will continue to benefit San Antonio as the season winds to a close.
3. Assists, Assists, Assists
During the streak, San Antonio is dishing out a whopping 29 assists per game. Comparatively, the Spurs are giving almost 7 more helpers a game than 2nd place OKC.
Sure, OKC is a much more isolation based offense; after all, they do have two of the best scorers in the league. What could prove to be OKC’s downfall come playoff time, however, is their utter reliance on the scoring efforts of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. If one or both players struggle on any given night, there may just be too much slack to make up from the team’s role players, giving a balanced and pass-happy team like San Antonio a clear advantage.
This increased assist production has in turn led to an overall increase in offense as well. At 111.7 points per game, San Antonio is leading the league in scoring throughout this stretch of victories, which has also led to their average 16 point advantage over their adversaries.
Any way you look at it, the Spurs have emerged as one of, if not the, top contenders in the NBA.