The San Antonio Spurs don't place a premium on regular-season goals, yet they always seem to handle these 82-game treks better than the rest.
The 2013-14 season has been no exception. Despite coach Gregg Popovich's ongoing efforts to limit the wear and tear on his aging stars through minutes reductions and rest nights, the Spurs still clinched the NBA's best record with Friday's 112-104 come-from-behind win over the Phoenix Suns.
San Antonio (62-18) officially locked up home-court advantage throughout the 2014 postseason.
"It's a big plus," Danny Green, who scored a career-high 33 points in the win, said, via Raul Dominguez of The Associated Press. "It's not something we were focused on, but we know it will help us. We'll be at home for most of the playoffs. The biggest thing for us is to stay healthy and to build chemistry."
You have to wonder what chemistry could be left to build at this point.
The Spurs have impressed even by their own lofty standards. Not only do they own the NBA's top efficiency rating by a comfortable margin (plus-8.6 points per 100 possessions), they're also on pace to set a new franchise record in winning percentage (.775).
The success isn't accidental—you'd be hard-pressed to find a better-run franchise across the world of professional sports—but it's not quite intentional, either.
San Antonio treats the regular season like a developmental tool, constantly searching for avenues toward internal improvement. Sometimes, that process leads to something special (the Spurs ran a 19-game winning streak into the month of April), but the results aren't used as a measuring stick.
"Records and strings, they don’t mean anything,” Popovich said, via Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders. “What we care about each game is how well we play. If that’s your goal and focus, usually that will bring more wins than losses considering everything else to be equal."
The Spurs don't scoreboard watch or waste time going over the standings. They focus on what they're doing and ways to make it better.
I bet San Antonio thinks this Heat-Pacers battle for the 1-seed is just adorable. Spurs clinched home court throughout the playoffs tonight.— Jason Lieser (@PBPjasonlieser) April 12, 2014
The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Or, in this case, in those league-best 62 wins.
This is a time-tested strategy backed up by nothing less than four championship titles. As long as San Antonio's system is operating smoothly, it doesn't matter what's happening around it.
"The Spurs have created a reality in which seeing them succumb to a challenge is the thing that’s scarce, and thus more notable," Grantland's Netw3rk wrote. "It’s a reality in which regular-season games are simply things to be endured with as little taxation of the players’ bodies as possible."
It's also a reality that doesn't exist outside the Alamo City. Not even with the roots of Pop's coaching tree extending all across the basketball community:
Teams can try to emulate the Spurs, but there's just no way copy them.
Now that San Antonio has officially mastered its latest regular-season journey, the real fun can start. Don't let the results fool you—the Spurs haven't yet put on their running shoes.