San Antonio Spurs Clinch Playoff Berth After Jazz Loss to Raptors

Alec NathanFeatured ColumnistMarch 2, 2016

Mar 2, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) shoots the ball over Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (0) during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors have dominated headlines all season long, but the San Antonio Spurs have been hot on their tail in a fascinating race for Western Conference superiority.   

Wednesday, the rest of the NBA received a reminder of the Spurs' quiet brilliance when San Antonio clinched a playoff spot by virtue of the Toronto Raptors' 104-94 win over the Utah Jazz

According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Spurs continued their climb up a prestigious list thanks to the achievement:

While flash and pizazz are limited to small quantities in San Antonio, the Spurs (51-9, 29-0 at home) have been ravaging opponents behind the league's stingiest defense and an offense that spreads the floor, picks its spots and scores with bundles of efficiency.

Entering Wednesday night's 97-81 win over the Detroit Pistons, the Spurs led the NBA with a net rating of plus-13.6 points per 100 possessions. That's 1.3 points better than Golden State's mark despite the fact the defending champions have posted an outrageous offensive rating of 112.4. 

The driving force behind San Antonio's efficient display has been a defense that entered Wednesday limiting opponents to 95.7 points per 100 possessions. For a bit of perspective, the Atlanta Hawks rank second with a defensive rating of 99.6. 

NBA's Top Net Ratings (Entering Wednesday)
TeamOffensive RatingDefensive RatingNet Rating
1. San Antonio Spurs109.295.713.6
2. Golden State Warriors112.4100.112.3
3. Oklahoma City Thunder110.1102.87.3
4. Los Angeles Clippers106.4100.56.0
5. Cleveland Cavaliers106.9101.45.5

The man fueling San Antonio's run right beside the Warriors has been superstar swingman Kawhi Leonard, who's evolved into a wrecking ball on both ends of the floor. 

"He's probably the best two-way player in the league now," Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said, per the Associated Press, via USA Today. "You have to deal with him in all kinds of different ways. He's a terror on defense. Offensively he's gotten better and better. It's kind of slowly but surely become his team in a lot of ways."

Beyond his stingy defensive demeanor, Leonard has scorched the nets with a league-best three-point conversion rate of 48.8 percent (entering Wednesday night).

Should he maintain that pace, Leonard could become the first qualified player in league history to average at least 20 points and six rebounds while drilling at least 45 percent of his threes, per

As a point of reference, LeBron James and Michael Jordan both topped 20 points and six boards per game while shooting 40 percent from three during one season each over the course of their careers. 

"He looks phenomenal," Kobe Bryant said, per the Associated Press, via USA Today. "His game has grown leaps and bounds from when he first came in the league. He's done nothing but continued to add. Three-point shot, pull-up shot, left, right, post game, handling the ball. He looks great."

Flanked by Tim Duncan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, David West, Manu Ginobili and a slew of quality role players, the Spurs have the right blend of youth, experience and discipline necessary to push the Warriors come playoff time. 

The idea of dethroning the defending champions is daunting, but if nothing else, the Spurs have proved throughout their dynastic run that they aren't easily shaken. 


Stats courtesy of and