This past Thursday, the San Antonio Spurs showed they are for real.
As was demonstrated to Phil Jackson and the Los Angeles Lakers, the Spurs are a serious threat to ending any possibilities of a 3-peat for the Lakers this year. Besides the thrilling buzzer beater win in the Staples Center, the Spurs pose to be a much bigger thorn in the Lakers' side for more than one reason.
The following is the top four reasons why they could dethrone the champs.
The Spurs are currently the owners of the NBA's best record at 43-8.
I know, it's the regular season. Who cares right? Well let me tell you why you should.
- Out of the last 7 teams to reach 40 wins as fast as the Spurs have, 6 of them have gone on to win the NBA championship.
- The two-time defending champions Lakers now have two times as many loses as the Spurs at 16.
- The Spurs are the best team at home this season with only two losses. At this rate, they will clinch home court advantage for the entire playoffs, including the NBA finals.
Well Spurs coach Greg Popovich probably isn't either. While this might be the best team he has had in his 15 years as head coach of the Spurs, it's also the oldest team, and he's been mindful of managing his stars' minutes. Moreover, his star players did not play summer ball this season, which has definitely made them fresher this year.
Is it any surprise that Spurs CEO Peter Holt struck gold again in drafting quality players to supplement the aging Big 3 of the Spurs, Parker, Duncan, and Ginobili?
Let me remind you of the two best bargains acquired so far, who are currently starters for the Spurs and are arguably future Hall of Famers.
- Manu Ginobili: 2nd round (28th pick, 57th overall), 1999 NBA Draft
- Tony Parker: 1st round (28th pick, 28th overall), 2001 NBA Draft
And now for our bench.
- George HIll: 1st round (26th pick, 26th overall), 2008 NBA Draft
- DeJuan Blair: 2nd round (7th pick, 37th overall), 2009 NBA Draft
- Gary Neal: Signed this summer after a great Summer League season and playing his last three seasons in Europe.
Gary Neal will be joining DeJuan Blair in this year's All-Star Rookie/Sophomore game. They are two huge reasons why the Spurs are so successful. Blair currently leads the Spurs in offensive rebounds with 129 this year, while Gary Neal is a threat behind the arc and third in three points made on the team behind Manu Ginobili and Richard Jefferson.
This Spurs team has been completely different than any of the teams in past.
While defense is always emphasized by Coach Pop, it is the offense that has set this team apart from the others and is a huge reason behind their new found success. The Spurs are currently averaging 103.7 points per game, which is 6th in the NBA.
I'll break down how this year is different.
- The days of throwing the ball into Tim Duncan are over. While the Spurs still have this option available and will use it time to time, they have drifted away from using Timmy as their primary option on offense. The priority has now been given to the other 2 stars, Ginobili and Parker, who are responsible for not only creating their own shot, but dishing out assists and setting up their role players as well.
- The Spurs are no longer a half-court team, having put more emphasis on a faster pace. They will push the pace as fast as it can go and can run with any of the teams in the league. The Spurs are top 10 in field goals attempted, which can be attributed to their quicker pace up and down the court.
- Three pointers! The Spurs are 3rd in the league in 3-point percentage. This is huge when you have a big inside presence, such as Duncan, and clutch basket drivers like Ginobili and Parker who can collapse the defense and dish out to the 3-point specialists.
Yes, I am knocking on wood while writing this last reason.
This is BY FAR the most important for the success of this team. While the only injury at the moment is to current 3-point specialist, Matt Bonner, the Spurs have been extremely healthy this season. Since they are one of the oldest teams in the league, it is important that Coach Pop manages his players wisely. The Spurs stars have, for the most part, taken a cut in their minutes to minimize fatigue and injury.
Most notably Tim Duncan, who plays under 30 minutes a game.
However, at limited minutes, he is still effective with 13.5 points and 9.3 rebounds a game, which is enough to make his 14th All-Star appearance this year in Los Angeles. When one considers all these facts, it is important to realize that Duncan is nearing 35 in April.
Could this be Timmy's last stand?
If it is, it is shaping out to be a good one.