Thursday, May 31, 2012

Geek Out Stat: Spur of the Moment

     The San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo takes place annually around the middle of February. The two-week event is held at the AT&T Center, which is where the San Antonio Spurs call home. Led by future Hall of Fame center Tim Duncan, the Spurs are running rampart on the NBA like a rodeo bull and their current run has the sports world buzzing. San Antonio is currently 10-0 in the 2012 playoffs in which they made easy work of the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers. This includes a comeback from a 24-point deficit which saw the Clippers manhandling the Spurs 33-11 in the 1st quarter of Game 3 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals. Their undefeated postseason run is actually an extension of their current 20-game win streak. San Antonio hasn't lost since April 11 when the Lakers trumped them at home 98-84. The Spurs have currently backed the Oklahoma City Thunder into a 2-0 hole now, even though Game 3 at Oklahoma City on Thursday will indeed be San Antonio's toughest test of the year.
     But as head coach Gregg Popovich said of the current run: "That's the least of our worries." (ESPN)
     Believe it or not, San Antonio is winning basketball games in a very unorthodox fashion. Or at least by the Spurs standards. San Antonio has garnered a reputation amongst the sports world as a team that has won four championships with solid defense and rebounding. The Spurs averaged 43 rebounds a game as a team this year, which is ninth best in the NBA. From 1999 to 2009, San Antonio has allowed an average of 89.5 points per game and have finished in the top 3 in this category. In fact, they've led the league in PPG allowed for four seasons (1999-2000, 2003-2004, 2004-2005 and 2006-2007).
     Ironically enough, San Antonio's first NBA title came in 1999 in a strike-shortened season. The "Twin Towers" David Robinson and Tim Duncan manned the team to a similar run to the Spurs' current run, going 11-1 during the 1999 postseason against the Western Conference. They proceeded to beat the upstart eighth seed New York Knicks in the NBA Finals 4-1. They went on to win three more NBA championships, even sweeping LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2007.
     But now, the Spurs are beating to a different drum. Popovich implored his Spurs squad to "get nasty" and put the nail in the coffin of Kevin Durant and the Thunder. San Antonio finished second (Denver was first) in the NBA in scoring this year, averaging 103.7 points a game. The funny thing about this stat is that both Denver and San Antonio didn't have a player that averaged at least 19 points in 2011-2012. The reason? They play and score like a team. Denver not only led the league in team scoring during the strike-shortened season, but they were tops in team assists per game with 24. The Spurs were fourth in the NBA in this category with 23.2 assists per game with Tony Parker finishing fourth on an individual basis with 7.1 assists per game. Parker was one of four Spurs to average more than ten points a game this season, leading San Antonio with 18.3 PPG. The other three were Duncan (15.4), Manu Ginobili (12.9) and PG Patrick Mills (10.3). Parker, Duncan and Ginobili have revved up their offensive game during the playoffs. They've scored more this postseason (17 PPG) than during the 2011-2012 regular season (15.5 PPG). If you thought San Antonio was scary during the regular season, look at them now.
     But the reason why Denver couldn't even make it out of the first round (They did give Kobe Bryant and the Lakers a lot of hell, though) is that the Nuggets are notorious for not defending anybody. Denver was 29th in PPG allowed with 101.2 points. Now the Spurs may have slipped a bit on defense as well, but they finished 16th in the NBA, allowing a respectable 96.5 PPG. The Nuggets' leader in blocks per game this year was center Javele McGee with 2.2 BPG. This is the same Javele McGee who had a tough time posting up a 5'9" Isaiah Thomas. As for San Antonio, their team leader in said category was Tim Duncan. Now the Wake Forest alum might have not posted as good of a number as McGee (Duncan averaged 1.5 BPG), but Duncan's career average is 2.5.
     I made a post about LeBron, Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat and how this could be the year that LeBron sheds the growing "No NBA Title" monkey off his back. But if Miami does return to the NBA Finals, they could be looking in the eyes of a hungry San Antonio Spurs team. Because Tim Duncan and the Spurs won't rest until they've won one for the thumb.

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