Spurs Flying Under the Radar
The Golden State Warriors should be nervous — or at least mildly concerned — about the San Antonio Spurs.
San Antonio could tie Chicago for the second-longest streak in NBA history by defeating the Clippers on Tuesday, Portland on Thursday and Golden State on Saturday. The Spurs, who beat Oklahoma City at home on Saturday and are 3 1/2 games behind the Warriors for the NBA’s best record, are embracing the challenges they will see this week.
At 56-10, and already having clinched a playoff spot, the Spurs have had a really great year so far, despite having been overshadowed by the juggernaut known as the Warriors.
The Spurs have built a culture of winning through discipline, work ethic, excellent coaching, ball movement, and defensive prowess. The Spurs have made it to the NBA playoffs 19 straight seasons and counting. Much like all great leaders, Popovich creates a culture that produces a sustainable superior performance. Watching the Spurs play is like watching the basketball equivalent to watching a well run Broadway show.
The San Antonio Spurs have a reputation of excelling NBA careers. Led by the longest tenured coach in all of the pro sports, the Spurs are excellent in player development when it involves both young, raw talent like Kawhi Leonard and experienced stars like LaMarcus Aldridge and David West. Popovich’s system allows players to fulfill their role efficiently and effectively. The addition of Kevin Martin also proves that point.
Not long ago, Martin was considered one of the league’s most productive and efficient scorers. His career-high came five seasons ago (23.5 points a game) while with the Houston Rockets. He averaged 19.1 points and 20 points a game, respectively, in the past two seasons with the Timberwolves. In his 12 seasons, he has averaged 17.6 points (43.8% shooting overall, 38.5% from three-point range, 87% from the free-throw line), 3.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists.
The Spurs can go big and small when it comes to defending the Warriors. Aldridge and Duncan can work the inside out game, while Green and Leonard could be use to disrupt Curry and Clay.
So much of the Warriors success is predicated off getting points quickly, and more specifically, in transition. If you have watched a Warriors game, then multiple times you’ve seen an outlet pass thrown to Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson that was finished by a transition pull-up three-pointer. Owning the painted area is becoming a lost art in the NBA today with the era of three-point shooting that the Warriors are leading. Nevertheless, the paint is still a crucial part in controlling a basketball game. With Duncan, West and Aldridge, the Spurs can dominate the boards.
Giving Popovich a seven-game series is dangerous. Giving him the time to adjust the opposition’s strength even if it takes an unorthodox approach is a big reason why this Spurs team has continuously contended for championships despite being “too old.” Steph Curry has taken over as the league’s best shooter but Kawhi Leonard has developed into the best defensive player. Leonard’s length, instincts, and footwork make him a matchup nightmare. There are a ton of different approaches that Popovich will come up with to give the Spurs the best possible chance of advancing past the Warriors.
The Newest NBA Rivalry?
If Curry can continue to play at this level for a few more seasons, he will enter the All-Time great discussion because of the way he has changed the game. This could become the next great rivalry for the Spurs. We had the Lakers vs Spurs for so many seasons. The age of the Warriors’ core and how well they fit together means they should be scary for a while. The Spurs are the new New York Yankees. Free agents in this new social media era have no problem playing for a winner in Coach Popovich. The Warriors coach did.