Between 60-point games, injuries (90% of which take place in Cleveland, apparently), and LeBron possibly taking his talents elsewhere again, this NBA season seems to have plenty to keep the media busy and the fans entertained. Under all of the regular fluff and focus on Golden State, one team is doing something pretty remarkable. Despite playing without their franchise player, the San Antonio Spurs are hanging with the very best of the NBA, and it seems that nobody is talking about it.
Currently 4 games behind Houston for second place in the West, San Antonio continues to prove that they’re the Patriots of the NBA. Think about it, it works. They have a surly and iconic coach whose media interactions are less than cuddly, a fistful of NBA championships in recent history, and a system that transcends any superstar.
When Tim Duncan left, it officially signaled the end of the most discreet Big 3 in NBA history. With Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili clearly on the backside of their careers, the reins of the franchise were, supposedly, handed to Kawhi Leonard. Some expected a lull in the Spurs’ success while they worked to put some pieces around Kawhi, but with a season and a half between the team and Duncan, they haven’t missed a beat.
The success can be attributed to a number of things: LaMarcus Aldridge has stepped up and shouldered a good amount of the scoring, averaging 22.8 points per game this season. Rudy Gay hasn’t completely been the bust many expected him to be when he was acquired from Sacramento, and bench production has stayed where they need it despite the departure of Jonathon Simmons. Essentially, everyone is doing their job; a well-known mantra of the New England Patriots.
“They just for 48 minutes played consistently,” said Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis after a recent loss to the Spurs. “They talk on defense. And they also know when they need to push the pace and when they need to slow it down.”
There’s no LeBron James on the court to overpower opposing players. Apart from Kawhi, nobody really makes high-flying plays to wow the crowd. Duncan’s nickname perhaps applies to the Spurs as a whole: “The Big Fundamental”. The rank 27th in the NBA in scoring with 100.9 points per game, but lead the league in defense, allowing just 97.5 points from opponents. In a league addicted to offense and high-scoring, the Spurs are truly keeping it old school and winning in and old fashioned, even boring way. It seems that guys like Aldridge drop 30 in a game out of necessity more than anything as teams continue to score more and more. Duncan himself averaged only (relative term) 19 points per for his career. In the end, however, there’s nothing boring about a win, and they’re winning plenty.
Tonight, the Spurs go head-to-head with one of those high-scoring superstars in James Harden with his Houston Rockets. Very few will buy tickets to this game to watch defense be played, but that’s what they’re going to see. One of the quietest teams in the NBA is also one of its best, and it’s not a crime to take a look their way before the Playoffs come around.