FanPost

Putting the 2011 season in perspective.

As a beginning caveat, this is only putting 2011 in perspective in terms of basketball facts and knowledge. This doesn't even begin to get into things like the Libya crisis, the Japan catastrophe, or any of the myriad of more important things that put our collective investment in sports in a rather sad light. But we probably should ignore that, because that's a rather messy little subject and not really relevant -- there are many reasons we shouldn't focus on sports so much and many reasons why it makes perfect sense to do so. This is just to put the basketball facts in perspective and hopefully get some of us off the ledge a tad and positive about our team again.

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The 2011 Spurs vs the field

The Spurs currently have won 57 games and lost 16 games. They are 4 games ahead of the Lakers for the #1 seed in the west, and 3.5 games ahead of the Bulls for the #1 seed overall. With only 9 games remaining in the season (10 for the Bulls), both teams stand a very slim shot at passing the Spurs for either #1 seed. To put in perspective how unlikely getting passed is at this point in the season, consider the following.

The Spurs need to be 4 games worse than the Lakers in the remaining 9 games, for us to merely tie them in the standings. Which means, for the curious, the following. If the Spurs go anything 6-3 or better, the Lakers cannot possibly tie their record. If the Spurs go 5-4, the Lakers need to go 9-0. If the Spurs go 4-5, the Lakers need to go 8-1 or 9-0. If the Spurs go 3-6, the Lakers need to go 7-2 to 9-0. Spurs 2-7, Lakers 6-3 to 9-0. Spurs 1-8, Lakers 5-4 to 9-0. Spurs 0-9, Lakers 4-5 to 9-0. But all of those record comparisons merely tie the two teams. 

In terms of tiebreakers, if the Spurs win an important game @LAL near the end of the season, the Lakers will lose the tiebreaker outright, and you need to add one Laker win to each of the above calculations, because they’ll only top us if they have an outright better record in that particular case. If the Lakers do win that game, the tiebreaker goes to higher winning % against conference foes — the Spurs have a healthy 4 game lead in this category as well, so it’s again unlikely the Lakers would win that tiebreaker barring a catastrophic collapse on the part of our Spurs.

And what if we do go 0-9? Well, we aren't actually all that badly off even if that was to happen and we ended the season on an unprecedented 12 game losing streak. The Spurs have won enough games that they've clinched no worse than a 4 seed in the playoffs this year -- a rather impressive accomplishment, all things considered, given that we barely made the playoffs a year ago. And realistically, given the difficulty of the schedules left, only 2 western teams have a good chance of passing 57 wins -- the Lakers and the Mavs. So even at 0-9 we'd almost certainly end up with a top 3 seed, and maybe even maintain the 2 seed. Not to mention that Boston and Orlando probably won't make 57 wins this season given their current position, meaning that if we were to make the finals despite finishing on our 12 game losing streak, we wouldn't necessarily be knocked out of finals HCA either.

 

The 2011 Spurs vs their historical brethren

So, now that we've established that our current swoon is probably going to turn out fine going into the playoffs, how about where this particular Spurs team stacks up compared to the franchise history? Very favorably, as it turns out. Even if the Spurs were to finish the season 0-9 (a potentiality I'm pretty sure everyone can agree is completely ridiculous), they'd finish tied as the 9th best record in the history of the franchise. The numbers go up rather quickly, too. Pro-rating 1999 so that the season counts as 61-21 season (what that win% would be over a whole season), here's where this season would rank in Spurs history depending on how we do over the last 9 games:

  • 2011 Spurs finish 1-8 ; 58-24, tied for 7th best regular season record in franchise history.
  • 2011 Spurs finish 2-7 ; 59-23, tied for 5th best regular season record in franchise history.
  • 2011 Spurs finish 3-6 ; 60-22, tied for 4th best regular season record in franchise history.
  • 2011 Spurs finish 4-5 ; 61-21, tied for 3rd best regular season record in franchise history.
  • 2011 Spurs finish 5-4 ; 62-20, tied for 2nd best regular season record in franchise history.
  • 2011 Spurs finish 6-3 ; 63-19, tied for the absolute best regular season record in franchise history.
  • 2011 Spurs finish 7-2, 8-1, or 9-0 ; 66-64 wins, best regular season record in franchise history.

Pretty favorably, huh? I thought so too. If the Spurs have a winning record over the next 9 games, they'll have 2nd or 1st best record in the history of the franchise -- and Tim's best regular season of his career. But regular season success doesn't mean anything! What about our championship runs, Doc? We stack up pretty favorably there, too, and not just in wins. For your perusal, a table (parenthetical numbers indicate league rank):

YEAR

SRS

ORtg

DRtg

Playoff Seed

2011

6.06 (4)

111.5 (3)

105.1 (8)

#1

2007 (58 wins)

8.35 (1)

109.2 (5)

99.9 (2)

#3

2005 (59 wins)

7.83 (1)

107.5 (8)

98.8 (1)

#2

2003 (60 wins)

5.65 (3)

105.6 (7)

99.7 (3)

#1

1999 (61 wins*)

7.12 (1)

104.0 (11)

95.0 (1)

#1

What's the takeaway? Well, first off, this team -- even with this swoon -- still has a better SRS and a better general profile than the 2003 team. And even though we're #4 now, we've spent all but the last few weeks at #1 or #2 in SRS, #1 or #2 in ORtg, and anywhere from 5 to 9 in DRtg. We will, barring a collapse that makes us have no shot of winning a title in the first place, have the advantage the 2007/2005 teams didn't of having guaranteed homecourt through the playoffs -- whereas in 2007 and 2005 we had to beat a (frankly) pretty tough Phoenix team on the road.

Obviously, this all means nothing if the team can't get it done. But we're going to have homecourt, which was incredibly valuable to our 2003 team. That team beat two teams with superior SRS ratings in tough grinds. We won both on the road, but we had one home game cushion for a potential game 7, in case something ridiculous *cough .4 shot?? cough* happened to force a 7th. Homecourt is extremely advantageous if you're technically the "weaker" team. We will, barring a meltdown, maintain that.

... sounds good. So what's the point, Doc?

Generally just to calm down. We've missed our defensive anchor for the last 4 games, but we've gone on the road and played 3 strong playoff teams close. We had a chance to win in the 4th during every single one of those games, and basically took two of them to the last possession -- both against extremely hot teams. The other team has had our number in matchups throughout the season, did we really think we were going to do better when you take out one of our three best players? Pop, Manu, and Tim have stated pretty emphatically that barring a catastrophe everybody is going to be healthy going into the playoffs. Tiago is getting his reps, and he's starting to round into form as a possible x-factor and a combo-breaker versus the Lakers and the Thunder.

There are definitely reasons to be worried about this Spurs team. The team D has been pretty poor since the all-star break and our bench production, with the exception of Neal, has been rather spotty since Bonner and Hill went into their slumps. Right now, yes, we look like a worse team than the Lakers, and we look like a worse team than the Bulls. But we've beaten both of those teams this season -- Lakers in a 15 point rout (and a tight game in Staples to end a long Laker winning streak) and Chicago in a 9 point win where we came back from down 15. We can play with -- and defeat -- these teams, if we're playing our best. We've shown that. Now it's just a matter of sustaining our best and ramping back into form at the end of a long season.

And even if we don't? This is one of the best seasons in franchise history. We can whine about the refs losing us a game or bemoan the fact that we're getting completely disrespected. Are those things true? Sure, to some degree. But we're really watching something special, and letting ourselves get bogged down in minutiae like that is really uncalled for. We're not a bad team. We're one of the best teams in the history of the franchise, so far.

And honestly? We'd probably do well to start treating them that way.

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