The Spurs Can Win It All With The Defense They Have

"It's not great, Tim. But it's good enough." "Thanks, Pop."

An Open Letter To Old School San Antonio Spurs Fans

Dear Sir or Madam,

I too pine for the days when San Antonio's defense played the role of the immovable object in dozens of theoretical, and empirical experiments. Many is the day I've spent in reverie over the confidence I used to have when the Spurs were heading into a game against a team with a league leading offense, knowing that there was no irresistible force extant that could push an MVP-level-Tim-Duncan-led-defense out of the way in a seven game series without extenuating circumstances intervening. (e.g. that .04 shot and the foul-that-never-should-have-been. Sorry, Manu.)

My point in writing my recent piece in the aftermath of the win over the Celtics (yes, despite all 2nd half evidence to the contrary, the Spurs actually did depart Boston's fabled newish Garden victorious) when I said about the Spurs:

This team is an offensive force and there really shouldn’t even be an argument about whether playoff-style basketball will bring the team back to earth.

is NOT that defense doesn't matter in the playoffs. I wasn't arguing that I'm unconcerned about the level of play in their own end of the court. Nor did I imply that a mediocre defense was all that the Spurs would need to traipse all the way to their fifth ring. The road to the championship will always be difficult and no regular season winning streak (or streaks) should ever be taken as proof that the playoffs are a foregone conclusion. No matter how ebullient Fred Silva's praise of the team becomes, or how many times he uses the word destiny.

What I meant is that the game had soothed my doubts about whether San Antonio's offense is capable of surviving and thriving in the pressure packed cauldron of the NBA playoffs. They'd proved that they could deal with an elite defense that was allowed free reign to push them around without fear of hearing a whistle. They took Boston's best defensive shot, delivered their own knockout punch, and walked from the squared circle the court with their arms raised high-fiving each other.

The Spurs offense has shown itself ready for the post-season. There are just too many options to defend. The motion offense opens up so many possibilities. It's too unpredictable to be shut down for long. Even our bigs pass and share the ball to the point that an ad libbed play looks practiced and rehearsed. This is a good thing.

What would make it a great thing, is pairing this offensive prowess with a world-beating defense. But that's not likely to happen. No matter what we remember about the good old days (with apologies to laughter toward Rick Patino) Robert Horry isn't walking through that door. Bruce Bowen isn't walking through that door.

No, we'll have to do with the players the team currently has. And those guys just happen to be better on offense than they are on defense right now. And that's ok. Because the coach of the team is still one Gregg Popovich. And despite his recent comments about what can be expected from the Spurs defense, I don't believe for a moment that he's capable of being satisfied with anything but their absolute best. At both ends of the floor. And the better they are on offense, the more room for error the defense will have. It won't be how it used to be, but I think it can still end with a Larry O'Brien.

We all know the truism that defense wins championships, and I don't deny it. But it's also true that not only elite defenses win championships.

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