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Spurs' offense too much for Nuggets

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The Nuggets were too dependent on their inside scoring to match the Spurs' more well-rounded attack.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Spurs 109, Nuggets 99 - Jan 20, '15

So this is what it feels like to be on a four-game winning streak. It has been a while, so I didn't remember how great it was to win a few in a row. The last time the Spurs were on a roll was the end of November and the beginning of December before a loss to the Brooklyn Nets, of all teams, snapped an eight-game run. A month from hell followed but the Spurs have now won eight of their last ten after beating the Nuggets in Denver. As the graph above shows, the game was close throughout but the Spurs went on a run at the start of the fourth quarter to secure the result. With (almost) everyone healthy, the Spurs are looking like themselves again.

Four Factors (def.)

Spurs Nuggets
Shooting (eFG%) 48% 50%
Ball Handling (TO%) 16% 17%
Off Rebounding (OR%) 32% 29%
Shooting FTs (FT Rate) 32% 37%

It always shocks me when the Spurs win the offensive rebounding battle and this game was specially strange since both teams got a huge percentage of their misses back. For perspective, the league average on offensive rebounding is 25 percent. The Rockets are leading the league by grabbing 28.3 percent of all offensive rebounds available. The Spurs are one of the worst teams in the league at it, at just 23.3 percent and they beat the Nuggets, who rank eight in the league, at their own game.

Team Stats (Definitions at bottom of post)

Spurs Nuggets
Pace (No. of Possessions) 96.8
Points Per Possession (PPP) 1.13 1.02
Points Per Shot (PPS) 1.30 1.25
2-PT FG% 47.4% 49.2%
3-PT FG% 40.7% 35.7%
FT% 81.5% 69.0%
True Shooting % 56.8% 53.9%
Offensive Rating 111.4 103.4
Defensive Rating 103.4 111.4
Net Rating 8.0 -8.0
Spurs Nuggets
Passes / poss. 3.6 2.7
% of FGA uncontested 56.0% 21.5%
Points in the paint 32 56
Second chance points 13 17
Fast break points 4 12
Spurs Nuggets
Assists 27 26
Steals 10 7
Turnovers 16 16
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
2.31 2.06
Spurs Nuggets
Expected Offensive Rebounds 11.0 10.5
Offensive Rebounds 14 12
Difference 3.0 1.5

The Nuggets pounded the Spurs inside, as the difference in points in the paint show. The shot charts do a beautiful job of illustrating each team's shot selection.

Spurs Shot Chart

Nuggets Shot Chart

The Nuggets took a ton of shots from inside but the Spurs did a great job of contesting, keeping Denver below the league average field goal percentage on shots close to the basket. As we've mentioned many times in Study Hall, the percentage of contested shots often correlates with shots taken close to the rim, as players tend to converge to the paint making open looks inside very rare. This is a prime example. The Spurs had a varied attack that featured close shots but also a large quantity of three-pointers (27 to the Nuggets' 14) and as a result got more open looks and a higher True Shooting percentage.

A curious stat from this game is fastbreak points.There tends to be a correlation between steals and fastbreak points, as most teams that excel at causing those live ball turnovers usually do damage by running. Yet the Spurs had more steals but fewer easy points coming from the break than the Nuggets.

Because those stats stood out to me so much, I went back and re-watched the Spurs' steals looking for the reasons why they didn't translate into points. First, the big men accounted for five of the 10 steals, meaning they couldn't start the break on their own. The Nuggets should really be commended by their transition defense, as they were at least two guys back on most transition opportunities. There was also some bad luck involved, with some good shots not falling but there was also some bad execution by the Spurs, as these plays demonstrate:

Kawhi bad fastbreak

Kawhi should have passed the ball as this was a clear cut two-on-one opportunity. He didn't and ended up missing.

Mills bad pass ahead

Here the pass ahead is not precise. Joseph barely saves it from going out of bounds.

It's nothing to worry about but the Spurs could stand to improve their execution on the break. They average only 10 fastbreak points a game, the fifth worse mark in the league, which is understandable since creating turnovers is not their style. But when they do get the opportunities, they should make them count.

Players (Definitions at bottom of post, columns sortable)


Kawhi Leonard 31 21.2 0.69 17 Pts (6-13 FG, 3-6 3PT, 2-2 FT) 15 Reb (3 Off), 3 Ast, 1 Blk, 2 Stl, 2 TO, 4 PF 23% 50% 118.7 107.8 11.0
Tony Parker 32 17.6 0.56 18 Pts (8-16 FG, 1-1 3PT, 1-2 FT) 4 Reb (1 Off), 7 Ast, 1 TO, 2 PF 25% 58% 112.6 109.7 2.8
Tim Duncan 29 17.2 0.60 16 Pts (6-10 FG, 4-4 FT) 5 Reb (3 Off), 2 Ast, 1 Blk, 2 Stl, 3 TO, 3 PF 21% 57% 92.4 100.7 -8.3
Aron Baynes 15 15.0 0.98 15 Pts (3-3 FG, 9-9 FT) 4 Reb (1 Off), 1 Blk, 3 TO, 3 PF 27% 76% 116.1 102.0 14.1
Tiago Splitter 18 11.2 0.64 6 Pts (2-4 FG, 2-2 FT) 3 Reb (3 Off), 1 Ast, 1 Blk, 2 Stl, 1 PF 12% 71% 108.6 106.4 2.1
Manu Ginobili 24 10.6 0.44 11 Pts (4-12 FG, 1-4 3PT, 2-6 FT) 4 Reb (1 Off), 8 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 TO, 3 PF 29% 48% 120.7 96.7 24.0
Boris Diaw 27 8.4 0.31 10 Pts (4-8 FG, 2-5 3PT ) 3 Reb (0 Off), 2 Ast, 1 Blk, 1 Stl, 2 TO, 3 PF 17% 44% 132.8 104.8 27.9
Patty Mills 15 6.5 0.43 6 Pts (2-3 FG, 2-3 3PT ) 1 Reb (1 Off), 1 Ast, 2 PF 8% 73% 112.7 96.6 16.0
Cory Joseph 12 0.7 0.06 2 Pts (1-2 FG, ) 1 Reb (0 Off), 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 TO, 1 PF 14% 29% 99.2 93.5 5.7
Danny Green 31 0.4 0.01 6 Pts (2-12 FG, 2-8 3PT ) 2 Reb (1 Off), 2 Ast, 1 Blk, 1 Stl, 1 TO, 3 PF 18% 22% 104.9 112.1 -7.2
Matt Bonner 6 0.2 0.04 2 Pts (0-1 FG, 2-2 FT) 1 Reb (0 Off), 1 TO, 1 PF 21% 40% 93.5 78.4 15.2
Jeff Ayres 0 0.0 0.00 0 Pts , 0% 0% 0.0 0.0 0.0
JaMychal Green 1 -0.1 -0.11 0 Pts 1 Reb (0 Off), 1 PF 0% 0% 69.4 79.8 -10.3

Show Nuggets Players

It's so good to have Kawhi Leonard back. He led all Spurs in Adjusted Game Score in large part thanks to a monster night on the glass. He also fueled the run that sealed the win. Leonard's versatility really makes him the most important player on the floor for the Spurs on most games, as he can do a bit of everything at a high level and single-handedly change the momentum of games in a way only Manu Ginobili can match.

Another great game for Aron Baynes, who had 15 points in 15 minutes. The Big Banger has really solidify his spot in the rotation. He was a force inside, drawing nine free throws and nailing them all. All the bigs played well, which is always great to see.

Spurs Index: 109.3 (def.)

Factor Value Score
Passing (AST%) 71.1% 34.3
Shooting (eFG%) 48.2% 18.0
Defensive Rebounding (DReb%) 71.4% 18.7
Defense (DefRtg) 103.4 19.4
Opponent % of FGA Uncontested 21.5% 19.0
Total 109.3

Nuggets Spurs Index: 95.5 Show Breakdown

Great passing leading to 71 percent of buckets being assisted and fantastic shot-contesting were enough to make this game Spurs-y despite a below-average effort on the defensive glass.

The Spurs will take on the Chicago Bulls on Thursday. San Antonio could extend its streak to five with a road win against the Bulls. They are catching Chicago at a perfect time, since the Bulls have lost four of the last five but they will go into the game after enjoying two days off. It should be a tough one.



eFG%: Effective Field Goal percentage. (via) Effective Field Goal Percentage; the formula is (FG + 0.5 * 3P) / FGA. This statistic adjusts for the fact that a 3-point field goal is worth one more point than a 2-point field goal. For example, suppose Player A goes 4 for 10 with 2 threes, while Player B goes 5 for 10 with 0 threes. Each player would have 10 points from field goals, and thus would have the same effective field goal percentage (50%).

AdjGS: a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds. It takes points, assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls into account to determine an individual's "score" for a given game. The "adjustment" in Adjusted Game Score is simply matching the total game scores to the total points scored in the game, thereby redistributing the game's points scored to those who had the biggest impact on the game itself, instead of just how many balls a player put through a basket.

Usage%: This "estimates the % of team possessions a player consumes while on the floor" (via). The usage of those possessions is determined via a formula using field goal and free throw attempts, offensive rebounds, assists and turnovers. The higher the number, the more prevalent a player is (good or bad) in a team's offensive outcome.

Floor%: Via Floor % answers the question, "when Player X uses a possession, what is the probability that his team scores at least 1 point?". The higher the Floor%, the more frequently the team probably scores when the given player is involved.

Offensive Rating (offRtg): Points per 100 possessions.

Defensive Rating (defRtg): Points allowed per 100 possessions.

Spurs Index: The Spurs Index © is a just-for-fun formula that attempts to quantify just how "Spursy" a particular game is, based off averages for the 2013-2014 regular season. A perfectly average game would have a Spurs Index of 100. The formula consists of four factors which the Spurs are known for and lead or nearly lead the league in: Shooting (effective Field Goal %), Passing (Assist percentage), Defensive Rebounding Rate, and Defensive Rating. These metrics are weighted as follows:

Factor Weight Average
Passing (AST%) 30% 62.1%
Shooting (eFG%) 20% 53.7%
Defensive Rebounding (DReb%) 20% 76.4%
Defense (DefRtg) 20% 100.1
Opponent % of FGA Uncontested 10% 40.8%
The values for each metric are determined based on how a particular game's performance compares to the Spurs 2013-2014 regular season average for that metric. For instance, the average effective Field Goal percentage for 2013-2014 was 53.7%. So if the Spurs shot 60% in a given game, the score for eFG% would be calculated by: (0.6 / 0.537) * 20, which would yield a "score" for that factor of 22.3.

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