The San Antonio Spurs held the offensively efficient Atlanta Hawks to a season low 25 points in the first half on Saturday night. That’s the fewest points that a team has scored in a half all season. While there seems to be a never-ending narrative of how good the Spurs’ defense is, the story of this year's team is not a story of defense alone.
In the shadow of the Spurs suffocating defense is the overlooked fact that the Spurs are 4th in the league in OffRtg (points per 100 possessions), per NBA.com. They are the only team in the league in the top four in both OffRtg and DefRtg, and are slowly catching up the almighty Warriors’ historic NetRtg. The incredible thing is, the Spurs’ offense still has multiple kinks to work out as LaMarcus Aldridge continues to improve, Danny Green attempts to climb out of his shooting slump, and role players search for their niche.
A big piece in the Spurs’ relatively unnoticed efficient offense is the bench. The bench as a whole is essential to either maintaining leads earned by the starters, or to simply turning things around when the first unit can’t seem to get it going. Guys like Patty Mills, Jonathon Simmons, David West, and Kyle Anderson are all coming off the bench to make legitimate contribution, as they all did against the Hawks. What makes them so efficient, though, is the methodical substitutions that Coach Pop makes.
Throughout the season, Pop has played many different first quarter line-ups, from subbing 5-for-5 when the first unit is sloppy, to sprinkling in Manu Ginobili, Boris Diaw, and Patty Mills with other first unit guys. These substitutions are no accident and are anything but random. Pop watches intently to find out who’s doing well and who needs to sit, and that changes on a nightly basis. He’s a wizard when it comes to in-game coaching.
A consistent gem in the Spurs’ second unit has been Manu. Ginobili is having a seemingly out-of-nowhere fantastic season, and while there was speculation through the first dozen or so games about whether or not he could keep it up, he’s proven that he absolutely can. While he’s averaging the least amount of minutes of his career and just a shade under 11 points per game, it’s the intangible spark that he’s so consistently brought to the second unit for his entire career that makes him so valuable.
He can’t do what he used to, and while it may have taken him a couple of years to fully accept that, he’s okay with it now, and uses his high basketball IQ to make the game of basketball easy. He had 17 points on only five shots against the Hawks. He’s truly adapted his game and became wildly efficient on the floor.
Tony Parker is another Spur whose highly efficient season may have come as a surprise to many. He’s shooting a career best field goal percentage, per NBA.com, and has reemerged as a slicing-and-dicing point guard that can carve up opposing defenses and score in the paint.
The Spurs are just playing great basketball across the board, and there isn’t another team that’s doing even close to what they’re doing right now. The off-season acquisitions finding their niche, the suffocating defense, the efficient offense, the emergence of Kawhi, the coaching, the bench play and unlikely production from guys like Simmons and Anderson; All of these things are crucial in accomplishing what these team has set out to do, and that’s to win a championship.
And, all of these played a factor in the Spurs dismantling the Hawks on Saturday night.
The Game in Numbers:
25: The Spurs held the Hawks to 25 first have points with a 13 point first quarter and a 12 point second quarter. The Spurs defense noticeably changes the body language of a team on a nightly basis by simply not letting them score.
+36: Kawhi Leonard had a +36 +/-. I tend to disregard this stat when it comes to the individual, but +36 seems good enough to mention.
0: Boris Diaw was 0-for-4 with zero points on the night, but was the only Spur who didn’t score. Each of the 12 other Spurs scored, even Matt Bonner who knocked down a three in the fourth just to remind the Hawks how badly they were getting beaten.
50: The Spurs shot 50% from three, which hasn’t been the Spurs strong suit so far this year. Manu was a perfect 3-for-3 from downtown and Green and Rasual Butler were both 2-for-3.
2.1: With Saturday’s victory, the Spurs are not 2.1 points behind the Warriors in NetRtg. That number may be skewed due to the demolition of the 76ers, but still impressive nonetheless.
Line of the Night
Kawhi Leonard: 22 points (7-of13), 7-of-7 from FT line, eight rebounds, four assists, five steals. He truly does it all, night in and night out (unless he had eats a bad sandwich).
Atlanta's 25 points in the first half vs. San Antonio are the fewest by any team in a half this season.— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) December 13, 2015
Spurs, btw, are the only team in the NBA to rank in top 4 of both offensive rating and defensive rating.— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) December 13, 2015
Manu Ginobili has passed Terry Porter for #33 in NBA history in three-pointers made. He now has 1,298 career threes, passing Porter's 1,297.— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) December 13, 2015
Spurs take on the Jazz on Monday