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Spurs master Hawks in every phase of the game

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Spurs East proved to still be a young pupil when matched up against the mighty masters of the craft. A deeper look inside the numbers of the Spurs big win over Atlanta.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Spurs 114, Hawks 95 - Mar 22, '15

Somewhere around late December, we Spurs fans found ourselves rationalizing the worst month of the Duncan era. We pointed to the packed schedule, an improbable glut of visiting contenders and an injury list that seemingly spanned the entire lineup.  Over the next two months to start 2015, San Antonio showed occasional flashes of Spursy-ness to tease an increasingly nervous fanbase, but it wasn't until dropping an uncompetitive game against the Blazers in late February that the narrative truly started to turn. Since that game, the Spurs have pranced relatively unscathed through a streak of opponents who have, for the most part, been preoccupied with making vacation plans for early May.

It's been a nice stretch of wins, but there have been no *signature* victories.  You know... the type where the Spurs take a team with dreams of contention and methodically shred, stomp and eviscerate all those gauzy visions of the Larry O'Brien Trophy dancing in the eyes of the also-rans. The loss to the Cavs was, in it's own statistically outlier-ish way, more encouraging than many of the preceding wins, but this past Sunday saw the Spurs put together their first end-to-end truly dominant win against a contending team since 2014.

Atlanta has had its share of struggles recently, but they, along with the Cavs, represent the cream of the Eastern conference and strong showings against both the Cavs and the high-octane Hawks goes a long ways toward establishing that the Spur's late season revival isn't just the result of a creampuff stretch in the schedule.

Four Factors (def.)

Spurs Hawks
Shooting (eFG%) 58% 55%
Ball Handling (TO%) 17% 20%
Off Rebounding (OR%) 30% 15%
Shooting FTs (FT Rate) 21% 9%

Unsurprisingly, the Spurs turnaround coincides with a stretch of relatively good health for the boys in black; Tony's ability to score one-on-one when the opponent's defense tightens up has started to come out of hibernation, and (perhaps more importantly), Tiago is once again playing like Tiago on defense. Splitter has been running the high-low with Duncan to near perfection and put up a season-high 23 points against a normally solid Atlanta interior defense. A deeper look into the game's statistics show that the Spurs's domination of the Hawks spread across all facets of the game; the Spurs outshot, out-rebounded and out-handled the Hawks. From the very get go, the Spurs jumped out to a 26-6 lead, and every Hawks run was answered by one Spur or another, whether it was Bellinelli in the second, or Diaw in the fourth.

Team Stats (Definitions at bottom of post)

Spurs Hawks
Pace (No. of Possessions) 95.8
Points Per Possession (PPP) 1.19 0.99
Points Per Shot (PPS) 1.39 1.19
2-PT FG% 60.0% 46.4%
3-PT FG% 41.2% 50.0%
FT% 88.2% 100.0%
True Shooting % 63.7% 57.2%
Offensive Rating 119.4 98.9
Defensive Rating 98.9 119.4
Net Rating 20.5 -20.5
Spurs Hawks
Passes / poss. 3.8 3.0
% of FGA uncontested 37.8% 38.8%
Points in the paint 60 44
Second chance points 14 7
Fast break points 17 14
Spurs Hawks
Assists 30 25
Steals 8 13
Turnovers 16 18
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
2.38 2.11
Spurs Hawks
Expected Offensive Rebounds 8.3 9.8
Offensive Rebounds 10 6
Difference 1.7 -3.8

Aside from 3pt% and FT%, the Spurs dominated every offensive facet of the game, with the starters putting up an insane efficiency differential of nearly 35 points per 100 possessions, including an early first quarter stretch featuring 10 straight made field-goals. The tandem of Tiago and Timmy dominated the interior, as the Spurs scored 60 inside points to Atlanta's 44.

Spurs Shot Chart

Hawks Shot Chart

Players (Definitions at bottom of post, columns sortable)


Kawhi Leonard 32 23.1 0.73 20 Pts (8-14 FG, 1-3 3PT, 3-4 FT) 10 Reb (1 Off), 7 Ast, 4 Stl, 4 TO, 2 PF 28% 55% 108.6 82.6 26.0
Tiago Splitter 27 22.7 0.84 23 Pts (10-14 FG, 3-4 FT) 8 Reb (5 Off), 2 Ast, 2 TO, 1 PF 28% 67% 130.0 86.5 43.5
Tim Duncan 31 18.5 0.59 12 Pts (5-10 FG, 2-2 FT) 7 Reb (1 Off), 7 Ast, 4 Blk, 1 Stl, 1 TO, 2 PF 17% 63% 126.2 93.9 32.3
Danny Green 33 14.7 0.44 15 Pts (5-11 FG, 3-5 3PT, 2-2 FT) 7 Reb (0 Off), 3 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 TO, 1 PF 18% 54% 132.4 98.0 34.4
Marco Belinelli 24 13.1 0.53 13 Pts (4-7 FG, 2-4 3PT, 3-3 FT) 5 Reb (1 Off), 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 TO, 1 PF 20% 58% 120.4 119.8 0.7
Boris Diaw 22 12.4 0.56 17 Pts (8-10 FG, 1-2 3PT ) 2 Reb (0 Off), 2 Ast, 3 TO, 3 PF 28% 61% 123.0 116.6 6.4
Tony Parker 30 7.2 0.24 8 Pts (3-6 FG, 2-2 FT) 1 Reb (0 Off), 5 Ast, 2 TO, 1 PF 13% 57% 133.8 91.9 41.9
Matt Bonner 5 1.5 0.29 2 Pts (1-3 FG, 0-1 3PT ) 2 Reb (2 Off), 1 PF 27% 34% 66.7 95.8 -29.1
Kyle Anderson 3 1.5 0.44 2 Pts (1-2 FG, ) 1 Reb (0 Off), 29% 51% 100.0 107.5 -7.5
Reggie Williams 3 1.1 0.34 2 Pts (1-2 FG, 0-1 3PT ) , 29% 51% 100.0 107.5 -7.5
Cory Joseph 5 0.7 0.13 0 Pts , 1 Stl, 1 PF 0% 0% 120.0 128.6 -8.6
Aron Baynes 7 -1.1 -0.16 0 Pts , 1 TO 7% 0% 75.1 115.4 -40.3
Patty Mills 16 -1.2 -0.08 0 Pts (0-3 FG, 0-1 3PT ) , 2 Ast, 1 PF 9% 25% 86.1 102.1 -16.0

Show Hawks Players

Here, in the player's individual efficiency numbers, we start to see some reason for concern.  As dominant as the starters were, the Spur's bench just barely held their own, as only Marco and Boris registered positive differentials. This is typical of most team's playoff rotations, where the starters play extended minutes and the bench players see little court time, but that's not what we've come to expect of the Spurs.

With Ginobili out, it's not surprising that the bench play would suffer somewhat, but as good as Marco and Boris seemed to the eye-test, the Spurs barely held their own while they were on the court.  With Patty Mills still looking to discover his 3 point stroke, the swiss army knife bench that Popovich used so effectively last year is still thin, especially with Baynes going down with his own ankle injury.

Spurs Index: 106.0 (def.)

Factor Value Score
Passing (AST%) 65.2% 31.5
Shooting (eFG%) 57.9% 21.6
Defensive Rebounding (DReb%) 84.6% 22.1
Defense (DefRtg) 98.9 20.2
Opponent % of FGA Uncontested 38.8% 10.5
Total 106.0

Hawks Spurs Index: 95.3 Show Breakdown

All in all, this was an excellent win, as much for the style of the win as it was for the opponent or the margin.  It's not just about watching the team's about seeing the hunger growing. Just as Kawhi steps up his game when matched up against LeBron, the Spurs are apparently licking their chops at every opportunity to remind the league who the defending champions are.

With a relatively brutal stretch against some Western playoff teams looming, we'll get an excellent preview of just how hungry the Silver and Black are for the rapidly approaching post-season.  Playoff seeding is always a concern in the West, and with the excess of excellent teams filling the later time zones, no path to the finals will be easy.  But wins like this one make fans, spectators, and analysts alike suspect that as good as Golden State is and as flashy as the Clippers have been, the Spurs may just end up coming out on top, after all.



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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