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San Antonio's bench makes the Spurs possible

The San Antonio Spurs' bench unit is what makes their winning ways sustainable.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Both the Spurs and the Heat had sort of a weird stat on Wednesday. They both had one starter in double-figures (Leonard for the Spurs, Wade for the Heat), and all other double-figure scorers came off the bench. This speaks to the nature of Wednesday's game, which featured plenty of garbage time, giving bench players more time to shine. But it speaks even more to the depth that these two teams have. Both squads have so many guys on the bench that make a significant impact.

The difference between the two teams is that the Heat only used 9 of their players, while the Spurs used all 13 available guys for the night. Of those 13, all but one scored -- and that was Andre Miller who was too busy setting up everyone else with his passing.

In the NBA, depth matters. When a team's best players sit out, are injured, or aren't playing up to standard; there has to be a next man ready to go. The Warriors won last season's NBA Finals in part because of their bench, which boasted the best point-differential of all reserve units. The Cleveland Cavaliers took the Warriors to 6 games in those Finals because guys stepped up when Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving got injured in that postseason. Tristan Thompson cleaned the boards and played with such motor and physicality that they gave him a near-max contract for it. Matthew Dellavaedova became the "Curry-stopper" for 2 games.

And let's not forget the "Beautiful Game" Spurs of 2014, which featured a rejuvenated Manu Ginobili, the long-ball stylings of Patty Mills, and the basketball Swiss-army knife that is Boris Diaw.

This year's Spurs have a strong bench, and might be even stronger throughout the lineup than in 2014. That roster, 1-15, featured the likes of Jeff Ayres and Austin Daye, and Matt Bonner; guys who earned some shine from time to time, but really weren't significant contributors. This year, the guys on the end of the bench feature the city's newest folk hero, Boban Marjanovic; Jonathon Simmons, who would still be getting minutes if it weren't for the arrival of Kevin Martin; Andre Miller, who is an actual professor of basketball; and Bonner again.

Rotations typically get shortened to about 7-8 for the playoffs, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Coach Gregg Popovich keep the Spurs' at 10-deep for at least the first couple of rounds. If something happens to a Spurs player, whether it be injury or bad play (*knocks on wood furiously*), San Antonio has the ability to call the next man up and keep the wins coming. That is what makes them dangerous.


Kawhi Leonard - 32 points on 12-21 shooting, 4-7 from 3, 8 boards, 1 block, 1 steal

Leonard absolutely lit Miami up on Wednesday. He had 24 points in the first half, and very well could have gone for 50 if he hadn't tweaked his knee early in the second half and sat out for the rest of the game as a precaution. Scoring 32 points in only 24 minutes is an absurd task to manage in an NBA game, but Kawhi is an elite scorer, and is putting teams on notice. Without their best defender, Luol Deng, the Heat didn't have any choice but to pull up a chair and greatness work.


57.1: San Antonio's percentage from 3 on the night. The Spurs were hot from deep as a team, combining to go 8-14. They don't shoot as many 3s as they have in recent years, but it's still an important tool that they need to use efficiently if they want to contend.

17: Points for the Heat's leading scorer, Josh Richardson. The relatively unknown 2nd-round pick from Tennessee has been on fire in the past two weeks. Since March 9th, Richardson has averaged 15.1 points per game (his season average is 5.8), and has shot a ridiculous 64.7% from 3 on 4.25 attempts per game. He'll cool off a bit eventually, but anyone who can shoot at that level for a decent stretch of games is worth keeping tabs on.

3: The amount of scorers the Spurs had in double-figures. After Kawhi, you know who else led San Antonio in scoring? None other than Boban Marjanovic and Kevin Martin, of course. Marjanovic had 19 on 12 shots, and cooked the Heat's Hassan Whiteside so badly a couple times that the AT&T Center crowd began chanting his name. Martin had 12 points on 3-5 shooting.


  • Dwyane Wade had 16 points on 8-13 shooting. He's not the same level of scorer he was in his prime, but he's still an All-Star caliber player, and is still impressive to watch. Even with Danny Green smothering him, the 34-year-old dropped in a couple of his signature post-fadeaways. I don't know how many more years Wade has in those legs, but he's one of those players that I'll cherish any time I can see him play.

  • San Antonio shot 24 free throws on the night, up from their league-worst 19.8 attempts per game. And before you get angry about the refs screwing them every game, realize that this happens as a result of the team's style of play. The Spurs tend to operate primarily in the midrange, and don't have a lot of players who regularly take it inside. For example, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard post up a lot. However, a lot of those post ups usually end with a turn-around jumper; or with a face-up, jab-step, and then a jumper. On Saturday, though, things were different. Players took it to the tin more frequently, and were rewarded for their efforts.