The 3-2 Spurs are one of the pleasant surprises of the very young 2022-23 season, and a big reason for their early success has been some of the unexpected numbers they’ve been putting up. A lot, rather all of their success so far ties back to going 3-1 on their first road trip of the season, including winning the first three, which makes a little Spurs history on its own.
The Spurs just won back-to-back road games.— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) October 23, 2022
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich has now led the Spurs to 144 road win streaks - the most of any coach in NBA history. @EliasSports
This is only the fourth time in Spurs history that San Antonio has started a season 3-0 in road games:— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) October 25, 2022
Spurs start the season 3-1.— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) October 25, 2022
In 50 years of existence, San Antonio has only had three better starts to a season (4-0 in 2012, 2016, 2017).
The Spurs’ win in Philadelphia was probably their most unexpected of the bunch (at least at the time, the 76ers have continued to struggle their way to a 1-4 start since). Before anyone knew what a struggle the start of the season would be for Philly, the Spurs were considered 13.5 point underdogs heading into the matchup, which ended up making that win their biggest “upset” since Gregg Popovich’s first season as head coach. (Although in fairness, the Spurs probably never were such huge underdogs for the vast majority of Pop’s career.)
The Spurs were 13.5 point underdogs and won. That is their largest upset win since March 8, 1997 against the Pacers (+14.5).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 23, 2022
That was Gregg Popovich's first season as head coach. pic.twitter.com/WTGBm9EfYP
Another factor that made the wins in Philly and Minnesota so satisfying was simply money. Specifically, the payroll difference between those club’s starting lineups and the Spurs’ are staggering. (Friendly reminder: Keldon Johnson’s contract extension doesn’t kick in until next season.)
Starting Lineup Payroll:— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) October 23, 2022
Philadelphia 76ers - $117,400,00
San Antonio Spurs - $24,400,00
Philadelphia 76ers - 105
San Antonio Spurs - 114
Starting Lineup Payroll:— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) October 25, 2022
Minnesota TWolves - $116,500,00
San Antonio Spurs - $24,400,00
Minnesota Timberwolves - 106
San Antonio Spurs - 115
The fun doesn’t just end at a team or monetary level. There have been some standout individual performances as well, beginning with Johnson. Posting 43 points and 10 assists in his first 2 games of the season allowed to him to make a little Spurs history, as did hitting 16 threes through his first five games: a franchise high.
Only five Spurs in the last 30 years to total 40+ points and 10+ assists in the first two games of a season:— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) October 22, 2022
Keldon Johnson now has 16 three-pointers in the first 5 games.— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) October 27, 2022
Most threes through the first 5 games of the season in Spurs history. Many Ginobili, Patty Mills, Roger Mason and Patty Mills had 14.
Jakob Poeltl has also gotten out to a quick start, averaging a double-double and joining some elite Spurs company himself.
Second straight season Jakob Poeltl has recorded 60+ points and 40+ rebounds in the first 4 games of the season. Only Spurs to ever do that:— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) October 25, 2022
Finally, for a team that entered the season supposedly without a true point guard (I’d argue that whoever made the decision that Tre Jones — who is averaging a very respectable 14 points and 4.2 assists — isn’t one should re-evaluate), the Spurs have been surprising adept at sharing and caring for the ball. That may seem strange based on what we thought the Spurs’ weaknesses would be coming into the season, but here they are: putting up historically high assist and historically low turnover numbers through five games.
Only three teams in NBA history with 154 assists or more and 75 turnovers or less in first 5 games of a season:— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) October 27, 2022
1972-73 New York Knicks
1974-75 Los Angeles Lakers
2022-23 SAN ANTONIO SPURS
The San Antonio Spurs as a team have totaled 154 assists already - the most by any team in the first 5 games of a season since Phoenix had 157 in 1990-91. 15th-most in NBA history.— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) October 27, 2022
The ‘72-73 Knicks won the championship, while the ‘74-75 Lakers went 30-52 and missed the playoffs. Those are two extremely different outcomes, but both much better than the Spurs were projected to be. That likely doesn’t mean anything in this scenario, and it’s hard to imagine the Spurs will maintain those historic numbers, but if they continue to share and take care of the basketball at a league average at-worst rate, the bottom of the standings might be too far beneath them.
If you’re a bit of a stat guru like myself, be sure to give Jordan Howenstine a follow on Twitter (@AirlessJordan). He’s the best in the business at covering all things Spurs from a statistical standpoint. What are your favorite stats from the Spurs season so far?