There’s the Spurs, there’s the Lakers, and there’s everyone else (and other things it’s okay to say)

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I stole the title of this post from John Krolik. I hope he doesn’t mind.

Over the weekend Krolik wrote something I’ve been afraid to say. I’m glad someone else said it first, someone whose principle hobby is not rooting for the Spurs.

The Spurs are really fun to watch. This needs to be said, and accepted.  Here’s how Krolik put it:

Wow, that Spurs offense. It is a gorgeous, gorgeous thing. It’s hard to say what weaknesses the Spurs exploited, because they were incredibly dynamic and just about every look they tried worked. They pushed the break beautifully, played some drive-and-kick while moving the ball from side to side, and someone was always ready to receive the extra pass. They would go into pick-and-roll basketball with Parker/Ginobili and Duncan/Splitter and get great looks out of that. They didn’t go to Duncan in the post much, but they got some good looks out of it when they did.

They put pressure on the Cavs in the paint and were ready to kick out to their shooters if they had to — the Spurs got 100 of their 116 points from the paint, beyond the arc, or the free-throw line. That is freaking absurd. If you like pretty offense, there’s the Spurs, there’s the Lakers, and there’s everyone else. Watching this game was like having Penelope Cruz beat the living hell out of you. I’m still in awe. So many playmakers, so many shooters, and every possession involves five players with a plan.

The Spurs as a gorgeous thing. Really?

The Spurs are ranked third in offensive efficiency, just behind the Lakers and Heat. San Antonio is the second highest scoring team in the league (107.8), only trailing the Lakers. The Spurs have the second highest 3-point percentage in basketball, again, just behind the Lakers. The Heat, Lakers and Spurs are the only teams with a point differential over 9.0.  Do you see a pattern emerging?

But what makes the Spurs so fun to watch (other than Manu Ginobili) is how they’re scoring, not how often. The majority of the Spurs’ points come from near-the-rim — whether this means Tony Parker driving or DeJuan Blair diving depends on the opposing defense — or from behind the arc. San Antonio scores, and scores often, by attacking the rim and bombing from deep.  A Spurs game is always one Matt Bonner 3-point barrage away from unbridled pandemonium. The kids are insane for Matt Bonner.

And, oh, Manu Ginobili.  He’s a crazy man with the basketball. Every game he invents a new way to start right and come back left, and when he comes back, it’s always a strange trip. The season is young, but Manu Ginobili might be the most entertaining offensive player in basketball right now.

I’ve never thought the old, boring Spurs were old or boring. But while I love their brand of basketball, I recognize it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. My favorite NBA Finals, from a sheer entertainment standpoint, is that pulse-pounding ratings killer between the Pistons and Spurs. I loved that series. But, you know, my neighbor didn’t. And that’s okay. I get it.

What I’m saying here is a little different. What I’m saying here is, “How couldn’t you love what the Spurs are doing this season?” So, if you’re a Spurs hater, please reconsider. This team puts up points, and they’re not all manufactured in that slow methodical way. Most of them come in a beautiful blitz of smart execution and quick transitions.

Don’t miss the fun. Pull up a chair.

  • Tim in Surrey

    Thanks, Tim. And just imagine if they keep playing this way AND the defense comes together. Look out, below!

  • Nadeem

    As soon as our defense starts clicking, look out everybody. Our point differential will jump to 20.

  • BlaseE

    Even at our higher scoring faster pace, the Spurs still have the following ranks:

    - 2nd in FTA allowed at 21.0 per game and 3rd in both FTA and FTM differentials per game
    - 5th in opponent’s PPS; Despite giving up a high 3P% , we have been successful in limiting 3PA’s and opposing foul shots
    -3rd in both rebounding margin and rebounding %
    -2nd in steal differential per game at +2.0
    -8th in shot-blocking with a positive differential
    -10th in opponent’s assists, but only Boston and Utah have a higher assist differential than us

  • junierizzle

    I’ve never thought the SPURS were boring either. How anyone could call MANU and TP boring is beyond me.

    I guess people have to notice it now that they are 11-1.

    I’d rather see Manu break ankles with some crazy cross-overs than a LeBron tomahawk dunk any day of the week.

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  • rob

    This team is dynamic. Where as before this team involved others not named Duncan, Parker and Ginobili only as a last second beating the shot clock option…they now have a bevy of dependable options spread throughout the floor.

    This team is offensively dismantling their opponents with execution and options. I think it’s fair to call it a “gorgeous” thing to watch.

    So far this early season we’ve been hearing that the next game will tell if the Spurs are good enough to be considered one of the best in the league. Well…if that’s been the case it’s no more truer than tonight against a very tough defensive team in Orlando.

    I’m looking forward to the next (awe inspired) write up.

  • Sauce

    Rob:

    “This team is dynamic. Where as before this team involved others not named Duncan, Parker and Ginobili only as a last second beating the shot clock option…they now have a bevy of dependable options spread throughout the floor.”

    Excellent point. Now it seems whoever we pass it to, he is always a threat to score. Duncan and McDyess’ jumper, Bonnar’s three and pumpfake, George Hill’s drives, Neal’s bombs, an effective Jefferson and you know the rest with Ginobli and TP.

    By the way, anyone surprised with the way TP is shooting the long two? Don’t think I can recall seeing him miss any of them, although I am sure he has – hope it stays that way!

  • manufan

    @ Tim
    NBA finals in 2005 are my favorite too. Watching Rip Hamillton runing trough multiple screens and Bruce Bowen chasing him step by step is basketball at it’s best. Very smart, metodical basketball with no easy baskets allowed. And we also had heavy doses of cluch from Robert Hory and Manu Ginobili. Simply unforgettable.

  • ITGuy

    Go Spurs Go!!

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  • Jim Henderson

    Good post, Tim. No question about it, our offense has been clicking through the first 12 games. The key is we’re getting a lot of open/looks, high percentage opportunities. The focus and discipline on the offensive end has been unusually sharp. Having a healthy big three, and a number of young guys that are paying attention has resulted in a very nice flow. And kudos to the coaching staff for getting everybody on the same page. That can’t be emphasized enough.

  • Duff Beer

    guess the Spurs are boring anymore national media folks?

  • agutierrez

    If your idea of great offensive basketball is something other than tomahawk dunks, Manu has been the best offensive player to watch for some time now. Rewatch the second quarter of the Cavs game. Three point shots, drives to the basket, incredible passes to TD. Spectacular.

  • http://www.bpifanconnect.com Alix Babaie

    The Spurs are doing a great job overall. Everyone is contributing, even if those items don’t show up on the stat sheet. Tiago will take a charge here, Tony will penetrate and kick there, Timmy will score, Bonner will score, Manu will score….the list just goes on and on. They are a TRUE team not just a bunch of mercs like you would see in LA or MIA. The Spurs do it the right way and are guided by the best coach in the NBA not named Jerry Sloan. If this team leads the NBA in W-L and gets their D to rank in the Top 5; if Pop is not named COY then that would be a joke.

  • quincyscott

    What I have really enjoyed about the offense is that Parker, Ginobilli and especially Duncan have not taken a physical beating in these early games. Although the Spurs’ offense has not really run heavily through Duncan for several seasons now, points have always seemed to come hard for the Spurs. This season has really seemed almost effortless on offense. This is not being accomplished by any major changes, but instead through little tweaks: a conscious effort to get a few more transition opportunities, by increasing their steals on defense; more focus on getting Jefferson involved; better attention to taking care of the ball; making the extra pass; more reliable shooting from the bench. All these little things add up to big improvement in efficency. In addition to limiting Duncan’s minutes, this style of offense is going to be a key factor in making sure he is fresh and sharp come playoff time, which is still vital for the Spurs.

  • jwalt

    aguitierrez — you know your hoops. And I’ll second two major thoughts here, the 2005 Finals was my favorite of all time and Manu is the most exciting player to watch in the league. When he goes at 100 mph to the hoop you don’t know what’s going to happen, but it’s never boring. Someday his bb genius might be fully recognized, maybe not. I’ve thought for years that Pop not starting him not only hurt the Spurs but Manu’s legacy.

    The team has all talked about how much better they are playing in the third quarter, but don’t seem to know why. Well I do, it’s because Manu is on the floor from the get go.

  • Tyler

    Unfortunately, just the thought of the silver and black triggers the gag reflex in many casual NBA fans’ mind, to the point I doubt any level of offensive fireworks will change that (mis)perception.

  • Jimbo (Oz)

    Tyler

    That’s fine, at least we know we won’t get any bandwagon fans who don’t appreciate good ball….. cough cough… Heat… cough cough… Lakers….

  • grego

    Tim, I think you have a mistake here although Blair is quite nimble:

    “whether this means Tony Parker driving or DeJuan Blair diving depends on the opposing defense”

  • rob

    Where’s that awe inspired write up?

    12 and 1 baby.

  • johnny

    ha ha ! another one for the non-shit-talkin’ good guys…

  • Anoop

    Hi Timothy,

    Missed the match v/s Magics, will go home and watch it on intl league pass. Just a thought, in hindi we have a term “nazaar maat lago”. Roughly translates into “dont attract the evil eye”. Let the Spurs remain below the radar. Let most observers remain naysayers, as long as possible. Let the Spurs fan enjoy the run as long as possible. Think, Houston had strung a run of 18 straight wins three or four seasons ago, may be we could surpass. Touch wood!

  • Anoop

    the current run should not make the coaching staff overllok a few key issues – revolving around the roster. The SF position remains bare with Gary Neal as a stop gap arrangement for RJ, ii) the minutes for Manu will have to be strictly monitored as the season goes, as his legs need to be fresh for the real deal come Apr’11, iii) size and speed – last year utah Jazz and Phoenix Sun exposed the Spurs on pick and roll when they had a high quaity big man posted versus TD. Thankfully, both the primary threats of these teams got traded, hence our winning start against them. However, the test is against the Lakers, will our size (or lack of it) be the biggest factor., iv) durability, one of the oldest “cores” – TD, MG, AM and RJ are 30 or above – in the league are running the thinnest roster – how would it impact in the post season Am sure the coaching staff / front desk is well aware of these issues and will come up with the right solutions – trading Bonner for Posey, would be a “dream” trade.

  • Tim in Surrey

    @Anoop – Well said. I guess I should probably stop drinking so much of the kool-aid.

    Alright, everyone. I’m gonna call it right now: Here comes the media! Starting today, I predict every member of the media who has to this point overlooked the Spurs will now begin writing columns criticizing the media for overlooking the Spurs.

    Sheridan’s chat yesterday will be the last time you see a pundit react with an ultra-verbose equivalent of “meh” when asked about the Spurs as contenders. (Until, that is, the Spurs lose a couple they’re “supposed” to win or else lose to the Lakers, whichever comes first, at which point those same columnists will immediately switch to “See? See?! I told you the Spurs were too old to contend!”)

    I won’t go so far as to paraphrase Zappa here (“Sports journalism is people who can’t write interviewing people who can’t talk for people who can’t read”) but… Brace yourselves everyone: The media scrutiny cometh.