Early this month the Spurs lost back-to-back games in NY and Boston. Both games featured embarrassingly poor team defense from the Spurs. Against NY, you’ll recall, Gregg Popovich benched his starters rather than attempting a late game comeback.

For all the talk of San Antonio’s emergence as an offensive force (the Spurs are currently ranked 1st in John Hollinger’s Offensive Efficiency Rating), Gregg Popovich still maintains his stubborn conviction that defense wins championships.

The Spurs have the best record in the league, not to mention their best start through 41 games in franchise history. And it means nothing to Popovich. The Spurs, he insists, must become a better defensive team.

The Spurs have rattled off 6 consecutive wins since the back-to-back debacle that was NY/Boston. In those wins the Spurs have held their opponents to 40.1%  from the floor.

San Antonio’s current defensive rating is 100.3, good for 6th in the league. Look for that number to improve in the coming weeks. And if it does, Gregg Popovich will have put together something very unexpected, and very special.

  • Bankshot21

    Great short. I wonder how much that NY game scewed our current rank. We gave up a high fg% and a boat load of points that game. And the Boston game we gave up the fg% but not so much the points. I wonder if we were to toss out those 2 games if we would be in the top 5 and not #6 right now.

  • http://www.48minutesofhell.com Timothy Varner

    Wayne Vore, my dear friend and frequent conversation partner, made a good point in one of our recent jabber fests. The Spurs defense just prior to NY/Bos looked like it was turning the corner. Lakers, Mavericks and, if I recall, OKC were all good defensive performances. So maybe the NY/Bos thing was a blip. I’m really looking forward to the NY game at the end of the week, for this reason and many more.

  • NYC

    If we can reclaim being a top 5 defensive team and maintain being a top 3 offensive team, no other team can stop us. We would be a juggernaut with a 66+ win record steamrolling all the way to a 5th ring.

    My prediction: Pop gets the defense back to form by late season. Spurs vs. Celtics. Barring any injuries… Spurs win! Spurs win!

  • The Beat Counselor

    That NY game may have screwed our ranking for the time being, but those two losses may have been exactly what Pop needed get them to turn up their defensive intensity.

    If the Spurs end up a top 4 offensive and defensive team this year, I might need to start asking myself what I did to deserve such a treat.

    Go Spurs.

  • rob

    As pointed out Spurs defense has always improved as the season grinds down. Which I concur, if they can manage to improve and consistently be at least in the top 6, this team looks poised to make a serious run at the title.

    Not surprising, I would think, is the correlation of minutes played by McDyess to overall defensive efficiency. For as much talk given (self included) to the inefficiency of our post players, it appears they haven’t been doing that bad a job but could definately use improvement.

    It would be great if Blair could stop committing so many ceriberal type of mistakes and Tiago acclimating more efficiently to the nba.

  • http://www.48minutesofhell.com Timothy Varner

    McDyess is the forgotten genius in all this. His defense has been super.

  • quincyscott

    Blair is the only post player that won’t keep his feet and extend both arms straight up when an opponent penetrates to the basket. Every other Spur, even little Gary Neal, uses this technique, except Blair, who instead wants to take a swipe at the ball from a planted stance. Improving Blair’s defensive discipline could really help things when he is in the lineup.

  • rob

    I hope this isn’t against protocol to insert a link of a story from another site, but it’s a good read. Enjoy.


  • andy

    you try putting that much meat on the floor and just throwing your arms up. (kidding of course, blair does need to learn discipline)

    i agree that our defense looks like it’s slowly inching towards the championship caliber stuff pop demands of our spurs. if we manage to bump up two more spots, that would put two teams in the top five in both off and def rating, our beloved spurs (2,7) and the evil empire heat (4,4). i for one think pop is going to push, prod, and needle us there. i also can’t wait til the next knicks game to see how our starters further respond to the benching.

    yes, it’s counting the eggs, but the fact that we have a 3 game lead on boston despite a tougher schedule and conference than any of the east coast contenders, not to mention the toughest division in the nba, leads me to believe that we could be looking at a championship squad. there, i said it.

  • Tim in Surrey

    Oh, good! More criticism of DeJuan Blair! Thanks, guys! Maybe now (fingers crossed) somebody will suggest that we make a trade for Anthony Randolph!

  • jwalt

    I’ll play some devil’s advocate here, I don’t think the defense was all that bad against NY-Boston. Poor yes, but not terrible. The Knicks played their best game of the year against us, they were unconscious for the better part of the game. In their last game they shot 30 percent against Sacramento. Do you think Sac’s defense caused that?

    And against Boston, I really think a defensive choice that Pop made caused the high Celtic shooting pct. Playing off of Rondo is exactly the WRONG way to play them, nothing impeded his vision and he picked us apart with his pin point passes (22 assists I believe). I think you pressure Rondo and impede his vision and comfort zone. Yes, he’ll get to the lane more that way but better than letting him sit there like Peyton Manning with all the time in the world to make a decision. I watched Boston-Chicago recently, Thobidaux (and who knows Boston better than he does?) had Rose pressure Rondo, and Rondo had 8 assists in that game (and 13 points).

    If it comes down to the Spur-Celtic final, I pray the Spurs play Rondo straight up in the hopes of curtailing his Peyton Manning imitation.

  • jwalt

    And Rob was exactly right about Blair’s mental mistakes. I think he makes as many as the rest of the starters combined. He’s a brain fart waiting to happen.

    And though I see the potential in Splitter, when he plays in limited spots as he has lately he is a mess. If Blair continues to play, and I think he will, then Splitter is definitely the odd man out in the rotation (McDyess and Bonner are both too important).

  • Bankshot21



    Great acknowledgement of Dyess. I’m befuddled @ how someone with as many games played as him can stay with the more nimble and quick bigs such as Pau and Dirk. Dyess looks younger than Duncan often times when he in fact is older. He also has more spring in his jump than I’m sure any of us expected. Pop is masterfully quarterbacking this whole thing. TP is an all-star. Plain and simple. More so than TD and there’s nothing I want more than to see TD @ the all-star game.

  • rj

    any thoughts on pop playing blair at sf with dyess and splitter at the end of the dallas game? was it purely for substitution or something we might see in the future?

  • http://www.anaheimamigos.com Anaheim Amigos

    Pop is right. Defense wins championships.

    It is certainly better to sit on top of the offensive standings than the bottom, and the Spurs have chewed up weak teams with their offense, but the playoffs are a different beast.

    If they play that 40.1%-style defense, the Spurs win the West.

  • SAJKinBigD

    Interesting question, rj. Dunno. I noticed it, too, though. Maybe the Anti-3-Guard Lineup? :)

  • soulidefy

    couldnt agree more with the rondo comment. as a point guard, i love it when defenders play off and give you room to see, as well as no pressure, regardless of jump shot. i was actually thinking about the boston game with rondo the other night playing pickup ball!

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  • Easy b

    really enjoying the posts the past week, lots of good articles and solid posts.
    A couple of speculative things:
    Owens signing seems to marry up to the decision to put Anderson in the D’s and Jefferson and Ginobili both plateauing somewhat over the last 10 or so games. Not suggesting either of them aren’t contributing alot to the wins, but offensively both have had struggles.
    Blair’s minutes at the front end have been important in having such an efficient Mcdyess at the end of games. Hopefully we can get the same thing at small forward so RJ can be fresher for defensive assigns in the fourth quarters later in the season.
    We definetly want home court all the way because as it currently stands, the finals is a skins putt between Boston, Miami, SA, LA, with Dallas and Orlando on the fringe and Chicago in the bunker.

  • Hobson13

    Timothy Varner
    January 17th, 2011 at 5:21 am
    “Wayne Vore, my dear friend and frequent conversation partner, made a good point in one of our recent jabber fests. The Spurs defense just prior to NY/Bos looked like it was turning the corner.”

    Tim, this is exactly the point I was trying to make almost a week ago after we beat the Bucks…

    January 13th, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    “IMO, our defense is very slowly beginning to take shape. In the last 4 games, our opponents have posted FG percentages of 37.5%, 39.6%, 37.8%, and 39.5%. This is after we got blown up against the Knicks and Celtics. However, before those two terrible games we held teams to 32.9%, 42.7%, 35.4%, and 37.5% shooting. To me, our defense is getting better besides a few bumps in the road against very good offensive teams like the Knicks, Magic, and Celtics.”

  • Jacob

    @Tim in Surrey,

    What do you think about trading Dejuan for Anthony Randolph, straight up?

  • Tim in Surrey

    @Jacob – Not interested. Sorry, I was being a little sarcastic. There have been so many posts advocating that we pick up Randolph (which we could never do, as the Knicks are holding on to him to trade for a #1 to use in a Carmelo Anthony trade), that I’ve gotten sick of them.


    @ Bankshot21

    “Dyess looks younger than Duncan often times when he in fact is older.”

    Dice was once a Shawn Kemp/Blake Griffin type athlete, Timmy never was :(….

    But great game from everybody – and I can’t wait to play Boston when healthy and Lakers again

  • SG

    I just googled some Dice highlights pre-injury…wow….the dude was a beast!

  • rob

    One clip of McDyess in his prime.


    When it first happened, I couldn’t believe when the Spurs announced they were getting McDyess. In his prime he was Amare, Duncan and Olajuan all rolled into one. Then what most would have considered career ending injury…he battled back and prolonged his career.

  • Bankshot21

    Amar’e, Duncan, Olajuwon wrapped in 1?! That’s a joke I’m assuming. The Amar’e comparison was dead on. Let’s not forget Dyess has a couple 50pt games under his belt. He was Amar’e pre-injury, and more cerebral post injury. Do not put him in the Olajuwon/Duncan category. He wasn’t good enough on both ends of the court to carry those guy’s gym bag.


    Dyess being a former high flyer should mean he looks older not more preserved. Especially post injuy.

  • rob

    “Do not put him in the Olajuwon/Duncan category. He wasn’t good enough on both ends of the court to carry those guy’s gym bag.”

    You’d be wrong. McDyess could perform like those two…and did several times in his youth…but granted…he performed more like Amare on a nightly basis just because he could fly.

  • J2

    Nice to see a measure of the defense by opponent’s FG%. In terms of points/game, this year’s Spur’s will never match the defense of past teams that used a slow, grind it out half court game that started out by passing the ball into Duncan on the block. This year’s offense is so much more up-tempo that they don’t burn as much time off the clock, given more possessions/game to both teams, which translates into more scoring for the opponent.

    Traditionally, the Spurs best teams have started slow and come out of the gate full speed after the all-star break. The rodeo road trip is usually a good bellweather for how the post-season will go.