A deep dive into the Spurs’ 10-game winning streak

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Another victory over a tanking rebuilding young terrible team — this time a 122-104 blowout over the Jazz — has given the Spurs (50-16) their 50th win of the season and 10th straight overall, adding to the NBA record for the franchise that’s now won at least 50 games for the 15th consecutive year.

Not only that, but it’s the fourth straight season the Spurs have been the first team in the league to reach the 50-win plateau, and it’s the third consecutive season they’ve done so in exactly 66 games. It’s also the 16th winning streak of 10 games or more during Gregg Popovich’s tenure, five more than any other team.

What an accomplishment! That kind of continued success is pretty amazing to think about when you consider literally NO ONE ELSE HAS EVER WON THIS MANY GAMES CONSISTENTLY OVER THIS MANY YEARS IN THE HISTORY OF THE NBA!

“I don’t really care to be honest with you,” Gregg Popovich said afterward. “You all have to have things to write about, I guess.”

Pfffft. *scoff* No. /clicks pen /hides notepad

We’re used to this sort of treatment when it comes to these sorts of stats, streaks and records. After all, we’re the ones making the big deal out of it. Not them. But a big deal should be made of it, relatively speaking, at least. Those coaches and players are in their own little world, and however they choose to recognize any accomplishment, if they do at all, is up to them.

Success in San Antonio is measured by titles. All that matters is this season. We don’t think about the other stuff. Blah blah blah blah blah.

I get all that, and I understand where the coaches and players are coming from. They get paid to do a job, and that year-to-year objective is to win a championship. But that’s why we are here, Pop — to write about this stuff. As the pile of records and accomplishment grows, we want to help maintain perspective. This is part of history, a history that’s becoming richer by the day in the overall footprint of the NBA.

Popovich is one of the greatest coaches ever, Tim Duncan is one of the top 10 players of all time, and the Spurs are becoming one of the winningest franchises in the history of all sports. This stuff matters. Maybe not right this second, but it will for a long time in the future.

Since Duncan entered the NBA, the Spurs have the highest winning percentage of any team in the four major professional sports — NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL — and they haven’t dropped off a bit. So hell yeah I have something to write about.

But speaking of the here and now, the Spurs are kind of killing teams.

Digging deep into the 10-game winning streak

San Antonio is now two games up on Oklahoma City for top seed in the Western Conference after the Thunder were just destroyed by the Mavericks on Sunday, and the Spurs have a nice easy little month of March to roll through as we head down the stretch. Might want to fatten up on wins before April rolls around though.

  • The Spurs are scoring 1.15 points per possession at an effective field-goal percentage of 56.6 percent during their current streak. For perspective: San Antonio has averaged .99 points per possession through 66 games, per Synergy, second only to the Miami Heat at 1.02 this season.
  • On Feb. 26, the day Kawhi Leonard returned from injury, John Schuhmann wrote a column for NBA.com showing SportVU data that revealed the Spurs were the best in the league at contesting opponents’ jumpers, as a defender was within four feet of a jump-shooter (10 or more feet away from the basket) on 38.2 percent of all attempts through the first 56 games of the season. This is data that hasn’t been made available to the public (though Schuhmann wrote that is in the works) beyond the individual player tracking info in each box score at NBA.com/Stats. From what I was able to find: During the 10-game winning steak, San Antonio is allowing jump-shooters (more than 10 feet away from basket and less than 30 feet) to hit on just 36.9 percent of their shots, down from 38.7 percent before the streak began.
  • One of the Spurs’ big issues this season had been starting games slowly on the offensive end, where they managed to score just 103.3 points per possession in the first quarters of games through the first 56 contests. The defense has been fine, but they’ve struggled to score as efficiently as they’d always seemed to do with that first unit. However, over the last 10 games, San Antonio has been 19.6 points per 100 possessions better than its opponents in the opening frame, outscoring them by a total of 51 points during that stretch. They’d only outscored opponents by 2.1 points (7.2 net rating) per first quarter prior to that.
  • Speaking of jumping slowly out of the gates, much has been made this season of the starting lineup’s — Duncan, Splitter, Leonard, Green, Parker — offensive struggles when on the court together. Prior to the winning streak, opposing lineups were outscoring that group by nearly three points per 48 minutes, per NBA.com’s lineup data. That’s a championship-caliber starting lineup being outperformed on a nightly basis; but not anymore. During the streak, that starting group is dropping a net-efficiency rating of 25.1, and in 73 total minutes together is outscoring its opposition by .3 points per possession (1.11 to .81).
  • Some more shooting numbers for that starting group while on the floor together since Feb. 26:
    • Pre-streak: 44.3 percent (21.9 percent from three).
    • During streak: 50.8 percent (54.5 percent from three).
    • Opposing lineups pre-streak: 44.6 percent (42.5 percent from three).
    • Opposing lineups during streak: 35.3 percent (33.3 percent from three)
  • As we’ve already pointed out on this site numerous times, the 10-game streak coincides directly with Leonard’s return to the court, and he’s been damn good from the get-go. Just look at his numbers since Feb. 26:
    • 54.3 percent shooting.
    • 51.9 percent from 3-point line.
    • Per-36 averages: 16.5 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.5 steals, 1.8 blocks.
    • 1.29 points per shot, including free throws (1.67 points per shot when on the court with the other four starters).
    • Spurs have outscored opponents by 110 points when Leonard is on the floor.
  • The four-man lineup of Patty Mills, Marco Belinelli, Manu Ginobili and Boris Diaw — otherwise known as the ‘Foreign Legion’ — is scoring 126.9 points per 100 possessions over the last 10 games. Throw Aron Baynes on top, and that five-man group has a 136.6 offensive rating and is scoring 1.51 points per possession (1.63 points per shot).
  • Oh, and Baynes is starting to get consistent playing time in front of Jeff Ayres. Over the last 10 contests, the Big Banger has averaged 8.5 minutes per night, and the Spurs have shot the ball better (4-point increase in effective field-goal percentage) and rebounded better (7-point increase in rebound percentage) when he’s been on the floor during that span. It’s a small sample size, but it’s something to watch moving forward; Popovich has already mentioned he’s liking the way Baynes is performing. Has the Foreign Legion officially expanded to five members?
  • Manu has been showing out like crazy during this run. The Spurs are 21.9 points per 100 possessions better than their opponents in the 22.1 minutes per night Ginobili has been on the floor over the last 10 games, and they’re scoring at a clip of 1.24 points per possession in that time. And then there are his individual numbers. Per 36 minutes: 24.4 points, 7.7 assists, 2 steals, 55.1 percent shooting (41.9 percent from three). If this keeps up, he HAS to be in the Sixth Man of the Year conversation; though he should’ve been already.

San Antonio is playing like a top two team in the league at the moment — Clippers have been rolling, too — dropping opponents by 15.3 points per game during the winning streak. We’re finally starting to see the group with which we’re familiar, and it’s all happening as other contenders are dealing with some bumps in the road.

The numbers explosion has been fun to watch, but the end of the season comes with some night-to-night uncertainty; it will be interesting to see how this team handles the balance between rest and playoff positioning down the stretch.


Statistical support courtesy of mediacentral.nba.com, mySynergySports.com and nbawowy.com.

  • rj

    Baynes! glad he’s finally getting some pt. in your face, McNeill!

    The fire rises…

  • Joseph Dooley

    Baynes looks like the gangly, uncoordinated kid still getting used to his big, new body. But he IS a big body, and he clears the paint well for streakers to the basket. While limited defensively, he’s an imposing presence at the rim. Lamarcus Aldridge found that out the hard way.

  • SpursFanTn

    Yes the winning streak coincided with the return of Kawhi and there is NO doubt that he is a HUGE contributor. But the DESTROYING teams thing started when Parker came back – fresh. This is the best he’s looked all year. I love what Baynes is doing right now. And I love that we have so many playmakers this year. Mills is so much better handling the point than Neal it’s crazy. And I like Neal. And Bellinelli is awesome. Watch a mix though, and you see everybody giving GOOD assists to everybody. The offense looks as good this year as in 2011, but the defense is far superior. Only thing that even comes close is the Kings around 2003. So much fun to watch. Commentators trying to fill in space, and see a play and can’t HELP but interrupt themselves with an exclamation because a pass was so pretty. Enjoy it while it last! Go Spurs Go. Let’s get one this year, and hey, add another championship next year for good measure. :D

  • Steve

    I love that he rolls so hard to the rack and seems to be better at finishing than Tiago was early in his NBA career. He’s got a soft touch, but he’s not soft. His D must have improved to the point that Pop is willing to trust him in stretches.

  • spurs10

    This is a great, informative article. The idea of the Spurs being the most winning team of all the big four team sports is unbelievably impressive. When you think about it, whether we are winning the championship or not, we have been getting to see our team making history and win a lot of damn games…..for a real long time. If you are a Spurs fan, you are blessed. I actually feel like we are the best team playing basketball right now and if we are playing like this in June we’ll be hard to beat. Thanks for the write-up!

  • Francesco

    Jordan, Kareem, Russell, Wilt: those are the only players better than Tim.
    When you look at the numbers (either raw or in the form of advance stats), give its proper due value to defense, factor the longevity of his productive years, count the rings, assess the strenght of his teammates (compared for example to the Lakers and Boston teams of the 80s)… there isn’t anyone else. I mean, there’s no basis for discussion.

  • Anton Gregory

    TD over Wilt. Wilt’s stats are an aberration.

  • Anton Gregory

    The Big Banger indeed.