Spurs offense in harmony despite Duncan’s struggles
The Spurs started off a bit slow this season, but the waves are beginning to hit harder and harder. The bench depth that has become a trademark in San Antonio over the last half-decade is showing itself once again, and right now the opposition can’t quite keep up.
Ten Spurs logged at least 15 camo-clad minutes in this one, and no starter played more than Tim Duncan’s 25:36 in the 92-79 win over the struggling Washington Wizards.
“When you have a team like that, not just the first group, but the second group plays the exact same way and the third group plays the same way,” Wizards guard Bradley Beal said. “So it’s really tough when you have a team like that who is capable of just moving the ball, passing the ball, cutting every second, and not getting tired on top of that.”
San Antonio’s bench registered 49 points and 17 assists and outscored Washington’s bench by 19 points. Had it not been for Martell Webster’s 21 points and 10 rebounds, the Wizards’ second unit would’ve been abysmal. This is what we’ve come to expect offensively from the Spurs. The passing, the movement, the shooting — it never stopped all night. They shot 50 percent from the floor despite the worst shooting night of Duncan’s career, and they rang up 28 assists in another double-digit victory.
And while we tend to keep tabs more on the sexy, point-scoring side of the basketball (understandably so), it’s important to recognize how well the San Antonio defense is currently playing. The Spurs are allowing their opponents just 92.5 points per 100 possessions, and only 89.2 in the six games since the loss to Portland. Furthermore, they’re allowing teams to shoot just 42.4 percent from the floor while outscoring them by 9.3 points per game.
Again, the schedule has not been difficult, and they got Golden State without Stephen Curry, but they’re beating the teams they should, when they should. And they’re essentially doing it without Duncan.
San Antonio’s franchise cornerstone had yet another dreadful shooting performance on Wednesday, and the percentages are beginning to drop precipitously. Duncan went 1-for-12 from the floor against the Wizards but played more minutes than anyone else on the team. His 11 missed shots were more than any other teammate even attempted (Parker had nine attempts).
His shooting percentage has now dropped to 38.6 percent for the season, including 22 percent from mid-range. For comparison, Duncan hit 42.8 percent of his mid-range shots last season, and the pick and pop has become a major part of his game over the last couple of seasons. According to NBA.com, 49.4 percent of Duncan’s shots have come from mid-range (outside the paint; inside the three-point line) this season, so hitting less than a quarter of those shots are going to be devastating to what is normally a very high level of efficiency.
The Spurs aren’t concerned, however. Tim looks good physically, the shots just aren’t falling.
“I don’t worry about Tim. He’ll be fine,” Parker said afterward. “He’s taking great shots and he needs to keep shooting. He’s wide open when they trap me on the pick and rolls, so he needs to keep shooting.”
And Parker is right. He shouldn’t stop shooting. He can’t, really. That shot is going to be there all night long as Parker and Co. continue to attack the paint. If he stops taking it, it’s going to throw a major wrench in the whole operation. For now, he can rest somewhat easily knowing that his team is rolling.
The Spurs shot better than 58 percent without accounting for Duncan’s bad night. When the offense is in this sort of harmony, the team needs Duncan’s defense first and foremost.
“San Antonio runs offense perfectly. It was like listening to Mozart,” Wizards center Marcin Gortat said. “It’s just ridiculous how they play.”
But Duncan no longer has to conduct the orchestra.