|Scott Rafferty: Welcome To The Fountain Of Youth
A Place The Spurs Know All Too Well
Nine months ago, the San Antonio Spurs watched confetti fall from the rafters at the
American Airlines Arena after the Miami Heat held off their best efforts to secure their
second championship in a row. Two nights before that, 19.4 seconds and one rebound
was all that separated them from winning their fifth title in the Tim Duncan era; what
would have been the perfect retirement gift for one of the greatest players to ever
step foot on the NBA’s oak floors.
The Spurs went through another 50-win season – their 14th straight – and experienced
yet another deep playoff run, which takes a hell of a toll on the old legs of their Big
Three. With that, they entered another grueling, shortened off-season, faced with the
same old question: Was this the last hurrah?
Surely after so many years of dominating the NBA, the writing was soon to be on the
wall. Just this season we’ve seen similar scribbles with the L.A. Lakers and the Boston
Celtics – two of the NBA’s most storied franchises. With Tim Duncan reaching a tender
age of 37 and Manu Ginobili tiptoeing the line of relevancy, the 2013-2014 campaign
seemed to be the start of their long-awaited demise. Tony Parker asserted his position
as one of the league’s elite point guards, but his creativity wouldn’t suffice moving
forward unless the front office surrounded him with fresh legs or a rejuvenated all-star.
However, with the playoffs just around the corner and 68 games under their belt, they
find themselves in very familiar territory: atop of the Western Conference standings
with the best record in the Association.
How they’ve done it remains a surprise to many. In the month of March especially, the
Spurs have been scorching hot. Not only are they a perfect 11-0, they’ve been lighting
up the scoreboard to the tune of 112.4 points per contest and outscoring opponents by
an average margin of 16.1. While those numbers aren’t sustainably, Tony Parker is
healthy, Tim Duncan is quietly chugging along and Manu Ginobili has found himself
back in the Sixth Man of the Year conversation in wake of a horrific display in the
finals. To add to that, after a somewhat lackluster start to the season, Kawhi Leonard
is finally finding his feet. In the 13 games he’s appeared in since returning from a
broken hand, he’s averaging 14.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.5
blocks per contest – all way up from his season numbers. They also continue to get
great contributions from the likes of Patty Mills, Boris Diaw and Marco Belinelli, who
have helped the Spurs lead the way in bench scoring. Perhaps the most telling stat on
the season is that only Tony Parker is playing more than 30 minutes per contest. 12
players are getting 10 or more minutes of game time, which may make them the
deepest team in the NBA. It also helps cut down the mileage for Parker, Duncan and
Ginobili, which will be of huge importance in the post-season.
If there’s any question mark about this current squad, it’s their success (or lack
thereof) against the NBA’s elite teams this season. Despite trampling all over sub-
.500 teams, they’re 24-14 against squads that have won more than 50 percent of
their games. To make matters more concerning, the Spurs are 3-9 against the L.A.
Clippers, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat
– teams many consider as legitimate championship contenders. To win another title,
odds say that they’ll have to go through at least two of those teams, so their losing
record is a little disheartening. However, many of those losses can be attributed to
having a depleted team due mid-season injuries, resting players to ensure they’re
healthy come playoff time or simply because they weren’t playing their best
basketball. To add to that, they whooped the Heat at the AT&T Center by a final
score of 111-87 on March 6th, and went to Golden State and beat the Warriors
without Duncan and Ginobili a little over two weeks later, so maybe those early-
season worries can be put to bed.
What’s remarkable is...CONTINUE READING AT HARDWOOD PAROXYSM