Heading into last night’s game between San Antonio and Oklahoma City, you probably thought that Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili would be the key factors in the Spurs successfully defending their home floor, but you were wrong.
Without Tony Parker in the lineup, most NBA fans have begun to believe that the Spurs will crumble and fall. The biggest test of this idea yet came in the form of the defending Western Conference champs on Monday, but as usual, Gregg Popavich’s team proved worthy of the test.
The Spurs have long had a reputation for their depth and the way they play, but the truth is that you could take any number of NBA players and put them in Popavich’s system successfully. It’s a system that breeds team success rather than highlighting individuals and pulls the best performances out of players from the depths of the squad.
Looking at the stats from Monday, the Spurs system proved victorious again. Six San Antonio players hit double figures in the game with Tiago Splitter leading the way with 21 points. Splitter combined with Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard to score 54 points and cancel out Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant’s combined 51 points.
The clear favorites to play key roles in a game like this are Duncan and Ginobili, but the two finished with 13 and 12 respectively. Without Parker, there is no one man that carries the Spurs. Names mean nothing and no one’s stats are more important than ball movement and the open shot.
Right now, the Miami Heat own the best record in professional basketball and the consensus amongst fans and analysts seems to be that’s how the season will end. While the Heat have a good number of easy games, they lead the Spurs on winning percentage alone. If the Heat were to lose just one game, it brings the two back to level pecking.
While the Heat schedule is favorable, San Antonio doesn’t face a game that could be called anything other than winnable until they hit a three game stretch at the end of the month that includes Denver, the Clippers and the Heat themselves. Calling the race to the NBA’s best record now is like calling the Kentucky Derby before the final straightaway.
San Antonio is doing just fine without Parker who is doing better than expected in his recovery from a sprained ankle. He’ll likely be back in two to three weeks, in time to give the Spurs a lift before the postseason and provide a fresh spark. If the Spurs don’t get the top spot, they still pose one of the biggest threats to King James and Miami, a fact that will be proven when they face him on Mar. 31.