The New York Knicks left the playoffs in a New York minute, leaving New York basketball fans without a team to pull for. While Knickbocker faithful won’t rally behind the Boston Celtics or Miami Heat, another team is quietly playing the best basketball since the 2000-2001 Los Angeles Lakers. And no, it isn’t the Oklahoma City Thunder.
They aren’t flashy like Lob City, but they have the best Big 3 in professional basketball. No, I’m not talking about the Miami Heat or the Oklahoma City Thunder–I’m talking about the San Antonio Spurs.
Dating back to the regular season, the Spurs have rattled off 17 straight victories. The Spurs’ Big 3 of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginolibi is leading the charge to this year’s best team. But they aren’t doing it alone. Led by future Hall of Fame coach Greg Poppovich, the Spurs possess a team that closely resembles an international style brand of basketball. The Spurs have great outside shooters in Danny Green, Stephen Jackson, and Gary Neal. In the front court, the Spurs have size with Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter, and the much maligned, Boris Diaw. Of note, the Spurs have made 43 percent of their three-pointers. 43 percent (!!!)
Through Saturday’s games, look at the offensive-defensive efficiency chart from this year’s playoffs: (Credit: nbastuffer.com)
The teams in the upper right quadrant signify a brand of superior offensive/defensive efficiency. It’s no surprise seeing the Spurs as this post-season’s top performers. The Spurs have held opponents to roughly 94 PPG while averaging a staggering 111 PPG. The Thunder have posted similar offensive efficiency, but lack a defensive presence to slow down the opposition.
The Spurs took two out of their three meetings against OKC this season. In their only loss, the Spurs did not have Manu Ginobili. While the Thunder have this year’s top scorer Kevin Durant and dynamic guard, Russell Westbrook, they seriously lack the necessary depth to tangle with the Spurs. The Spurs can throw a plethora of defensive options on Durant, including the smaller Jackson or the bigger Leonard.
The eventual OKC-SA series will come to the second units, Westbrook’s turnover rate, and OKC’s ability to slow down the Spurs outside shooting. As noted above, the Spurs have made 43 percent of their three-pointers this post-season. While the Lakers are an abysmal outside shooting team, the Dallas Mavericks made 38 percent of three-pointers in Round 1. If the Spurs continue their hot shooting from the outside, they’ll eliminate OKC in four or five games. Add in Westbrook’s propensity to turn the ball over (four turnovers per game during the regular season) and the Spurs will utilize those extra possessions to score more points.
I still like a Spurs-Celtics NBA Final with the Spurs taking it home in five games. Both teams have the best coaches remaining in the playoffs, the Championship experience, and depth to emerge from their conferences.