If I were to ask you which NBA team could eviscerate the leagues most respected defense, the Chicago Bulls, for 103 points – an offensive efficiency that’s seven points higher than the average mark of the league leading Oklahoma City Thunder – a handful of teams might come to mind.
But on the second night of a back-to-back (in different time zones)?
Maybe a few..
Without its three best players?
You’d say impossible.
It can’t be done.
There’s no way the Miami Heat did that!
Well, the San Antonio Spurs would beg to differ. On the fourth night of their brutal nine-game Rodeo Road Trip, the Spurs defeated the Bulls 103-89 without Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli.
The victory marked their 13th win in 14 tries and their league leading 41st of the year. With just nine more wins the Spurs will sharpie their 14th consecutive 50-win season, the most in NBA history.
On the quest for their fifth title in 15 years, this is just business as usual. Because under the Popovich-Duncan regime, it doesn’t matter who comes to the office, the work will get done.
They do it with cast-offs like Danny Green (18 points on 3-of-5 shooting behind the arc), second-year players such as Kawhi Leonard (led the way with 26 points) and of course, Nando de Colo, a mystery-man from France who admirably filled in for MVP candidate Tony Parker.
Just another day at the office.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding Duncan’s health, Ginobli’s nagging injuries and other players constantly in and out of the lineup, the Spurs will continue to hum along and not worry about who they’re playing, but rather how they’re playing.
Just like their offense, the Spurs don’t stop moving.
Take just the two best players away from any other team and its win percentage would decrease exponentially.
The Spurs are able to avoid such setbacks and losing streaks with two key concepts: motion and trust.
In an era of isolation and pick-and-roll heavy offense, many teams rely on one or two players to initiate offense and create shots while the other three or four players turn into statues.
The Spurs utilize both these concepts, but nobody is standing without a purpose. More often than not, the Spurs will run two plays at once. If the defense focuses on one, it will concede the other. And because many of their players don’t need much space to launch a high-percentage 3-pointer, any misstep can be fatal.
There are so many things going on at once with the Spurs’ offense that it’s as if they’re writing the perfect geometric proof on an NBA court.
The only criterion is trust. Other teams are not able to utilize — let alone conceptualize – an offense as complex as Popovich’s because so many players in this league would rather trust their talent instead of trusting their teammates.
It’s a problem that plagues the teams in this league that facetiously value the individual over the collective. The Spurs are built (and re-built) with the latter in mind so that it does not matter who comes into the office.
Either way, deep in the heart of Texas, they know the work will get done.
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