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How good are the Spurs?
by Larry Ness - 01/28/2005
The Suns blistering 31-4 start has been the first-half story of the year in the NBA. The Suns, scoring a league-high 109 PPG have cooled a little bit lately and enter this weekend's play at 34-10 (.733). The Sonics sit at a surprising 29-12 (.707) and Shaq has the Miami Heat at 31-13 (.705).
However, up against these RABBITS, the TORTOISE in this year's NBA race just may be the "old reliable" San Antonio Spurs. After beating the Kings on TNT Thursday night, the Spurs own the league's best mark at 35-10 (.778)! The Spurs tied with the Piston's last year as the league's stingiest team, allowing 84.3 PPG. They are allowing a league-low of 86.1 PPG again this year, nearly a three-point basket lower than the Pistons' average of 88.9 PPG (No. 2 in the league).
This San Antonio team is a perfect example of the total being greater than the sum of its parts! There is little doubt that Duncan is the league's most VALUED player, as he averages 21.6 PPG, 11.9 RPG and 2.8 BPG! Ginobili (15.7) and Parker (15.4) are far more than role players now and then there is the team's depth.
It is arguably the best in the league, as seven players average between 14.3 minutes per game and 30.8, scoring between 4.2 PPG and 8.2 PPG! While the Spurs league-best record speaks for itself, the stat that really STANDS OUT is, the team's average margin of victory!
Through 45 games, the Spurs are outscoring their opponents by 10.9 PPG! That's RARIFIED AIR, as a quick check of NBA history shows. The best-ever margin of victory for a season is owned by the 1971-72 LA Lakers at 12.3 PPG. That championship team won a league-record 33 consecutive games and its 69-13 record stood as a single-season best until the 1995-96 season.
MJ's Bulls went 72-10 that year but fell just short of the Lakers average margin of victory, outscoring opponents by 12.2 PPG! Only one other NBA team has finished a year with a winning margin of above 12 PPG and that was the 1970-71 champions, the Milwaukee Bucks. Led by Lew Alcindor (what happened to that guy?) and the Big O, the Bucks finished 66-16 that year, outscoring opponents by an identical 12.2 PPG.
The Bill Russell-led Celtics won 11 titles in 13 years but those legendary teams were able to outscore their opponents by more than nine PPG in only 1961-62 season (9.2)! The famous Wilt Chamberlain-led Philadelphia 76er team of 1966-67 that went 68-13 outscored opponents by just 9.4 PPG in their championship season.
More recently, Kareem and Magic led the Lakers to FIVE titles in a nine-year period beginning in the 1979-80 season but just ONCE, in the 1986-87 season, outscored opponents by as many as nine PPG (9.3)! Bird's Celtics won three titles from 1980-81 to 1985-86, outscoring opponents by more than nine PPG in just the 1985-86 season (9.4).
So back to the current-day Spurs. While the above teams were LOADED with Hall of Famers, this current San Antonio team will see only Tim Duncan eventually enshrined in Springfield, Mass. However, winning this year's title and finishing the season by outscoring opponents by better than 10 PPG (or more?), will indeed put the 2004-05 Spurs in very 'select' company.
Monday, I'll check in on the college basketball scene with my five-part Super Bowl countdown beginning on Tuesday.