Is Boris Diaw the last best hope for hoop purists?
Guest Post by Abacus Reveals
Hey Rocky, Watch Me Pull a Rabbit out of My Hat!!
While never the jolliest chap in any room, and despite his squad’s impressive victory Saturday night, surly San Antonio Spur Svengali Gregg Popovich must be a real pistol nowadays.
Not only had the Texas leprechaun landed his “pot o’ gold” on the personnel front last summer.
Dr. Frankenstein was even afforded the additional luxury of being able to tinker with and fine-tune his latest “creation” as the attention of the entire sports media was focused on the otherworldly accomplishments of a certain defending champion with both swag aplenty and an enormous chip on its collective shoulder. Pop had remained downright cordial during his infamous in-game Q&A’s … said and did all the right things, from warmly greeting Craig Sager to profusely praising the worthy opposition.
Within this veil of anonymity (and while keeping on a pace for 70 wins), the crafty mechanic customized the valves of his team’s offensive motor to blend in the skills and savvy of his two-headed frontcourt upgrade. (Us old timers recall that Bill Fitch had overseen a very similar makeover exactly 35 years ago.)
Hard not to notice, though hardly as glamorous, has been the Spurs’ defensive prowess this season – as often as not topping the charts in points allowed, opponent FG shooting and defensive rebounding. Also, the Spurs and Warriors have owned the top two spots in three-point percentage – both offensively and defensively – since about Thanksgiving.
[Point of order: Through 20 weeks (March 16), GSW has been bumped to third in 3-D by none other than the Boston Celtics.]
Less evident to the naked eye was San Antonio’s decreased utilization of the three-ball. Through 20 weeks and 67 games, the Spurs have attempted 5,591 FG’s of which 1,257 were treys – a usage rate of 22.5 percent, sixth lowest in the league. That’s a decline of 4.4 from their rate from 2014-15, the greatest drop-off by any team.
In fact, the Spurs are one of only eight teams to have reduced their long-bombing this season – and that group includes Houston, which has scaled back its output from outrageous (39.2%) to merely crazy (.375).
So, without sacrificing the 5-star efficiency of their “three game,” the Spurs have funneled much more of their offense through the hands of as clever a quartet of post players as the NBA has seen in some years.
All this was going on with ol’ Pop deftly and gleefully keeping his crew off in the wings of the theater while Golden State was center stage kickin’ in the footlights.
Even the pundits helped out, playing up the Golden State’s per-game edge in treys (roughly half a dozen overall) as insurmountable.
But it’s tough staying “hidden in plain sight” in this day and age – even when you’re a Hall of Fame coach.
The ESPN Mikes may have kicked off this unwanted enlightenment when they solicited Oscar Robertson’s views on today’s NBA. Then betting lines and a power index or two were “favor”-ing the Spurs for the title.
Smoke seemed to be clearing, mirrors cracking. Steven A. even correctly predicted victory in Saturday’s Square Dance.
Other than Old Man Duncan’s limited minutes, Pop chose not to hold anything back against the short-handed, road-weary Dubs, riding all his starters for at least 29 minutes.
The most intriguing box-score number to me, though, was the Spurs’ steals – four, as in half of the eight steals their D generally produces.
How, pray tell, do you hold an offensive juggernaut more than 30 points below its normal output with just four steals (and only 10 turnovers in all)?
Like West and Aldridge, you sign on to play (with a good bit of discipline, mind you) for Popovich the Prestidigitator.
“Nothin’ up my sleeve. Presto!”