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Old 05-17-12, 01:35 AM
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Blog: The Spurs Make Sharing Cool

2012 NBA Playoffs: San Antonio Spurs Thrive Even Without Superstar Numbers From Veterans Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili - The Daily Fix - WSJ
The Spurs Make Sharing Cool

By Carl Bialik
The San Antonio Spurs upended several pieces of conventional wisdom this lockout-shortened season. The abbreviated run-up to the season and crowded schedule was supposed to be hard on veteran clubs. And San Antonio, which at times has saved its best basketball for the playoffs, was expected to be satisfied with a playoff berth in the difficult conditions.

Yet the Spurs, led by three players who will all be at least 30 by this Thursday, won 76% of their games to nab the top seed in the West. They’ve made good use of it, winning all five of their playoff games, four of them by 12 points or more — following a 10-game, season-ending winning streak that included seven victories by 14 points or more. Part of the explanation is that San Antonio spread out its playing time in a way highly unusual for such successful teams. As a result, while it still has those three big names — Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili — none put up superstar numbers, a rarity for such a successful team and another exception to the conventional wisdom that in the NBA, teams need stars to excel.

Since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976, 36 teams have won at least three quarters of their games, including the Spurs and the Chicago Bulls this year. Every one but the Spurs this year had at least one player who played at least half the team’s games and averaged at least 34.8 minutes per game he played, as well at least one player who averaged at least 32 minutes for every game the team played, whether or not he played on it. The average figures for each were 37.3 minutes and 36.5 minutes, respectively. The Spurs’ minutes-played leader this season, Tony Parker, had averages of 32.1 minutes in games he played, and played an average of just 29.1 minutes in all San Antonio games.

Parker also led the Spurs with 7.1 win shares, a measure of all offensive and defensive contributions to the team, in the form of how many wins he contributed to the club’s total. His win shares represent 14.2% of San Antonio’s wins this season. That’s also the lowest for a lead player on the 36 teams to win 75% of their games. The average figure for a club’s leading player is 22.5%, meaning the most successful NBA teams got on average 22.5% of their wins from their best player. And he usually was recognized for his great play and his team’s success: 18 of the 35 teams with such a good record had the league MVP and six more had MVP runner-ups, often behind the leader of another team with a winning percentage of .750 or better. The leading vote-getter on the other 35 teams averaged 43.4 first-place votes. Parker finished fifth in MVP voting, with four first-place votes.

Spreading around playing time and the ball makes sense for a club whose three best players all are past their peaks. Parker turns 30 on Thursday, Duncan turned 36 last month and Ginobili turns 35 in July. Parker, the youngest of the bunch, finished with numbers this season in line with recent seasons. But Duncan set a career low in minutes per game and his second-lowest points-per-game average of his career. And Ginobili missed half the season to injury. When he did play, he was great, but he averaged fewer minutes per game than any season since his rookie year, and fewer points per game than any year since his sophomore season. Other players filled in the gaps: San Antonio had 10 players play more than half the team’s games and average at least 6.6 points per game. Eight Spurs contributed at least four win shares each, a remarkable number for a 66-game season.

This has changed somewhat in the playoffs, when each game is more crucial and there is less garbage time. In three of the Spurs’ five postseason games, their leading scorer had at least 26 points, and three times one of their players played at least 36 minutes.

Prior teams that were so successful in the regular season tended to do well in the playoffs. Fifteen of the 35 won the NBA title, and only six exited before the conference finals, including this year’s Bulls, who lost in the first round after losing Derrick Rose through at least the end of the playoffs and probably much longer due to injury. San Antonio isn’t as reliant on any one player, which should help it even as its best players take more minutes and shots in the playoffs.
With 26 points on 4 of 4 shots from distance in only 20 minutes of PT. Efficient eviceration.
Wolves' fan: ginobili vs. the wolves is like he's just kind of laughing to himself all game...kind of like he thinks it's cute that they're trying to play basketball.
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