The Boston Celtics (36-25) started off the season slowly but have morphed lately into a contender. They currently sit as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference standings and have many wondering if they could potentially go out with a bang in what appears to be their last stand. Given that the Big Three is only four years removed from an NBA title, they get the benefit of the doubt and most would agree that although making the Finals might be a stretch, the conference finals could be a realistic goal for this group of proud men.
Consequently, we are treated to stories about their resurgence and the damage they could potentially inflict in the upcoming postseason to either Chicago or Miami. And yet, there is another big three that has barely played together this season given injuries but their team has managed to more than stay afloat.
Indeed, the San Antonio Spurs (42-16) are currently the second seed in the Western Conference standings but still have an opportunity to finish the regular season with the best overall record in the league.
Manu Ginobili may have missed a large chunk of the season, but his return to the lineup coupled with the addition of Stephen Jackson make the Spurs a dangerous opponent.
Despite the fact that San Antonio has juggled their big men combinations this season, the team has remained relatively formidable in doing so and has managed to sport the 11th best defensive efficiency in the league — tied with the Orlando Magic — as well as the 10th best rebounding rate — tied with the Toronto Raptors — in the NBA.
But where the Spurs really hurt teams is on offense.
So far this season, San Antonio is converting 47.2 percent of their overall field goal attempts and 38.9 percent of their looks from 3-point range. That’s a scary proposition for any opponent, and teams will be hard pressed to slow down the Spurs in the postseason given their almost league leading offensive efficiency. The OKC Thunder boast a rating of 107.4 — tops in the league — while the Spurs trail them with a figure of 107.
Tony Parker has been the team’s best player for most of the season but Tim Duncan has submitted a few throwback performances on the boards and on the block despite playing a mere 28.4 minutes per game in this shortened campaign.
A case can be made that no other team has done a better job of managing their starters’ minutes and making sure that their players will have something left in the tank when the playoffs roll around. Heck, Ginobili is only averaging 23.9 minutes per game.
This begs the question: can the Spurs win the NBA title?
If the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers can get the benefit of the doubt because the main players from their most recent championship parades are still on the roster, doesn’t it stand to reason that the San Antonio Spurs are in the same boat?
Unlike the Lakers, San Antonio kept their head coach and thus benefitted from continuity.
The Celtics started off slow because they faced a few injuries and didn’t have all of their guys in shape; but San Antonio also dealt with a huge blow with the absence of Manu Ginobili and paced themselves to be right in the thick of things with less than 10 games left on their schedule.
The Spurs not only have the championship pedigree, but they also have the parts that complement each other regardless of whether it’s Stephen Jackson, Tony Parker or Gary Neal.
Their offense will make them a dangerous contender when the playoffs start and having two closers as well as a cold-blooded shooter unafraid of the moment (yes, Neal I’m talking about you) is a huge advantage that may have help them get all the way to the NBA Finals.
Seeing the Spurs play well into the month of June shouldn’t be a surprise, and yet very few are talking about it.
Get a glimpse of them tonight at Oracle Arena…
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