Spurs Still Defending at Faster Tempo

by Jeff Fogle 3. February 2011 01:11

Remember that the "new look" Spurs are playing faster basketball this year when you compare them to past standards...

Notice I said "faster," and not "fast." San Antonio's current pace factor of 94.9 possessions per game is right at league average. That's a big step up from being one of the slowest teams in the league for years. That jump has also led to a very noticeable increase in points allowed from a few years ago.

2007-08: 90.8 points allowed per game
2010-11: 96.9 points allowed per game thus far

Six points may seem like a lot. It could strike you as a dangerous defensive drop-off for a team with designs on winning a championship. But, when you move from 90.1 possessions per game to 94.9, it's actually neglible.

2007-08: 99.5 defensive efficiency
2010-11: 100.6 defensive efficiency

San Antonio's only allowing 1 extra point per 100 possessions. That six point-per-game drop from three years ago is mostly tempo related.

You might be surprised to find out that San Antonio is playing better defense this year than last year...even though their veterans are all a year older...and they supposedly brought in new guys who would jumpstart the offense at the expense of defense.

2009-10: 102.0 defensive efficiency
2010-11: 100.6 defensive efficiency

San Antonio significantly upgraded their offense while maintaining a strong defense (actually 1.4 points per 100 possessions better on defense right now than last season). That's why they've got the best record in basketball.

Thursday Night, San Antonio visits the Los Angeles Lakers in the latest challenge game for Kobe Bryant and company. Given recent form, it may be a tough night for the Lakers


Sacramento 100, Lakers 95
Boston 109, Lakers 96
Houston 98, Lakers 98 after regulation

That's an average result of -6 after 48 minutes for Los Angeles. And, San Antonio is better than the three-team composite the Lakers just hosted.

There's been recent local media pressure for the Lakers to kick things up a notch. If the best they could do after losing to Boston was a regulation tie against 22-28 Houston, that kick may not be coming any time soon. It will be interesting to see if the Lakers respond tonight against the best team in their conference. Maybe we'll just have to wait until April and the playoffs. In some ways, the Lakers season doesn't really start until they've lost a playoff game.

Transition Points

*Denver won another home game Wednesday night against an opponent in a back-to-back spot. Portland had defeated San Antonio in a Lakers-lookehead on Tuesday evening. The Blazers ran out of gas in the second half at altitude, dropping the last two quarters 64-44 in a 109-90 loss.

Oklahoma City was also a "hermit" exploiting a tired visitor. The Thunder didn't have a game Tuesday or Thursday, and won Wednesday 104-93 over New Orleans who was in a b2b spot.

Houston managed to win even on the night after overtime! That's another strike against the Utah Jazz, who fell to Houston 97-96. Note that Deron Williams is still out for the Jazz, and Andrei Kirilenko also missed the game. Fatigue isn't as big a deal if your opponent is missing two of its starters!

*Indiana won again under new head coach Frank Vogel. Though, if you're only leading horrible Cleveland 113-112 with 17 seconds left in the game, you're not exactly setting a playoff tone.

The Pacers have played at a breakneck pace in two games under Vogel. A win over Toronto reached 104 possessions. Wednesday's number will be very high too. We'll need a few more samples to know if that's just a case of matching up with teams who don't care any more...or if Vogel is going to emphasize a run-and-gun game.

*Remember when Charlotte was going to start running more after replacing Larry Brown with Paul Silas? Hopefully we've helped kill that meme. Another slow victory tonight for the Bobcats. Except for an up-tempo game with running Golden State, the Bobcats had played to 90-91-88-93-87-90-89 for a pace factor the past couple of weeks. Tonight's win will be in that range.

Maybe Vogel is going to do what everyone thought Silas was going to do...

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2/3/2011 2:53:39 AM #


Tomorrow's matchup between the Spurs and the Lakers looms pretty large for both teams.  Or maybe not.  If the Spurs win LA has to worry more about the 2 seed than catching San Antonio in the regular season.  If LA wins I suppose catching up is in play, but it would still be a 6 game lead in the loss column and if LA slips up later and it goes back to 8 or 9 the Spurs are probably OK again.  

I guess it means more to the Lakers - SA has such a lead going it doesn't matter who they win against as long as they maintain the winning.  

Greyberger United States

2/3/2011 8:43:27 AM #


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2/3/2011 11:34:47 AM #


Jeff, the numbers I have for the Spurs' Offensive and Defensive Points Per Possession Efficiency Ratings are slightly different than yours:

Total Offensive Points Scored = 4991
Total Offensive Possessions = 5081
Offensive Pts Allowed/Possession = 0.982

Total Defensive Points Allowed = 4653
Total Defensive Possessions = 5131
Defensive Pts Allowed/Possession = 0.907

Please Note: Unlike other basketball experts, it's my opinion that the most accurate estimate for a team's actual of number of possessions per season is derived from the following calculation:

Team Possessions = FGAs + TOs + [FTAs * 0.44]

The Spurs' Points Per Possession Differential [i.e. Off - Def] is 0.075.

From a comparison standpoint, the Points Per Possession Differentials for the last 5 NBA Championship-winning teams have been:

2009-2010, LA Lakers, +0.037 [Off/0.943; Def/0.906]
2008-2009, LA Lakers, +0.065 [Off/0.974; Def/0.909]
2007-2008, Boston Celtics, +0.110 [Off/0.971; Def/0.861]
2006-2007, San Antonio Spurs, +0.091 [Off/0.969; Def/0.878]
2005-2006, Miami Heat, +0.038 [Off/0.957; Def/0.919]
2004-2005, San Antonio Spurs, +0.070 [Off/0.927; Def/0.857]

Q1. Are the Spurs using a different style of play this season than they have in the past when they've been able to win the NBA Championship?

A1. Yes, they are.

Q2. Is it possible for San Antonio to win the NBA Championship this season, using its current style of play?

A2. Yes, it is.

It is going to be very interesting indeed to see how the playoffs unfold this year, given how the Spurs, Lakers, Mavericks, Thunder, Hornets, Nuggets, Celtics, Heat, Bulls, Hawks and Magic are performing, thus far, during the regular season schedule.

khandor Canada

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