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The Spurs Silently Cruise to Their 10th W in a Row….Just How Good is Their Bench?

Posted By Chelsea Curto On Feb 20 2012 @ 12:01 am In San Antonio Spurs | 3 Comments

I’d hate to start another article similar to the one before it…but I can’t help it. Here we are, again, with the Spurs winning another game (and in a dominating fashion against a very good team) and the only thing that is featured on ESPN and SportsCenter is either Jeremy Lin pulling the Knicks back and winning again or how good the Miami Heat have been playing during their win streak. Hello? Where is the love for this San Antonio Spurs team that has now won TEN games in a row and has gone fairly unnoticed while doing so?

On Saturday the Spurs continued their road trip by traveling to Los Angeles to take on a good LA team; and I’m not talking about the Lakers this time. They were facing the Clippers who had only lost three games all season on their home court. The Spurs looked ugly in the first quarter; they trailed by 11 and couldn’t even break 20 points. In the second quarter, however, they turned their game around, outscoring the Clippers by 13 going into the break. The game ended up going into overtime, thanks in large part to Chris Paul’s turnover and Gary Neal converting it into a three pointer that tied the game (only after he had turned the ball over himself) and the Spurs emerged with the ‘W’ to put their win streak into double digits. The important statistic from the game was not that they won; yes a 10 game win streak is very impressive, especially in this short of a season. The stat that stood out the most to me was the fact that six Spurs players were in double figures; so not just the starters broke into double digits (not included are Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter who both left the game due to injuries).

The following Spurs players scored in double figures on Saturday against the Clippers: Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, DeJuan Blair, Daniel Green, Matt Bonner and Gary Neal. Two players coming off the bench were able to score double digits against a very defensive-oriented team. This is not a one-time deal, though. Manu Ginobili (who is going to be coming off the bench when he gets healthy) is averaging 12.1 points per game. Tiago Splitter is contributing 9.4, Gary Neal adds 9.3 (when he is not starting), Daniel Green puts up 7.5 a game, Matt Bonner 7.3 and Kawhi Leonard 6.7. Those are all pretty strong PPG, not to mention Leonard leads the team in steals per game with 1.2. Compared to other teams in the league (i.e. the Magic/Lakers/Mavs/and the new-look Knicks), the Spurs have a consistent solid contribution from all of their bench players and in my opinion rank in the top five. The bench has showed their true depth several times this season, most importantly when Ginobili went out for 20+ games with a broken hand and having to fill the voids that Tim Duncan’s inconsistent play has not covered this season. In three out of the past four games Daniel Green has especially been playing better; he has scored double digits in three of those four (and all victories) and in February Splitter has averaged over 10 points per game while playing in every game so far this season.

I know that the biggest factor and roadblock for the Spurs right now is their age. Older guys like Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and Richard Jefferson are only going to struggle the rest of the season on tired legs and short days off between games. The good news, however, is the bench for the Spurs is actually fairly young (and the All-Star break is right around the corner!). DeJuan Blair (who starts), Gary Neal, Tiago Splitter and Kawhi Leonard all have less than five years of experience in the NBA.  While these kids are still learning the NBA ropes, the spark that they are able to provide to the Spurs during this win streak while coming off the bench is extremely beneficial. Let’s not forget Gary Neal’s steal off of Chris Paul’s clumsy inbound catch in Saturday’s victory. The guys on the bench have already been tested so far this season. Sure, they don’t have the championship experience that the starting guys have. However, they do have the privilege to play behind those guys to watch and imitate them. After all, the best way to become a champion is to imitate one.

Yes, the old guys are the ones with experience and the younger guys are very inexperienced, especially when facing teams like the Clippers and players like Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. But the Spurs bench players have shown that they too can contribute to the success the team has had.  The team has not been at its full capability yet, either. After Ginobili’s injury, the team learned to play without him. Now, they must mold together to incorporate all aspects of their team; whether it be their back up center or starting power forward, the Spurs have yet to reach 100%…and the fact that they are on a 10 game win streak at less than 100% should be scary for everyone else in the league.

What’s up next time? Just how capable are the Spurs in winning a championship? I’ll focus on their age vs the age of younger teams in the league, how their paychecks are affecting the team and seriously consider how close the Spurs can get this year (realistically!) to Linning winning it all.

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