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After a 61-win regular season in 2010-11, the Spurs were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
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StatsCube: Can veteran Spurs retool for one more title run?

Posted Dec 2 2011 7:12AM

To get ready for the 2011-12 season, StatsCube breaks down the critical numbers for all 30 teams.

For the first 81 games of the 2010-11 season, the San Antonio Spurs held the best record in the NBA. But regular season success doesn't always carry over to the playoffs, and the Spurs became the fourth No. 1 seed to be eliminated in the first round since the league went to the 16-team playoff format in 1984.

Is that reason for panic, or can the Spurs chalk the loss up to some poor shooting over a few games? Maybe they can take solace from what the Dallas Mavericks did last season. A season after losing to the lower-seeded Spurs in the first round, the veteran Mavs won their first championship.


2010-11 Basics
Record: 61-21
Pace: 94.6 (14)
OffRtg: 109.4 (2)
DefRtg: 102.8 (11)
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions

Last season was unique in many ways for the Spurs. With a change of pace and a new identity, they became a team that folks in San Antonio might not recognize, even though most of the players in silver and black were plenty familiar.

Spurs efficiency, Tim Duncan era

Season Pace Rank OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg Rank
1997-98 90.9 23 101.5 15 96.2 2 +5.3 8
1998-99 91.2 24 101.3 10 92.1 1 +9.2 1
1999-00 93.1 24 102.8 9 95.7 2 +7.1 3
2000-01 91.8 25 104.7 3 94.9 1 +9.8 1
2001-02 92.6 19 104.0 9 96.5 1 +7.5 3
2002-03 92.5 20 103.1 7 96.6 3 +6.5 3
2003-04 91.5 21 99.8 14 91.6 1 +8.2 1
2004-05 91.4 23 104.9 8 95.8 1 +9.1 1
2005-06 90.6 24 105.2 9 96.9 1 +8.3 1
2006-07 92.0 27 106.7 4 97.4 2 +9.2 1
2007-08 90.8 28 104.7 13 99.5 3 +5.2 9
2008-09 90.4 27 106.2 12 102.0 6 +4.3 6
2009-10 94.0 20 107.2 9 102.0 9 +5.2 4
2010-11 94.6 14 109.4 2 102.8 11 +6.6 3
An uncommon season: The fastest pace

Last season was the first since the Spurs drafted Tim Duncan in which they played above the league-average pace. But they actually increased their pace more the previous season.

Their fast pace came despite a lack of turnovers on both ends of the floor. They ranked sixth in avoiding their own turnovers and 28th in forcing them out of their opponent.

The Spurs averaged 16.1 fast-break points per 100 possessions, the seventh-highest rate in the league. And a lack of possession-extending offensive rebounds also contributed to the relatively fast pace. The Spurs were a top-10 defensive rebounding team and a bottom-10 offensive rebounding team.

You might guess that the increased pace was related to Duncan's decreased minutes. Fundamental averaged less than 30 minutes per game for the first time in his career, but the Spurs actually played a faster pace (95.2 possessions per 48 minutes) when Duncan was on the floor than they did when he was on the bench (93.9).

An uncommon season: The most efficient offense

Last season was the Spurs' best offensive season since they drafted Duncan. They were strong offensively from top to bottom, with the top nine players in their rotation each having an on-court offensive rating (Spurs' efficiency when they were on the floor) of at least 108 points per 100 possessions.

Among 299 players around the league who logged at least 750 minutes last season, Manu Ginobili had the highest on-court offensive efficiency, with Matt Bonner right behind him.

Highest on-court offensive efficiency

Players GP MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg
Manu Ginobili 80 2425 112.2 100.7 +11.5
Matt Bonner 66 1432 112.0 103.4 +8.6
Dwyane Wade 76 2823 111.7 101.1 +10.6
J.R. Smith 79 1967 111.4 105.7 +5.8
Zydrunas Ilgauskas 72 1145 111.3 101.9 +9.4
Minimum 750 minutes played

The area where the Spurs' offense improved most was 3-point shooting. They ranked 11th from beyond the arc in 2009-10, but were the best 3-point shooting team last season.

Three players -- Bonner, Richard Jefferson and Gary Neal -- were most responsible for the improvement from deep. Bonner improved his 3-point shooting by almost seven percent while taking the same amount of threes as he took the previous season. Jefferson increased both his frequency and accuracy in dramatic fashion. And Neal led all rookies in 3-point percentage, while attempting 20 more than any other first-year player.

Richard Jefferson 3-point shooting, last two seasons

Season Cnr3PM Cnr3PA Cnr3P% AB3PM AB3PA AB3P% Tot3PM Tot3PA Tot3P%
2009-10 27 75 36.0% 32 109 29.4% 59 187 31.6%
2010-11 87 190 45.8% 48 117 41.0% 135 307 44.0%
Cnr = From corners
AB = Above break
Tot = Includes shots from backcourt

All three finished in the top 13 in the league in 3-point percentage. Bonner ranked first, Jefferson ranked fifth, and Neal ranked 13th.

It helps when you shoot threes from the right spots. The Spurs did just that, with 38.2 percent of their 3-point attempts coming from the corners. That was the highest rate in the league, with Jefferson leading the league in corner 3-point attempts.

Most 3-point attempts from the corners

Player 3PM 3PA 3P% %3PA
Richard Jefferson 87 190 45.8% 61.9%
Dorell Wright 70 165 42.4% 32.0%
Jason Richardson 67 161 41.6% 33.6%
Ray Allen 78 152 51.3% 40.2%
Arron Afflalo 67 150 44.7% 60.5%
%3PA = Percentage of total 3-pointers

As a whole, the league shot 28 percent of its threes from the corners. Jefferson's rate was more than twice that. Bonner and Neal did their work from the top, taking only 26 and 27 percent of their threes from the corners respectively.

An uncommon season: The worst defense

Last season was also the Spurs' worst defensive season since they drafted Duncan. And ironically, the area where they regressed most was defending the 3-pointers. They ranked 22nd in opponent 3-point percentage last season, after ranking eighth the season before.

Even more ironic is that they were the worst team in the league at defending corner threes. Only 23 percent of their opponents' 3-pointers came from the corners, but the Spurs allowed them to make 47 percent of those corners threes.

Although Bonner and Neal were keys to their offensive improvement, the Spurs weren't very good defensively when the two were on the floor together. The Spurs allowed 107.2 points per 100 possessions in 819 minutes with Bonner and Neal both in the game.

The Spurs also regressed on the defensive glass. But they improved in forcing turnovers and keeping their opponents off the free throw line, an area in which they led the league.

Record: 2-4
Pace: 92.6 (5)
OffRtg: 100.5 (10)
DefRtg: 103.1 (6)

Neal's miracle 3-pointer at the end of regulation in Game 5 of the Spurs' first round series against the Memphis Grizzlies was an anomaly. The team that led the regular season in 3-point shooting was 14th in that category in the playoffs. The Spurs hit just 29 percent of their threes in the six-game series.

Jefferson was 4-for-5 on corner threes, but was 2-for-12 on threes from above the break. Bonner (6-for-18) and Neal (5-for-19) combined to shoot 30 percent from downtown, while Tony Parker (1-for-8) and George Hill (4-for-15) were even worse.

Going against the league's best team at forcing turnovers, the Spurs also coughed up the ball 15.3 times per 100 possessions. Duncan was particularly sloppy, turning the ball over at almost twice the rate he did in the regular season.

And those were just the offensive issues. The Spurs' defense was also pretty porous at times, allowing the Grizzlies to shoot better than 50 percent from the field in three of the four Memphis wins.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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