After a week off, we’re back with our third NBA Tuesday miniseries today to focus on the San Antonio Spurs, a five-time NBA championship franchise that started in the ol’ ABA (1967) as the Dallas Chaparrals (and for one season in 1970-1971, the Texas Chaparrals). A move to San Antonio in 1973 set the Spurs in motion: in 55 full seasons, the franchise has made the postseason 47 times, a very impressive percentage of seasonal success for an ABA/expansion organization. Read on!
No. 5: 2004-05 San Antonio Spurs
After a 59-23 regular season where these Spurs won the Southwest Division, the team ran through the postseason the way to an NBA title over the defending champion Detroit Pistons. San Antonio was No. 18 in scoring, but the No. 1 defense powered the squad to a No. 1 SRS rating. The Spurs needed just 5 games to beat the Denver Nuggets, 6 games to beat the Seattle SuperSonics, and 5 games to beat the Phoenix Suns before going the full 7 in a truly grinding Final.
Power forward Tim Duncan (11.2 Win Shares), shooting guard Manu Ginóbili (11.0), and point guard Tony Parker (8.1) led an international roster of rock stars—7 players posted at least 4.2 WS on the year. San Antonio actually was outscored in the Finals, but winning Game 5 on the road by 1 point and Game 7 at home by 7 points were the key results that went the Spurs’ way. The fourth quarter of the final game was epic for San Antonio as well.
No. 4: 2000-01 San Antonio Spurs
This is a surprise entry in the group, as the Spurs lost in the Western Conference Finals via sweep to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers. A 58-24 record won San Antonio the Midwest Division, built on the No. 12 offense, the No. 3 defense, and the No. 1 SRS ranking. After losing just one game in each of the first two rounds, against Minnesota and Dallas, respectively, the Spurs somehow all took a dive against L.A.—getting outscored by 22.2 ppg, shockingly. Fixed?
The Lakers were just sixth in the SRS, so that sweep never should have happened the way it did: Duncan (13.2 WS), center David Robinson (12.1), and SG Derek Anderson (9.9) were an extremely formidable trio. However, there wasn’t a lot on the bench; is that how L.A. won the WCF? Well, Anderson only scored 4 points in the series, missing two games entirely, so that certainly was a bad-luck factor working against San Antonio. He was nearly impossible to replace. Tough break.
No. 3: 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs
After losing the prior season’s Finals in heart-breaking fashion, the Spurs came roaring back to win another NBA championship. With a 62-20 record, San Antonio won the Southwest Division by finishing sixth on offense, sixth on defense, and No. 1 in the SRS. See a pattern here? The Spurs beat the Dallas Mavericks (7 games), the Portland Trail Blazers (5 games), the Oklahoma City Thunder (6 games), and the Miami Heat (5 games) to claim their most-recent title.
Seven different players posted at least 4.9 WS, creating unique balance where no single guy played more than 29.4 mpg. It was a winning recipe, built around small forward Kawhi Leonard (7.7 WS) and Duncan (7.4), now playing center. Outscoring the defending champions by 14 ppg looked easy behind Leonard, Duncan, and Parker—each of whom played well more 30 mpg in the Finals. In the end, the San Antonio depth just wore out the worn-out Heat.
No. 2: 2006-07 San Antonio Spurs
Shockingly, this team finished second (58-24) in the Southwest Division, while still finishing first in the SRS based on the No. 14 offense and the No. 1 defense. The Spurs lost only 4 postseason games: one against the Denver Nuggets, two against the Phoenix Suns, one against the Utah Jazz, and none against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals. Overall, though, San Antonio only outscored the Cavs by 6 ppg in the Finals, so it was all about closing for this veteran group.
Duncan (13.0 WS), Ginóbili (10.6), and Parker (9.6) once again led the way—with four other players posting at least 4.1 WS throughout the regular season. After taking down Cleveland in Games 1 and 2 at home by a combined 20 points, the Spurs won two close games on the road to close out the NBA championship: a three-point win Game 3 was crushing for the Cavs, and San Antonio finished off the sweep with a hard-fought, one-point victory in Game 4.
No. 1: 2015-16 San Antonio Spurs
With a 67-15 record, the best team in franchise history won the Southwest Division again—but finished second in the SRS behind the 73-win Golden State Warriors. The Spurs were No. 10 on offense and No. 1 on defense … and the much-anticipated WCF matchup against the Dubs never happened, as San Antonio was upset in the second round by the Thunder in six games. A first-round sweep over the Memphis Grizzlies is a distant memory now to most NBA fans.
This was Leonard’s team now, as he paced the roster with 13.1 WS. Only PF LaMarcus Aldridge (10.1) was above 5.8 WS on this shallow(er) roster. Duncan (5.2) was 39 and in his final NBA season, for example. Interestingly enough, the Spurs outscored the Thunder by 0.5 ppg in the playoff series; however, OKC won Games 2 and 5 by a combined 5 points after losing Game 1 by 32 points. That kind of reversal was foreseen by no one, and it shaped the league for years to come.