Jun 10, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich speaks with forward Kawhi Leonard (2) during the fourth quarter of game thre against the Miami Heat in the 2014 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena. San Antonio defeated Miami 111-92. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

How the Toronto Raptors can win their Spurs

Jun 10, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan (21) drives against Miami Heat guard Ray Allen (34) during the fourth quarter of game three of the 2014 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena. San Antonio Spurs won 111-92. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

To “win one’s spurs” is to demonstrate convincingly that one has the skills to perform a task, or is otherwise worthy of promotion. I like the idea of the Toronto Raptors being the team which occupies in the NBA’s Eastern Conference the exalted position the San Antonio Spurs do in the Western. We started this topic a few days ago, and what I suggested the Spurs do so well was on global display last night as they dusted the Heat 111-92:

  • relentless ball movement
  • making open shots so created
  • forget the score – everyone always defends
  • international players welcome

The Spurs offense is poetry in motion. I lost track of the number of times all 5 players touched the ball before a shot went up. The Raps offered glimpses of that capability last season, and I think the unselfish mindset is evident from the team’s leaders, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. DD’s APG [assists per game] exactly doubled (from 2 to 4) between ’11-’12 and ’13-’14 seasons. If he has someone to pass to, he will. Kyle’s 7.4 APG last season was the best of his career. It’s no coincidence both players also achieved the highest scoring averages of their careers. Once a player has proven he can score, and therefore demands close defensive attention, opportunities arise for teammates. However, an inherently selfish player won’t look to distribute, but our guys do.

With an NBA-leading point differential of 7.7 during the season (and 8.4 in the playoffs, best by far), the Spurs established their chops on both sides of the ball. They have maintained their defensive focus (third in D-boards and steals) throughout the playoffs, a skill our guys sometimes suffer with. However, coach Dwane Casey has always pushed defense first, and he’s bench boss for the foreseeable future.

The Spurs have been winning with players from all over the world (France, Brazil, Canada, Australia, Argentina, Italy, New Zealand – they have some Americans too). Our team isn’t quite so diverse (France, Lithuania, Venezuela), but Toronto is home to people from everywhere, including our Nigerian-born GM. I’m optimistic Masai Ujiri will look for players on every continent, including some less visited by our competitors.

San Antonio is an organization built to endure, with a stable coaching, front-office and ownership situation. In Toronto we are just starting to see the value of a solid foundation like theirs. Can we hope for the same results in the coming years?



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