Okay, now that I’ve got you drawn in, I will say that it is far too early to provide a yes or no to that question. What I will say is that as of right now the Spurs are off to their best start since the 2004-2005 season, and if they win tomorrow night it will be the Spurs’ best 10 game start of the Duncan Era.
What are the factors that have contributed to this run? A few things actually, and the first one is somewhat obvious: the quality of competition that the Spurs’ have gone up against. They’ve played the Clippers twice, the Sixers, and a Houston team without Yao and depleted by injuries, not to mention Indiana and Charlotte. Last season by this time, the Spurs had faced Dallas twice, Chicago, Utah, Portland, and OKC resulting in a disappointing 4-5 record.
Check the box scores for the last three weeks, and you might be left with the impression that the offensive efficiency of this roster is vastly improved. However, if you compare the average for the first nine games of this season to the same period for last season you would see that this year’s squad is roughly one percentage point better in offensive efficiency (108.94 to 109.97), which in this case is barely relevant. Where you will see a big difference is in pace, which if you’ve been paying attention isn’t really a surprise. Last year at this point, the Spurs averaged just over 93 possessions a game, but this year they are knocking on 100’s door (99.78), and that is what is giving them a boost in scoring from an average of 101 points per game over the same period last year to a shade under 109 this season.
When I was scouring Hoopdata and Basketball Reference to put this piece together, I was surprised to find out that so far in ’10 the Spurs are allowing almost 6 fewer points per game on average over the matching timeframe in ’09. The surprise was a result of two things: one, the points that have been hung from the score board, and two, the relatively soft defensive performances we’ve all witnessed. Of course, as Spurs fans we have been spoiled by the defensive efforts of the past, but still to see the numbers is a little reassuring when thinking about the other 73 games yet to come. It should be noted that my opening point about strength of schedule comes into play with this stat as well.
Might the Spurs be over extending themselves with the efforts taken to get off to such a good start? I can’t say, but what I can say is that they’ve been beating the teams that they should be, which is something they haven’t always done in the past. By banking these wins now, I think they are setting themselves up for success in the future, especially since the wins have come from a collective effort beyond the will of the Big Three.