Power rankings: How Spurs owned first half
by Adi Joseph, USA TODAY Sports
The San Antonio Spurs’ three stars have missed 23 games this season. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili sat out together six times. Key role players Kawhi Leonard, Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw each missed almost 20 games.
So things haven’t been easy. And it hasn’t mattered.
The Spurs maintained their spot at No. 1 in USA TODAY Sports’ NBA power rankings at the All-Star break because they have overcome all those hurdles and still have the best record in the NBA. They have won 14 of their past 15 games, even as Ginobili and Duncan each missed time.
Point guard Tony Parker has emerged as an MVP candidate, and the defense and offense both rank among the five most efficient in the NBA.
Much of it comes down to hitting the shots that matter. Three-pointers count for more points than two-pointers, and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has used that to his advantage. The Spurs make 38.4% of their threes, fourth-best in the NBA, while allowing opponents to make 32.6%, second-lowest in the NBA. They also lead the league in assists and rank third in steals, showing their team-wide intelligence.
Our panel of USA TODAY Sports’ Adi Joseph and Kevin Spain; Hoopsworld.com’s Steve Kyler and Lang Greene; and the Detroit Free Press‘ Vince Ellis sided heavily with the Spurs, but it wasn’t unanimous. Here’s the breakdown of the top five teams (points on a 30-29-28-etc. scale):
The All-Star break MVP vote proved even more lopsided, thanks to the winner’s recent hot play. LeBron James entered the break on a run of seven consecutive games, all Heat wins, with at least 30 points and 58% shooting from the field.
That run seemingly sealed this week’s vote for James, though it’s been a seesaw battle all season. Here’s this week’s top five (points on a 7-5-3-2-1 scale):