The San Antonio Spurs came into the Verizon Center last night and thoroughly dominated the Washington Wizards 118-94. They shot 58-percent for the game, 52-percent from three-point land, only trailed for 22 seconds and had six players in double figures. They were also able to accomplish this with Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili combining for just 20 minutes and 12 points.
San Antonio’s victory was even more impressive considering that the night before, they were outplayed in Philadelphia, losing to the 76ers by shooting just 33-percent from the field, 17-percent from the three-point line, and by putting up just 25 points in the second half. As Gregg Popovich said during his pregame presser on Saturday, “We set offensive basketball back a decade.”
“Just one?,” asked another reporter.
“Maybe two …. you’re right, I’m being too kind. It was just ridiculous,” responded the coach. One night later, Popovich got his team to leave that ridiculousness behind. By halftime in Washington, they scored more points (72) than they had the previous night in Philadelphia (71 points total).
The Spurs not only own the league’s best overall record at 45-9, but they are also an NBA-best 20-7 on the road — and 5-2 through the first seven of their nine game “Rodeo Road Trip,” when there is a prolonged scheduling block in the AT&T Center due to the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo. That lies in sharp contrast to the Washington Wizards, who will be aiming for road victory number one against the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday. It doesn’t take a genius or fancy statistics to see the tremendous gap between the two teams.
So, in an effort to learn the secret behind the Spurs’ tremendous success on the road, I decided to talk to Gregg Popovich and Antonio McDyess. Popovich has a 67-percent winning percentage, four NBA titles, and in the past eight seasons of the “Rodeo Road Trip,” his record through last night’s game is 49-22. McDyess is a 14-year veteran, who early in his career played on a Denver Nuggets team that struggled, and in more recent years on the Detroit Pistons and now the Spurs — veteran teams that have excelled at winning on the road.
I asked Popovich what it takes to be a good road team, and I asked McDyess the same question, but I also asked him why young teams struggle so much away from home.
“Well, first and foremost, you have to be able to stop somebody on the road to even give yourself a fighting chance. I think it comes down to defense more than it does offense on the road, because guys at home are in their little comfort zone, and it comes easy for you in your own backyard. The key is having that mindset that says, ‘I’m away from home, my shot is off, but let me stop someone.’ As bad as we played last night against the Sixers, we still played great defense and held them to 77 points. We couldn’t hit shots, but we gave ourselves a chance and that’s what good road teams do … they give themselves a chance once that five minutes mark of the quarter comes.
Young teams like the Wizards, I mean it’s nothing personal, but they just aren’t disciplined and experienced enough yet. Teams like that, and I know because I was a young player on a young team once, just look to run and score, they forget about defense. And when they do that and their shots are falling it’s great through three quarters, but in the fourth they get tight, the defense is on lockdown mode, and they panic, turn the ball over and lose. But it’s a process and it helps to have someone on the team who has been there consistently, and the Wizards and other young teams just don’t have it.”
[Antonio McDyess talks about really old things with Sam Cassell.]
[Tim Duncan is left alone on the weakside for a dunk. According to the CBS Sports NBA Dunk-o-Meter, Duncan had just 21 dunks on the season going into the game, ranked 88th in the NBA.]
[But Timmy was nice enough afterward to give the ball right to JaVale McGee so the Wizards could likely hurry up to give the ball back to the Spurs in some manner.]
[Photos: Kyle Weidie, Truth About It.net]