SAN ANTONIO -- Three teams in the NBA scored in the 70s during Wednesday night’s offering of games.
The San Antonio Spurs, meanwhile, played without two starters in Tony Parker and LaMarcus Aldridge, yet coaxed that type of production -- 70 points -- from their bench alone in steamrolling the depleted Utah Jazz 123-98. The victory marked the club’s ninth by 25 points or more, which is three times as many such wins as any other team in the NBA.
Did the performance simply serve as a reminder of how good the Spurs are?
“Their record reflects that,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “Their banners reflect that. Their play reflects that too. Their coach reflects that. They’re a tremendous group.”
In typical San Antonio fashion, the Spurs opted to rest Aldridge and Parker, who has been battling soreness in his right hip, replacing them in the lineup with David West and Patty Mills. With West and Mills running with the starters, the team distributed more minutes to role players such as Ray McCallum, Jonathon Simmons, Boban Marjanovic, Kyle Anderson and Matt Bonner.
The group responded with its 70-point contribution and five double-figure scorers in McCallum (10 points), and Manu Ginobili (14), along with Simmons, Marjanovic and Anderson, who scored 13 points apiece. The Spurs dished a total of 34 assists while connecting on 60.5 percent from the field.
“It was great. That’s what we work on the most besides defense is sharing the ball,” said Simmons, who missed just two out of his seven attempts. “So it’s always good when we can pass the ball and find the open man.”
In all, the Spurs finished with eight double-figure scorers, led by Tim Duncan, who scored a team-high 18 points to go with eight rebounds, six assists and a steal. Kawhi Leonard and West poured in 15 and 14 points, respectively.
West did his damage on 7-of-8 shooting and also contributed 13 rebounds, four assists and a steal. The Spurs own a 7-0 record when West is in the starting lineup.
“I think we’ve always had deep teams. We’ve been very lucky, and the front office has done a great job of course of bringing in talent and guys that want to win championships,” Ginobili said. “We’re very lucky to have so many players that can contribute. We have the luxury of sitting Tony and LaMarcus and still winning a good game. Not many teams can do that.”
The Spurs racked up 120 points or more for the third consecutive game, marking the first time the club accomplished that feat in the Duncan era; in fact, 1993 was the last time it happened. And San Antonio has scored 100 points or more in six straight outings and in 13 of the last 14. It also owns the best scoring margin in NBA history at this point in the season, according to research from ESPN Stats & Information. The club has outscored opponents by 526 points in 37 games (+14.2 points per game). The previous best scoring margin through 37 games was plus-516 by the 1971-72 Lakers, who were in the midst of an NBA-record 33-game winning streak.
San Antonio also extended its home winning streak to 30 games, which ties the 1949-51 Minneapolis Lakers for the ninth-longest home winning streak in NBA history. Considering the Golden State Warriors are riding a 35-game home winning streak, this marks just the second time in NBA history there are concurrent active home winning streaks of at least 30 contests.
“It’s just everybody coming in and stepping up,” Leonard said. “That’s what we do: We move the ball, try to get the open shot and just try not to force anything out there.”
Typically a tough critic of his team’s performances, Popovich thought San Antonio’s ball movement “was good,” but admitted “it wasn’t a fair fight” due to Utah’s injury woes. San Antonio led by 17 at the half and outscored Utah 68-36 in the paint.
“Those guys played really hard,” Popovich said. “They are missing so many guys, and it is a real tribute to the coaching staff and to those players that they come out every night like this and play their butts off.”
As for the Spurs, Ginobili believes the extra minutes handed to the role players early in the season could pay dividends later, when the club makes its postseason push.
“It’s very hard to play guys when you need them that haven’t played any minutes before in good games with the starters or with the main group,” Ginobili said. “So you need to play those guys, because you don’t know what can happen in a month, in two months. We’ve had examples in the past of three or four players at the same time going down. I don’t think we played a great game. We were playing against a team that was playing without four of their main players that is young, trying to find their equilibrium without so many players.
"We’re still not in a mode where we feel so good about ourselves. We have a great record, but as I’ve said before, we can do much better.”