In Act I, Scene II of William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”, Caesar, the likely king-to-be, is walking in public, surrounded by his posse (or whatever it was called in that time). A soothsayer — a person who prognosticates the future — caught Caesar’s attention.
“Beware the ides of March,” the soothsayer said.
Caesar asked him to show himself. The soothsayer emerged from the crowd.
“Beware the ides of March,” he said.
Caesar scoffed. Who the hell does this guy think he is? I’m Julius Caesar. Caesar died at the hands of his own senators — coincidentally, on the very date of the Ides of March (the 15th).
For some reason, the story of Julius Caesar came to mind during the Spurs’ 17th consecutive victory — a 16-point route of the New Orleans Pelicans. Yes, here’s another one of my hair-brained basketball theories.
Theory: Shakespeare’s “Beware the Ides of March” line was actually in reference to playing the Spurs.
— Quixem Ramirez (@quixem) March 30, 2014
Comparing the death of Julius Caesar to the San Antonio Spurs is a far-fetched analogy on the surface. But. I took a look at the Spurs’ winning percentages by month during the Tim Duncan era (dating back to 1997-98).
And, guess what? The Spurs elevate their ass kicking to another level in March — they are 199-71 since 1997-98 and their 73.7 winning percentage in this span is the highest of every other month by a wide margin.
- March: 199-71 W-L, 73.7 winning percentage%
- December: 163-63 W-L, 72.1 WP%
- April: 99-39 W-L, 71.7 WP%
- November: 158-63 W-L, 71.5 WP%
- February: 129-54 W-L, 70.5 WP%
- October: 12-6 W-L, 66.7 WP%
- January: 159-84 W-L, 65.4 WP%
The Spurs are one win away from finishing 16-0 in March. They’ve outscored their opponents by 15.5 points per 100 possessions this month and they lead the league in offensive rating (112.6) and defensive rating (97.1), respectively. Just five of the 15 contests were decided by single-digits and the smallest margin of victory was six points.
The rest of the league has been light years behind the Spurs this month; essentially, the Spurs are traveling in the Millennium Falcon and their opponents are traveling in a 2004 Mazda. It’s not a fair race.
Not coincidentally, the Spurs’ rotation has nursed itself back to health. Every major rotation player went down with an injury in January and February; Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter, Danny Green, Matt Bonner — you name it — all missed time with injuries.
The Spurs kept winning, though. They went 9-3 in February, with a +2.7 net rating that ranked 12th in the league. Given that was the same team that started Nando De Colo, Shannon Brown and Othyus Jeffers at one point, 9-3 deserved a damn medal. Or at least a participation ribbon.
Once Leonard returned on Feb. 26 — Splitter, Green, Parker were already back before then — the Spurs reached a stratosphere few teams are capable of reaching. Gregg Popovich replaced Marco Belinelli with Danny Green in the starting rotation; the Parker/Green/Leonard/Duncan/Splitter lineup has crushed opponents by 26.2 points per 100 possessions during the winning streak and the bench is averaging 49.3 points during the streak, which is actually five points fewer than their season-average. They lead the league in field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, defensive rebounding, blocks, assists and points during the streak.
Everything is clicking.
San Antonio has a tough trek in the next three weeks — they play seven teams in the playoffs or on the fringes of playoff contention and their final matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder is the fifth game in seven nights.
Their 17-game winning streak came at the perfect time, coinciding with a minor blip in the Thunder season (just about their only blip). They’ve built a 3.5 game lead and even if they lose to Oklahoma City (again), their cushion is enough to withstand a few losses here and there. They have a 93.3% chance at snagging the top seed per Hollinger’s odds, and their magic number to clinch the division is two.
Beware the ides of March, NBA.
The Spurs are just getting started.