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Inside the victory: Spurs 122, Cavaliers 101

After winning their previous three games at home, the San Antonio Spurs took their 3-game winning streak to the road on Tuesday, as the result was a 122-101 blowout over the Cleveland Cavaliers, for the Spurs’ fourth win in a row. After the team struggled mightily in the first quarter (13 points, 4 assists, 24% shooting), the Spurs excelled through the remainder of the game, outscoring the Cavaliers 109-78 in the following three quarters, as San Antonio’s lead reached its peak at 28 on the evening.

After the team had tied its season-high 34 assists less than a week ago against the Detroit Pistons, the Spurs set a new season high Tuesday with 39 assists. What was more impressive was the “machine” like efficiency San Antonio used in collecting the assists, as 43 of their made baskets were assisted on, a 91% assist to made basket mark. Led by Danny Green’s 24 points, five players not named Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, helped the Spurs with double-digit scoring efforts, as Duncan and Parker got to sit out the entire fourth quarter. Here were a few key components to the Spurs’ 44th victory of the season.

Machine or human team?

Here’s the definition of a machine – an apparatus using or applying mechanical power and having several parts, each with a definite function and together performing a particular task.

Though they were human (11 turnovers), the Spurs performed like a machine with their season-high 39 assists. Even in the quarter where they struggled the most, the first, San Antonio still assisted on four of its five made field goals. Here are the assist to field goals made numbers by quarter. Notice that the team only had one quarter where they didn’t assist twice on a made basket, and in the third, they were perfect in collecting assists on made baskets.

First quarter: 4-of-5, 24% shooting

Second quarter: 11-of-13, 59% shooting

Third quarter: 13-of-13, 62% shooting

Fourth quarter: 11-of-12, 46% shooting

Using the Player Tracking data, the Spurs totaled 478 touches, 358 passes, 39 assists, 17 secondary assists, and four assists that led to free throw attempts. The Spurs had seven players touch the ball 40 or more times, compared to the Cavaliers, who only had three players touch the ball 40 or more times. Those types of numbers show just how potent this team is in delivering passes and the personal that is able to handle the basketball and deliver it in sequence. Parker (60 touches) and Duncan (63 touches) both touched the ball the most, but they only had to play in three quarters, and played less than 27 minutes each. If you combine the assists, secondary assists, and free throw assists, eight Spurs players tallied four or more total assists in the win.

Per the Elias Sports Bureau, the Spurs became the first team in NBA history to have 13 players record an assist in a game. Tuesday, every player that played, from Parker to Aron Baynes, recorded at least one assist. (Via NBA.com)

 Separation from beyond the arc

Usually when teams begin to build 15-25 point leads, it’s usually because they’ve created separation by hitting from beyond the arc. Tuesday was such a case, as the Spurs used two hot shooting quarters to not only get themselves back in the game after being down by 12 points, but it helped them build a lead, and hold the lead, as Cleveland just couldn’t match the Spurs’ scoring. In the first quarter, San Antonio looked like they were in for a rough night, shooting 1-of-7 from 3-point range. In the second and third quarter, they connected on 6-of-9 three pointers in each quarter. During those two quarters combined, they outscored the Cavaliers 72-45. Kawhi Leonard (18 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals) knocked down a 3-pointer, Green made two, Patty Mills (16 points, 5assists) was a perfect 4-of-4 during that stretch, Manu Ginobili (11 points, 6assists) made 3-of-4, and Boris Diaw (16 points, 5 rebounds) went 2-of-2 from beyond the arc during the second and third quarters. Take a look at their shot chart in the first quarter (left) and in the second and third combined (right).

With the game wrapped up early in the fourth, the Spurs shot 1-of-8 from beyond the arc in the final quarter, to finish the game shooting 14-of-33 from distance. The outside shooting was a key difference in the game, as both teams scored 36 points each in the paint, but the results showed in the 17-5 advantage the Spurs had in transition.

 Heat return to San Antonio Thursday

As the Miami Heat return to San Antonio on Thursday, the first time since their epic Finals series last June, the Spurs will have a healthy rested roster, as no player played more than 26 minutes in the game Tuesday. While Duncan and Parker sat out the fourth quarter, key core players like Ginobili, Leonard, and Diaw never played more than three and a half minutes in the fourth.

The Heat lost to the Houston Rockets on Tuesday 106-103 in Houston, as both LeBron James and Dwayne Wade each played roughly 37 minutes in the game. James and Wade also tracked the most miles per game of any Heat player with James logging 2.4 miles, and Wade 2.3 miles ran against Houston. Both the Spurs and Heat won't have a game on Wednesday, as they prepare to meet Thursday. 

Where San Antonio Stands

·                 Regular Season: 44-16 (2nd in the Western Conference)

·                 Road Record: 23-8 (1st in the NBA)

·                 Vs. Opponents with -.500 records: 24-2 (1st in the NBA)

·                 Vs. The Eastern Conference: 19-6

·                 23 of the Spurs’ 44 wins have been by 10 or more points

·                 Post All-Star Break Record: 6-1

(All Stats and Player Tracking data via NBA.com)

Paul Garcia

About Paul Garcia

Paul is a San Antonio Spurs credentialed media member for Project Spurs. He covered the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in Houston, TX, and the 2013 and 2014 NBA Finals. Paul has been featured on WOAI, Fox 29, and numerous nationwide radio shows.