Spurs’ bench never lets foe rest

VIDEO: Game Time: Spurs Offense

SAN ANTONIO — The Gregg Popovich minutes management plan during the regular season receives plenty of praise for allowing the Spurs’ more high-mileage players such as Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker to play longer when it matters most.

Like on hot, steamy indoor nights in June.

In Thursday’s Game 1 of the NBA Finals, played without air conditioning inside the AT&T Center, all three of San Antonio’s Big Three surpassed their season averages in minutes played.

Yet off the bench came Manu Ginobili, sixth-man extraordinaire, going for 16 points and 11 assists in 32 minutes; Boris Diaw putting forth 33 highly effective minutes, finishing a game-high plus-30; and Marco Belinelli adding nine points, including a pair of 3s, in 18 minutes.

Everybody knows a championship team is more than its star players. It takes max production from role players to get this far, and that’s the lesser appreciated byproduct of more bench time for starters — more floor time, experience and confidence for bench players.

“It also does develop the bench, give them some confidence to play,” Popovich said of his carefully monitored rotation. “And hopefully in the end when playoff time comes, sometimes it’s a role player that steps up in a certain game and has a heck of a night and helps you.”

San Antonio has boasted one of the deepest rosters in the league and benefitted from a group of reliable, fundamentally sound reserves who mesh seamlessly into the Spurs’ machine-like system. Numerous times during the regular season, the Spurs won games with one, two or even all three of the Big Three being strategically held out by Popovich with an eye toward making a deep playoff run.

Twice a shorthanded Spurs squad — once without Duncan, Parker and Ginobili, and later without Duncan and Ginobili — won at Golden State. In the final week of the season, the Spurs were in Dallas playing a desperate Mavericks team fighting for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot.

With Parker out of the lineup, backup point guard Patty Mills, a player under development in the Spurs’ system for three seasons, dropped six 3-pointers and 26 points in a 109-100 win.

“You obviously come into a program like this and you go through it and you learn the coaches and the system and how to react,” said Mills, who had seven points and a steal in 12 minutes in Game 1. “We’re past the stage of being scared to make mistakes. And I think we’re all part of that now.”

Spurs reserves are ready for the fire of the playoffs because they spend the season playing through hot spots. In Game 4 of the Western Conference finals at Oklahoma City, the Spurs’ starters were getting blown out. Popovich benched them, down 27 points, in the middle of the third quarter. Five Spurs reserves cut the lead to 12 early in the fourth quarter, before the Thunder regained their advantage.

“You want the bench to be more perfect in some ways, but we expect the starters to set the example in the way we want to play and oftentimes the bench comes in and plays better,” Popovich said. “It happens.”

In the Game 1 win over the Heat, Spurs reserves Ginobili and Diaw combined for 17 assists, one more than the entire Heat team. San Antonio’s bench outscored Miami’s 34-20 and outrebounded it 20-10.

That’s really nothing new for this group. The Spurs’ bench finished the regular season first in scoring per game (44.5 ppg), field-goal percentage (47.8) and assists (10.9); second in rebounds (16.8) and 3-point percentage (39.1); and third in steals (3.3).

The one category in which they stunk? Turnovers, ranking dead last (5.9 per game).  But even then, the Spurs’ reserves live, learn and get back to business.

“We just play freely and if you make a mistake you own up to it and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Mills said.


  1. Moe says:

    I plenty sure if the Spurs big three is in their prime. Along with this supporting cast. We “Spurs” will win multiple Larry O Brien trophies. No team in this era would beat them in a 7 game series. My man Timmy would not be denied; a double double machine and clutch when the game on the line. If a legend like Bill Russell would want to play with the Three Amigos that in itself speak volume.

  2. okcDoke2014 says:

    I agree, with lower turnovers they can have a chance to take one on the road. They do not lose much at home. but with the Heat anything can happen. Depth and team ball will play into it too !

  3. Kimmy says:

    San Antonio has the best bench in the whole wide world. And Lebron James, well King James, is just one man.

  4. Richard Alterman says:

    Where were the other Miami players? They did nothing without LeBron. Thought there were some super stars. And I believe it was Truman who said if you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

  5. DJ says:

    The biggest thing is that we need to focus is that Spurs played little bit slopy with about 23 turnovers, If they just cut those turnover in these champion game by half then I would say can pull it off with ease. Spurs are well rounded and have a deep bench in their favor. Lebron has to carry the load himself and spurs will put bodies on him to wear him out to the best way possible. We need to keep in mind Lebron played up to the last 3 to 4 minutes of the game and 2 superstars were still in the game like D-Wade and Chris Bosh. If Spurs can pull a win with 23 turnovers in the championship game then Heat should really focus on their overall team and Miami should bit concern/worry. Miami’s big three peformed as follows: Lebron with 25 points, Chris B with 18, D-wade with 19 and Ray Allen with 16. So the production was not so bad by the starters. Keep in mind if the games goes above 95 points it will favor the spurs, if spurs score below 95 or soo Miami will mostly likely win.

  6. ALI says:



  7. Charly says:

    It seems normal if they have more minute and responsibility that they make more turnovers… a turnover per minute stat would be more apropriate.

  8. Paito Robles Jr. says:

    it’s really not fair to try to compare Lebron to greats of the past. You cannot compare them unless they go head to head or unless they happened to have played against similar competition. Moreover while Lebron might be the best player of this era, the fact still remains that 3 aging Spurs at the end of their careers are playing for the championship exposing the flaws and current level of talent of the players in the NBA. Case in point; In 1998 it was Jordan’s Bulls who won the championship at the twilight of his career. In those playoffs Duncan’s Spurs didn’t even make the finals even though Duncan was playing alongside the “Admiral” David Robinson. So there you have it. Even as great as Lebron is now, Jordan, even at the end of his career, was the Greatest.

    • Billy Bob says:

      yes he was. LeBron does not even come close.
      his whining ways are not very endearing to fans either.
      Le Bron was respectful and a true leader.

  9. Big Al of Bondi says:

    Without the aircon, oldies Tim, Tony and Manu managed to play more minutes than their usual averages. See the pattern?

  10. #Pixars says:

    where is lbj anyway? haha

  11. Michael says:

    Of course the Spurs bench turn it over a lot, for the same reason they score so much — they play a lot of minutes. The important statistic would be turnovers per 36 minutes.

  12. celentano says:

    let them play game 2 also wthiout a/c,just for fun.

  13. celentano says:

    your right uncle daddy,lebon bon is was coocking with cramps thanks because the a/c failed game ahahahaha,lo!.

  14. Kobe-Carmelo-Love says:

    Heat will only rest after they are beaten by Spurs.. Go 4-0 win..

  15. Xfade says:

    Miami went out and got a bunch of ringers, please don’t compare them to a team like the spurs that went out got players from all over the world, haven’t had a lottery pick since Tim in 97 and continually over the past what 2 decades dominate the tougher conference. Every year you hear…oh they’re old blah blah blah. Well I watched that same “old guy” schooling these younger guys and out produce them. 9 of 10 from the field? 20+ turnovers (Bad game mind you) and still win by 15. They are seamless you sit down your stars when they sit down their “Listed stars” and the bench will keep the onslaught going as if they never left. Much respect for Pop and Co.

  16. Maxwell Stanly says:

    Miami is a team, don’t think its possible to make four NBA finals not playing as a team. Game to belongs to the HEAT.

    • Moe says:

      Well game 1, Heat was down only by 2 but got blown out. It’s a 48 min. game and they still had their 2 Superstar and other players.

      • Billy Bob says:

        exactly right Moe.
        Miami a Team. don’t make me laugh.
        A team of huge egos that’s what they are.

  17. okcDoke2014 says:

    Spurs are deep and all about team ball. I do not see Heat winning more than 2 or 3 games in series

  18. Unkle Daddy says:

    Game two is gonna be tough, Miami (Lebron) will come out cookin’. So the bench will have to play even better than game one. Three more fellas, let’s go!

  19. Scott C says:

    Lebron is good but as we say in Santone, Team Is Everything