Spurs owe success to roster full of contributors

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich started this condensed 66-game NBA schedule with the notion that his starters, some of them a bit old, would need rest and they would need it often.

“It’s probably mandatory,” Popovich said in December.

As a whole, the veterans are playing fewer minutes, as Manu Ginobili has battled a few injuries and Popovich has found opportune times for Tim Duncan and Tony Parker to join the inactive portion of the box score.

Thanks to the deepest bench in the team’s championship era and likely ever, the Spurs have the best record in the West and second best in the NBA. And recent additions have made the bench strong enough to make some think the Spurs are primed for a run at championship No. 5.

It’s been especially noticeable as the Spurs built their recent 10-game win streak. After scoring 82 points in Friday’s win over New Orleans, the most by an NBA bench since 1990, the reserves have outscored the opposing bench 245-135 in the past four games.

Express-News staff writer Tim Griffin examines how much the bench aided the Spurs’ first four titles and this season’s Spurs. See Page C6 for a statistical breakdown of the starters and reserves from these five Spurs teams and some key moments off the bench in the title runs:

Veterans Jaren Jackson, 31, Steve Kerr, 33, Jerome Kersey, 36, and Will Perdue, 33, were key contributors. No reserve averaged more than 6.4 points or 18.3 minutes as Popovich stuck with his starters more than any of his other title teams.

Malik Rose (10.4 ppg, 24.5 mpg) and 25-year-old rookie Manu Ginobili (7.6 ppg, 20.7 mpg) were the most important, but vets Steve Smith, Danny Ferry, Kevin Willis, Speedy Claxton and Kerr had their moments.

Robert Horry hit the big shots, but Nazr Mohammed, Brent Barry, 22-year-old rookie point guard Beno Udrih and late-season acquisition Glenn Robinson all played regularly by playoff time.

Ginobili was a reserve most of the season, providing 16.5 ppg as the third-leading scorer. Michael Finley and Barry also averaged more than 20 minutes a game, and Fabricio Oberto and Udrih complimented them.

Three moves bolstered a strong bench with late acquisitions of Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw and Patty Mills. Four bench players average at least 20 minutes a game and two others are close to that. With Tiago Splitter, Gary Neal, Matt Bonner and Ginobili playing well, Popovich has leaned on his bench more than any of his other teams.


The Spurs’ bench has come up with key performances that have helped produce pivotal moments in the team’s previous four championship seasons. Here is a key bench contribution in each of those seasons:

1999: Jaren Jackson goes for 22 points and 20 points in the final two games of the series helping to finish off road victories in a four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round of the playoffs.

2003: After playing only 13 minutes in the playoffs up to then, Steve Kerr comes off the bench to hit four clutch 3-pointers that fuels a series-clinching victory over Dallas in the Western Conference finals.

2005: The legend of “Big Shot Rob” continues as Robert Horry sinks a game-winning 3-pointer with 5.8 seconds in overtime to boost the Spurs to a series-turning Game 5 victory at Detroit in the NBA Finals.

2007: Manu Ginobili erupts for monster scoring games of 26 points in a Game 5 victory and 33 in the series-clinching Game 6 triumph to help finish off Phoenix in the Western Conference semifinals. The series turns when Horry’s hip-check of Phoenix’s Steve Nash, sending Nash into the scorer’s table, sparks a rumble.

– Tim Griffin

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