# The Spurs are not playing that fast – but teams try to against them

Much has been made of how much faster the San Antonio Spurs are playing this season — they are playing more than a possession a game faster than last season, and that number has come down over the last month or so. At the start of the season, the Spurs were surprisingly fast.

Except that they are not. Sort of. It’s that teams are playing faster against them, a fascinating bit of research shows.

But first, some explanation. A lot of the analysis of the new basketball statistics is based around per-possession data. Meaning what matters is not how many points you score per game but how many per possession, because at the end of the game both teams will have the same number of possessions (give or take a couple). Whichever team uses their possessions most efficiently will win. (If you think this is all that new, know that Dean Smith broke down his stats that way at North Carolina.)

A possession is defined as when one team takes control of the ball until the other team takes control of the ball. So, it’s your possession until you make a basket or the other team makes a steal or gets a rebound (usually). But the flaw with this definition of possession is that if your team gets an offensive rebound (or two) it counts as one possession. That means teams that don’t turn the ball over or get a lot of offensive rebounds show up as playing slower than they really do (see the Portland Trail Blazers, as Henry Abbott will be more than happy to tell you).

With brings us back to Rohan Cruyff’s work at SB Nation Monday. He went back and looked at how teams shoot in relation to the shot clock. Do they shoot early in the shot clock or late on average? He used the data at 82games on shots within the shot class and came up with a Speed Index graph.

What he found is not that Spurs are playing any faster — they are 19th in the league in how fast they shoot against the clock, so basically middle of the pack.

But teams shoot faster against the Spurs than any team in the league. Golden State is second, then the Lakers are third. The Lakers also are not the fastest team in the leauge.

I have a theory as to why teams shoot so fast against the Lakers and Spurs — those are two good defensive teams once they get set. Both teams are disciplined about positioning and forcing penetration to help. So it benefits teams to push the pace on them and try to get early offense before they get set. You don’t want Manu Ginobili up in you guiding you to a waiting Tim Duncan, or Ron Artest in your face pushing you to the long arms of Andrew Bynum. But that is what those teams do well if you let them get set.

As for who shoots fastest in the clock? The Suns, who did you expect? Go check out the post for a lot more detail, including how the Magic are the most defensively driven team in the Association.

## Butler scores 35, Heat beat Mavericks in battle of desperate teams

MIAMI (AP) — Miami was desperate. So was Dallas.

Jimmy Butler and the Heat had just enough to help their playoff position – while dealing the Mavericks a big blow.

Butler had 35 points and 12 assists, Cody Zeller added 20 points and the Heat held off the Mavericks 129-122 on Saturday night to snap a three-game losing streak.

Max Strus and Kevin Love each scored 18 and Tyler Herro added 15 for the Heat. Miami won despite allowing Dallas to shoot a season-best 61%.

“I wouldn’t necessarily have drawn it up this way,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Luka Doncic was brilliant again for Dallas, finishing with 42 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Tim Hardaway Jr. had 31 points and Kyrie Irving added 23 points and eight assists for the Mavericks.

“A win is a win,” Butler said. “I don’t like the fact that they shot 61%. But I do like the fact that we finally won a game.”

The Mavs had been 7-0 this season when shooting at least 54%, and fell to 30-2 all-time, including playoffs, in games where they shot at least 60%.

“Our defense was nonexistent,” Dallas coach Jason Kidd said. “Couldn’t get stops.”

Both clubs went to the conference finals last season; the Heat are trying to get out of the play-in round, and the Mavericks are trying to just have a shot at the playoffs.

The win moves Miami (41-37) closer to securing no worse than the No. 7 seed and most advantageous spot in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament. The Heat are now 2 1/2 games ahead of both No. 8 Atlanta (38-39) and No. 9 Toronto (also 38-39).

Miami moved within 1 1/2 games of No. 6 Brooklyn (42-35). Even if the Heat win out and finish with 45 wins, the Nets – who hold the head-to-head tiebreaker – would only need to go 3-2 in their final five games to ensure they would finish ahead of Miami.

Meanwhile, it’s a big blow to Dallas (37-41).

The Mavs fell a full game back of No. 10 Oklahoma City (38-40) in the race for the last Western Conference play-in spot, and worse, the Thunder own the head-to-head tiebreaker. Dallas is now two games back of No. 9 Minnesota (39-39) and just a half-game ahead of No. 12 Utah (36-41).

“Just got to play hard, play with desperation and anything can happen,” Hardaway said. “Anything can happen.”

Miami changed its starting lineup, partly out of necessity. Center Bam Adebayo didn’t play because of a right hip contusion, so Zeller – starting a game for the first time since May 15, 2021, for Charlotte – took his spot and Strus took the forward starting spot that had been held by Love since he joined the Heat in February.

The moves paid immediate dividends. Strus was 3 for 3, all 3-pointers, in his first shift. Love was 3 for 3 from the field and 6 for 6 from the line for 13 points in his first 8 minutes off the bench, and Zeller had 12 points by halftime.

“K-Love is always, always has been about winning,” Butler said. “As long as we win, he’s not going to complain.”

It all helped add up to the third highest-scoring first half in Heat history: Miami led 76-64 at the break, stretched the lead to 18 in the second half – then had to hang on in the final moments anyway.

## Thanasis Antetokounmpo suspended one game for headbutting Blake Griffin

Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

The Celtics thought it was funny — Jaylen Brown jokingly offered Blake Griffin his mask after the Bucks’ Thanasis Antetokounmpo headbutted the Celtic forward.

The NBA didn’t find it as amusing and suspended Antetokounmpo for one game for the incident.

Griffin was given a Flagrant 1 foul at the time, but mostly the Celtics had a good laugh.

It’s easier to laugh when you are blowing out your opponent, and the Celtics made a statement with a 41-point win over the Bucks.

The Celtics are 1.5 games back of the Bucks for the No.1 seed in the East (and NBA), and they are two games back in the loss column. While Boston has the tiebreaker, it will need some help from Milwaukee to catch them. The Bucks play the 76ers in a key game on Sunday, but will do so without Thanasis Antetokounmpo.

## It’s official: Popovich, Wade headline international class (Gasol, Nowitzki, Parker) into Hall of Fame

In an incredibly deep Hall of Fame class, the man who garners the most respect — legendary Spurs coach Gregg Popovich — is the man who feels least like he belongs in these hallowed halls.

“In all honesty, I always felt the Hall of Fame is like for Red Holzman, Red Auerbach and Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. … I’ve never felt like I really belonged, to be honest with you,” Popovich told the Associated Press, and it’s not a gimmick. “I’m not trying to be ‘Mr. Humble’ or anything. I’m a Division III guy. I’m not a Hall of Fame guy.”

Popovich is a Hall of Fame guy. While it has been expected for a while, it became official on Saturday with an announcement in Houston during the NCAA Final Four.

Popovich is part of one of the great Hall of Fame classes ever: Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol and Becky Hammon are the headliners.

“To me, it’s a no-brainer that all of these guys are first-ballot guys,” Heat president Pat Riley told the Associated Press. “Look at the records. Look at the longevity that they’ve had in this league. Look what they’ve done for the league, and how much the league calls them back – because they’re ambassadors of this great league and they have a great voice and a great message. Dwyane being a first-ballot was a no-brainer.”

Let’s break down the cases for the biggest, NBA tied-names:

• Gregg Popovich led the San Antonio Spurs to five titles and 18 consecutive seasons of 50+ wins. “Pop” also coached USA Basketball to the gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics, and was active. Popovich will go down as one of the greatest coaches of all time, a man who adapted his system to the personnel he had — how the Tim Duncan/David Robinson Spurs won was very different than the 2014 team led by Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard (and still Duncan).

• Dwyane Wade is one of the greatest shooting guards the game has ever seen. He helped the Miami Heat to three NBA titles and was the 2006 Finals MVP, and along the way racked up eight All-NBA teams and 13 trips to the All-Star game. He is the greatest Heat player ever and is an easy Hall of Fame choice.

• Dirk Nowitzki is the greatest Dallas Maverick ever, an NBA champion and Finals MVP, plus he won the regular season MVP in 2007. His resume includes being a 12-time All-NBA player and 14-time All-Star, plus playing 21 seasons all for the same franchise.

• Tony Parker is a four-time NBA champion for Popovich and his San Antonio Spurs, and Parker was the Finals MVP in 2007. His NBA resume includes four All-NBA nods and six All-Star trips, but his international resume secured his place in the Hall of Fame, for example he was the MVP of EuroBasket 2013, which France won.

• Pau Gasol won two NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers (as Kobe Bryant’s co-star), is a four-time All-NBA player and six-time All-Star, plus he was the Rookie of the Year in 2002. Like Parker, it is Gasol’s international resume that cements his spot in the Hall, he led Spain to the FIBA World Championship in 2006 and won three Olympic medals (two silver, one bronze).

• Becky Hammon, who most NBA fans know as the first women’s assistant coach in the NBA and current coach of the WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces, but before that she was a six-time WNBA All-Star.

Also entering the Hall of Fame this year:

• Jim Valvano, who coached North Carolina State to the 1983 NCAA Championship, and created The V Foundation for Cancer Research
• Gene Bess, All-time winningest college coach (1,300), 2-time NJCAA Coach of the Year.
• David Hixon, who racked up 826 wins and was a two-time D3 national champion and two-time D3 Coach of the Year.
• Gene Keady, best known for coaching 25 years at Purdue, was a six-time NCAA Coach of the Year and made 17 NCAA Tournament appearances.
• Gary Blair, who coached in the women’s game for 37 years, amassing 852 wins, including winning the 2011 National Championship with Texas A&M.
• The 1976 Women’s USA Olympic Basketball Team – Silver medalists in inaugural appearance for Women’s Olympic Basketball.

## Watch Davis score 38, Lakers move up to No.7 seed with win against Timberwolves

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Anthony Davis scored 17 of his 38 points in the fourth quarter and had 17 rebounds to lift the Los Angeles Lakers past Minnesota 123-111 and leapfrog the Timberwolves on Friday night in the crowded Western Conference playoff race.

“You’ve got to have that one pivotal force that’s leading the charge, and in our case with this particular team here in the moment it’s AD,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “When he comes out and he’s aggressive and we’re feeding him and he’s not settling and he’s putting pressure on the paint, putting pressure on the rim, we find ourselves having a lot of success.”

LeBron James added 18 points and 10 rebounds and D'Angelo Russell had 12 points and 10 assists against his former team as the Lakers (39-38) won for the fifth time in six games to move into seventh place. They’re even with New Orleans, owning the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Pelicans.

“We’ve made some huge climbs, but we’re not finished,” said Davis, who had 38 points Wednesday in tthe win at Chicago. “We’re hungry to not only make the playoffs but make some noise.”

The Lakers improved to 9-4 since losing at home to the Wolves on March 3.

“We jumped on AD’s back, and he brought us home,” James said.

Mike Conley had 25 points on 7-for-11 shooting with seven assists before fouling out, and Karl-Anthony Towns scored 23 points for the Timberwolves (39-39), who tumbled into ninth place. They entered the evening one game behind Golden State and the cut to avoid the play-in tournament, with the Warriors tipping off later at home against San Antonio.

Davis scored 12 straight points for the Lakers over a 3:52 span late in the fourth quarter to seal the steely comeback from a deficit that hit 13 points shortly after halftime. He made five baskets in a row with Wolves center Rudy Gobert on the bench, dominating on the glass, in the post and at the rim.

“He’s playing at a super high level right now,” Wolves coach Chris Finch said.

The Lakers took charge earlier with a 24-2 spurt over a 6:49 stretch of the third quarter with their defense on lockdown mode. Conley’s turn to rest on the bench during that run was ill-timed. Davis rolled his left ankle around the start of the Lakers surge, a breath-holding sequence that only seemed to energize the visitors.

“We started to turn the ball over, and the ball started to stick much more,” Gobert said. “We kind of lost our flow offensively, and it really affected our defense.”

The Wolves, whose bench was shortened without center Naz Reid and his broken wrist, went 2 for 14 from 3-point range in the third quarter and were outscored 35-18 in a discouraging stretch for a fired-up crowd that included local sports superstars Justin Jefferson and Kirill Kaprizov in floor seats.