Mar 8, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) dunks against the Orlando Magic during the second half at AT&T Center. The Spurs won 121-112. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Are the 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs Even Better Than Last Year?

When you come within a made free throw, defensive rebound or missed 3-pointer of winning the title it’s hard to imagine that you would come into the following season with even more heart and hunger.

Gregg Popovich along with his players know that the outcome of the 2013 NBA Finals will never change–a 4-3 series loss to the Miami Heat. But on Thursday San Antonio dismantled Miami from the outset and with exception to the end of the first half and third quarter were never threatened by the Heat who fell 111-87, by far their worst defeat of the year.

What makes the Spurs better this season than last is added depth. Go figure it’s come from injuries. Popovich gave Tony Parker rest for five games after the NBA All-Star break due to “a variety of maladies.” During the first half Parker carved up Miami’s interior defense making the most of being well-rested.

Even bigger than Tony attacking the paint with utter conviction has been Patty Mills’ shooting prowess. Not only is Mills draining the deep three he’s replicated Parker in splitting the defense either for the benefit of himself or a teammate.

Recently at the Cleveland Cavaliers all 13 San Antonio players to get playing time recorded an assist. That’s unfathomable especially when you consider they trailed 23-13 after one period. The next three quarters the Spurs registered 37, 35 and 37 points on the scoreboard.

Thirty-nine assists on 43 field goals is absurd. Then at the end of the Heat game San Antonio got solid production from newly acquired Austin Daye. An offensive upgrade to Nando de Colo who was shopped to the Toronto Raptors, Daye has added another dimension to the 2013-14 Spurs. Daye is another threat from deep and not as much of a liability on defense.

Danny Green is starting to hit his stride, recapturing his NBA Finals mojo from deep and even driving to the hole with a little success. Speaking of aggression Tiago Splitter has been more authoritative. Kawhi Leonard, like Tim Duncan, largely does his work without any flash, yet fills up the stat sheet regularly. And Manu Ginobili seems to be playing with an even bigger chip on his shoulder than last year.

Oh and then there’s Boris Diaw who has changed his mindset from pass first to looking for his shot more frequently. Aron Baynes and Jeff Ayres also are big bodies to deal with while Matt Bonner’s best days might be behind him, but is still lethal from 3. And Marco Belinelli, San Antonio’s biggest offseason acquisition, and Cory Joseph are the offensive/defensive cogs the Spurs lean on to end quarters.

Although San Antonio came within a few seconds, play and game of winning their fifth ring in 2013, the Western Conference is very loaded. However, this season’s version of the Spurs may be more formidable than last so counting them out would be silly.

Tags: San Antonio Spurs

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