With Dejounte Murray back in the lineup, the San Antonio Spurs are playing faster than they have in years. Despite Saturday afternoon’s dud of a performance against the Boston Celtics in which the team scored just ten fast break points, they are still tied for fourth in the league.
The Spurs’ current average of 16.7 fast break points per game would easily be their highest mark in the Gregg Popovich era, with 2010-11 being their current high at 15.3. For comparison, San Antonio finished 28th in the NBA last season with just 10.4 fast break points per game and 22nd the prior year with 10.3 points.
Everyone in the regular rotation for the Spurs is playing at a pace of 102.5 or more, with Patty Mills leading the pack at 108.9. Rudy Gay is next at 107.2, while another bench player in Jakob Poeltl is third at 106.3.
Dejounte Murray’s Impact on Spurs Fast Break Points
While his pace of play (102.6) doesn’t show it, Dejounte Murray is the true key to the Spurs’ increase in fast break points. Murray is crashing the boards, as he usually does, and looking straight up the floor when he comes down with rebounds.
Good things are usually happening when Murray has a full head of steam and a teammate or two to space the floor in the open court. He’s still having some problems trying to do too much and forcing the action when he shouldn’t, but that’s to be expected as the young point guard adapts to playing regular minutes again.
Murray’s quick hands on defense are also leading to easy transition buckets. Murray is deflecting passes at a rate of 4.0 per game, which is third in the league, and those are often leading to steals or broken plays by the opponents.
His defense was on full display against the Lakers, when San Antonio scored 20 fast break points in a tough loss.
The Spurs Aren’t Forcing Enough Turnovers
What’s truly strange about the Spurs being in the top five in fast break points is the fact that they’re dead last in forced turnovers. The Spurs are forcing only 13.1 turnovers per game while averaging 15.4 themselves. Unfortunately, that was also a trend last season, as their 12.2 forced turnovers saw them finish last in the league.
The Spurs certainly don’t have the most dynamic offense in the world and need every easy bucket they can get. As the wakeup call against the Celtics just showed, long gone are the days they can rely on their defense to get them through tough games.
For the Spurs to truly contend in the brutal Western Conference, they will need at least a couple of the following things to start happening soon: improve their inside defense, get their three-point percentage back up to normal, be less predictable on offense and get easy buckets.
If Murray gets the green light to start playing more minutes, at least two of these necessary adjustments have a shot at improving. Of course, it would help if Gregg Popovich tightened the reins on the rotation a little and limited the minutes of certain defensive black holes.
Their success on the fast break is one of the few things going well for the Spurs this season, so they will need to keep that up while also adding more variety in their offense to really thrive.