Defense Wins Championships, Damnit!

I continue to think the San Antonio Spurs are being oddly underestimated. Yes, yes, they’re “only” at a .660 winning percentage. Yes, they’re scheduled for the fourth seed behind Dallas, Phoenix, and Utah. Yes, it’s even true that “With Yao, Houston could potentially bump San Antonio down to No. 3 in the All-Texas Standings, stunning as that sounds.” That said, look at the point differentials. Dallas is 7.4, Phoenix and San Antonio are both 7.3, Houston is 5.6, is 2.9.

Obviously, that’s a classic quant argument and I do expect sportswriters to ignore point differential in favor of crude W-L. The weird thing is that all the other sportswriterly considerations also point in favor of adopting a forgiving attitude toward San Antonio’s record; this is a classic curmudgeon’s team, full of Veteran Leadership, featuring an NBA Legend, a the Best Coach, the Defense, Robert Horry, etc. Plus, it’s an odd numbered year which, on its own terms, overwhelmingly favors the Spurs. I’m not saying I’d take an even-odds bet that San Antonio will win it all (odds are they’ll need to beat Houston, Dallas, and Phoenix to get to the Finals, which is, um, hard to do) but I don’t understand writing them off, either. People remember the way the Suns ran away with the 2004–2005 regular season (Joe Johnson was the fourth guy on that team), right?