2015/16 NBA season went down in history as a year of Golden State Warriors breaking the Bulls‘ regular-season record with 73 wins. Their efforts were in vain as they lost the cross-conference matchup to Cleveland, becoming the first team in league’s history to blow a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals.
Other than the Dubs chasing the Bulls’ record, it was Kobe‘s farewell year. Mamba was in the spotlight every night, with people awaiting his final performance in the Staples. Those were two main narratives, overshadowing everything else that was happening in the league.
With the Warriors and Kobe being a focal point of the season, one team was silently building its way towards a historically excellent record. Their whole run went under the radar, as there wasn’t anything flashy about them—no narrative to stick to. You’ve probably guessed it by now. It’s the San Antonio Spurs.
The fact that best describes how underrated their 15/16 season was is that in no season, not even during their five championship runs, have Spurs posted a better record than their 67-15 mark that year. Imagine that.
What’s even more impressive is that their regular-season efforts place them on the shared fifth place of the “teams with most wins in single-season“ list. Something that had only been done ten times before was accomplished by two teams in the same year. One was a constant topic in the NBA circles, and one was hardly ever mentioned.
It’s your typical Spurs’ fashion of being sneaky good. But this time they weren’t just good. They were historically great, record-wise, at least. It was the last year of their original big three of Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili, but this time in the role of veteran support to their core of Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. They were the foundation of Spurs’ success.
Popovich didn’t have to look for hidden gems to fill his roster. This time, he had NBA-proven talent on his hands in what was one of the deepest teams he had ever worked with. You had guys like Danny Green, David West, Patty Mills, Boban Marjanović, Andre Miller, Boris Diaw, Johnathon Simmons, and Kyle Anderson. None of them were world-beaters but put them in a Spurs’ system, and you got yourself a bench unit.
It wasn’t just that they had talent, but injury gods were also on their side. Guys like Kawhi played in 72 games, the second-most in his career. Aldridge only missed 8 games, and Parker played in 72. Even a 39-year old Duncan was able to play in 61 regular-season games, load managing his way into the post-season. No Spur suffered a severe injury that would disrupt their rhythm. Stars were aligning for their success.
After they opened the season with a loss to the Thunder, they started their historic run with a win vs. the Nets. Throughout the whole season, the Spurs would go on small winning streaks, stacking up their win total. The most they would go without losing a game was 13, but their run was stopped by none other than the Warriors.
Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs’ balanced scoring with 21.2 PPG. The only other two who scored in double digits were Aldridge and Parker. It was the ultimate Spurs thing, as nine other players averaged between 5 and 10 points per contest.
Pop once again emphasized the defensive side of the floor, as the Spurs led the league in DRtg with 99. However, it wasn’t the only category they dominated as the team, as their balanced attack put them in fourth place in terms of ORtg, with the second-highest Margin of Victory of 10.63. They also did it as the second most efficient team with the eFG% of .526, while holding their opponents to league-leading .477 eFG%. It was a dominant display on both sides of the court, and Spurs’ fans were hoping to see more of the same in the post-season.
Their playoff run started off the same way, as they swept the Memphis Grizzlies. However, what happened in the second round of the Western Conference Playoffs may be the whole reason why their regular-season run fell into the background. They faced the OKC team featuring KD and Westbrook. After going up 2-1, the Spurs lost three games in the row, finishing their season the same way it started, with the loss to the Thunder.
It wasn’t a playoff run worthy of such a fantastic regular-season. The only team that won 67 games or more and had a shorter post-season campaign was the ’06/’07 Dallas Mavericks. That put them on another list – best regular-season teams with the worst playoff performance.