Nothing stands in way of Spurs wins

Here’s how well things are going for the San Antonio Spurs.

On a night in which veterans Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili had games that would rank among the worst of their careers, they still beat the Los Angeles Lakers by 15 points, 97-82.

Duncan played 29 minutes and made just one shot, the most minutes he’s played in any of the half-dozen games in which he’s made just one basket or fewer. Ginobili was 3-for-12 from the field, his worst shooting night when taking that many shots in more than two years.

The Spurs shot 42.5 percent from the field, 28.1 percent from 3-point range, and 66.7 percent from the line. A quick check of Basketball-Reference.com shows they hadn’t won a game with that sort of statistical combination since beating the Phoenix Suns in November, 2005.

How did they win? It took a great effort from Tony Parker (San Antonio is 21-1 when he scores at least 15 points) and their defense. Los Angeles shot 35.4 percent from the field, the third time they've shot that badly against the Spurs in the 49 regular season games that Kobe Bryant has played against them. Bryant missed 13 straight shots, which according to Elias, is the worst run of misses he's had in any game in his career.

The Lakers have dropped three straight games by at least 15 points, one shy of their longest stretch ever, done in November 2007.

Kobe Bryant matched his worst shooting day of the season, but you can go 8-for-27 against the Minnesota Timberwolves (as he did on November 19) and still win. Not against these Spurs, who have won 11 straight home games.

Mavericks This Season
With Dirk Nowitzki On/Off Court

Elsewhere in the NBA, the Dallas Mavericks 84-76 home loss to the Toronto Raptors may add fuel to Dirk Nowitzki's early MVP candidacy. The Mavericks outscore opponents by 13.3 points per 48 minutes with him on the floor, and get outscored by almost 14 points per 48 minutes with him off the floor. According to Elias, his plus-minus differential of 27.0 is the best in the NBA among qualifying players.

The Celtics and center Shaquille O’Neal got a win over the Indiana Pacers, but he fouled out for the second straight game, this time in just 16 minutes. He’s the first player to foul out of consecutive games, playing 16 minutes or fewer in each since Dan Gadzuric, in December 2008.

Shaquille O'Neal

O'NealO’Neal’s former team, the Orlando Magic, got strong production from its bench, though one player’s value may have gone a bit unnoticed. On a night where Gilbert Arenas stole the headlines with 22 points and 11 assists, Ryan Anderson may have been the Magic’s most valuable man.

In 23 minutes, Anderson netted only six points in a 110-95 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, but Orlando outscored Cleveland by 27 points when he was on the floor. That’s noteworthy considering that Orlando had three starters who posted a negative plus-minus rating in this contest.

Speaking of valuable players, the best of the best was the Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade, who scored 40 points in a win over the New York Knicks. Wade has 18 games with at least 40 points over the last three seasons, matching LeBron James for most in the NBA.