Defense wins championships and for the San Antonio Spurs, that holds true. The Spurs won four NBA titles, including three over the last decade by giving premium on defense.
The Spurs have relied on their stingy team defense to win championships with Tim Duncan as the anchor, but the ‘Big fundamental’ needed some big time help.
When Duncan was drafted by the Spurs in 1997, he teamed-up with David Robinson to form San Antonio’s Twin Towers and one of the most formidable defensive lineup in franchise history.
With Duncan and Robinson on the inside, opposing teams had a hard time driving to the basket and has resulted two NBA titles in 1999 and 2003.
After Robinson’s retirement, Duncan was left alone to man the middle for San Antonio but he got some needed help from another player guarding the perimeter — Bruce Bowen.
Bowen joined the Spurs in 2001 as the team’s defensive specialist and had the unenviable task of guarding the opposing team’s best scorer night in and night out.
The Spurs would eventually win two more NBA titles with the Big three of Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Parker, with Bowen as their best on-ball defender in 2005 and 2007.
Curiously, since Bowen’s retirement, San Antonio’s best finish was reaching the Western Conference Finals in 2008 against the Los Angeles Lakers.
How important were these defensive duos during the Spurs’ title run?
Let their individual defensive awards speak for themselves.
Eight-time All-Defensive First Team, Five-time All-Defensive Second Team.
One-time Defensive Player of the Year, Four-time All-Defensive First Team, Four-time All-Defensive Second Team.
Five-time All-Defensive First Team, Three-time All-Defensive Second Team.
Robinson, Bowen and Duncan had all played significant roles in helping the Spurs to be one of the best defensive teams in NBA history, but which twosome is better?
During the 1997-2003 NBA season, the Spurs was one of the best teams in defensive rating in league; third was their worst defensive rating in that span.
In 1999, they finished first in the league in defensive rating and in 2003, they were ranked third, both were championship seasons.
When Robinson left, it was expected for the Spurs’ defense to take a dip, but it didn’t. From 2004-07 season, the Spurs remained one of the best defensive teams and were at least in the top 3 in defensive efficiency rating in each season.
In 2005, the Spurs were ranked first in defensive rating, and third in 2007, when the team won their third and fourth championships respectively.
And since the 2008 -09 season, the Spurs defensive rating has been on a steady decline. Last season, they were only ranked 11th in defensive rating.
It would be hard to tell which Spurs defensive duo is the best, because both pairs won two titles apiece.
Also, the fact that Bowen was already on the team in 2001, makes it debatable that he had a hand in helping the Spurs win 2003.
However, it was clear that the Spurs relied a lot on Duncan and Robinson during the 2003 NBA finals.
What do you guys think? Which defensive duo is better? Share us your thoughts.