As a Suns fans, I’m compelled to hate the San Antonio Spurs for all the years they’ve knocked Phoenix out of the playoffs, but I have to respect Greg Popovich and his team for their ability to play at such a high level every year even with old age starting to take its toll (see “Tim Duncan” for the definition of old).
While teams like the Knicks, Heat and Thunder have been making headlines, the Spurs have quietly won 12 of their last 13 games. And the one game they lost was a blowout loss to Portland when Popovich rested Tony Parker and Tim Duncan (and Manu Ginobili was still out with an injury). In that stretch, San Antonio won games they were supposed to against lesser competition while also besting more competitive teams like the Thunder, Clippers, Philadelphia and Denver.
Tony Parker’s All-Star season is a big reason for the team’s success. He’s leading the Spurs in scoring at 19 points a game and is also averaging 8 assists per game. Duncan’s numbers aren’t terrific (14.1 ppg and 8.6 rpg), but San Antonio has 10 players who are averaging at least 7 points a game. This collective effort has helped the team keep winning even without Ginobili. Tiago Splitter was a huge addition in 2010, but after having injury problems at the end of the year, he is finally emerging as a decent scorer. Rookie Kawhi Leonard’s hustle and effective rebounding makes him a great role player who can also chip in a few points. Richard Jefferson, DeJuan Blair, Gary Neal, Daniel Green and Matt Bonner similarly don’t have flashy numbers, but they have bought into Popovich’s system and the role they each have, which makes for a very competitive squad.
The Spurs have a knack for streaking during the regular season and this year is no different. They have climbed all the way to the 2nd spot in the West with a 24-10 record after starting the season with an underwhelming 12-9 record, which is especially impressive considering that Ginobili has been on the bench for most of the year. Last season, the Spurs had an incredible regular season record of 61-21, only to fall short to the surprising Memphis Grizzlies in the first round. Although this was an extremely disappointing outcome for San Antonio fans (personally, I thought it was hysterical and awesome they lost in the first round as the #1 seed), the Spurs look like they’re back to their winning ways so far this season. Time will tell if they can stay injury-free for the postseason and actually make a run in the playoffs this year, but for now, keep your eye on this team in the West. Because even though winning regular season games isn’t the main objective, if Ginobili blends well with the Spurs’ current rhythm, they could be dangerous.