After facing the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Atlanta Hawks, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Boston Celtics in what was the Spurs most difficult part of their schedule, it's time to assess the team after this "Hell Week."
The San Antonio Spurs appeared to be peaking at the right time. They are 11-5 for the month of March and completed arguably their toughest five-game stretch of their season that includes consecutive victories over the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics and an embarrassing loss to the New Jersey Nets. Yes the Nets!
As Coach Gregg Popovich said "We're playing our best basketball right now, thankfully. For the last three or four weeks, we've played teams well."
Or as Ginobili put it "It means we're not that far from the best, of course it's just one game. But it makes us feel better."
The Spurs definitely have reasons to feel better. Winning three of five games against the top teams in the league and were within striking distance in the fourth quarter in their loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
However, the Spurs failed to stay focused and sustain their momentum losing to the Nets --- a team with the worst record in the NBA. Granted it was the second night of back-to-backs, Roger Mason Jr. forced to sit out the second half with a sprained right pinky knuckle and Ginobili had to rest because of lower back spasms. But enough with the excuses. It was a game the Spurs should have won.
Now, the team is clinging on the 8th and final playoff spot.
However, during this "Hell Week" portion of the schedule, there were some bright spots. In particular, Manu Ginobili who has really carried the team lately. In the last five games, Ginobili has averaged 25.8 points, 5 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game enough to get him the nod for the Western Conference Player of the Week award. Also, Richard Jefferson continues to be more aggressive on both ends of the floor (except in the Spurs loss to the Nets) and George Hill has been the steadying presence on the Spurs' backcourt without Tony Parker.
Another point is they shown the can beat quality NBA teams despite their season history. Defeating the Cavaliers and the Celtics is something Spurs fans should feel better about and defensively they shown they still "got it." For example, limiting the Celtics to 73 points for a game.
Another aspect of "Hell Week" was Tim Duncan. In the last couple of games, it's clear Duncan hasn't been "Tim Duncan." During his last five games, Duncan has averaged a pedestrian 11.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists while shooting just 41.3% from the field and 56.2% from the free throw line. Decent numbers but not "Duncan numbers" Spurs fans are used to seeing.
And just when you think the worst is behind this team, the Spurs will continue their regular season playing five games in the next eight days. They will play the Houston Rockets and the Orlando Magic at home before going on the road to face the Los Angeles Lakers once more and then will visit the Sacramento Kings and the Phoenix Suns on back-to-back nights.
Thanks NBA schedule makers!
So what can Spurs fans take away from this team after this past week in their schedule? The Spurs have shown that they are capable of beating quality opponents, Ginobili is back in rare form, they can tighten the defense and could make some noise come playoff time. It also showed Duncan needs to rest. His numbers have been down lately and the Spurs need a fresh Duncan should they make the playoffs. But losing to the Nets did not help matters.
What do you guys think? Are you encouraged by the Spurs play during "Hell Week"? Or are you worried about them not sustaining momentum toward the end of the season? Share us your thoughts.