The Spurs are playing better basketball winning five of their last six games. But despite their improved play, they have not been able to climb up the standings. Currently, they remain seventh in the Western Conference playoff race with just a half game lead over the eight placed Portland Trail Blazers.
The recent four game winning streak was their best since a five game winning steak in early January. But this latest run was more impressive mainly because of the quality of opponents they have beaten. Still, there was the recent loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers minus LeBron James, Shaq and the injured Antawn Jamison.
In January, they took advantage and picked up wins against relatively weaker opponents except this time they've done it against playoff caliber teams.
With the way things are presently going and considering how his team has played this season, Coach Pop remains cautious about the Spurs' recent resurgence.
He said. "We'll see if we can keep our rhythm going, it's real important this time of year to try to do that. It will build our confidence and build some consistency." Indeed, the Spurs need to keep improving and be consistent and they seem to have responded.
In their last six games they held their opponents to 46.7% shooting from the field while converting 48.5% of their own shots. They also shared the ball better averaging 22.5 assists compared to just 18.6 by their opponents. It's also noteworthy to mention that during that span, the Spurs have fared well from the free throw line converting 74.6% of their shots against 73% by their foes.
However, just when things seemed to be getting on the winning path, the Spurs lost Tony Parker to injury for the remainder of the regular season. Ginobili said. "It's devastating, I'm not saying we were turning the corner, but if we had a chance, it was with the whole team healthy."
Nevertheless the Spurs should be encouraged with Ginobili's recent play. He is beginning to look a lot like the Manu of old. With Tim Duncan steady as ever and George rising to the occasion, this team should have enough reason to believe that a season turnaround is possible.
The Spurs will have to move on without Parker, and with every game being crucial at this point, they must take advantage of their upcoming games against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Clippers and the Miami Heat. All of which they have beaten this season. This should be a good chance for them to move up in the standings.
With only one and a half game behind fifth placed Oklahoma City Thunder, it is possible for the Spurs to be at middle of the pack in the West by mid March.
The team needs to stay focused and continue to have a concerted effort to sustain their momentum.
After playing the Miami Heat, the Spurs will enter arguably their toughest stretch of their season. In a span of seven games, they will face six playoff teams -- the Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers, Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics.
If they intend to make a winning run towards the end of the season, the Spurs can't rely mainly on old reliables Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.
With Tony Parker injured, they will need George Hill to continue his solid play, DeJuan Blair and Malik Hairston to provide the much needed boost from the bench, Antonio McDyess to play consistent basketball, Keith Bogans to stay steady on defense, Roger Mason and Matt Bonner to hit their shots, and Richard Jefferson to be a better player on both ends of the floor.
In short, for the Spurs to be successful, players have to step up and try to fill the void that Tony Parker had left. But more importantly, they have to improve their overall defense. Otherwise they could find themselves battling just to get a playoff spot.
The Spurs are known for their defense and have relied on it to win championships. In the past seven seasons, the Spurs have led the league twice in defensive efficiency rating and their worst finish in that category was at sixth place which happened last season. Right now, they are only ninth in the league in defensive efficiency. An indication that their overall defense is on the decline.
This means, the Spurs have to put their defense in a higher gear and will need a total team effort to get things done. It's easier said than done but the last few games have provided signs this team is starting to hit their stride.
What do you think? Will the Spurs be able to turn the proverbial "corner" and make a serious run towards the post season or will they come up short and not make the playoffs all together?