This past week the San Antonio Spurs went 1-1 to finish off the Rodeo Road Trip at 6-3. The Spurs still hold the number one seed in the NBA with a five game lead over the Boston Celtics in the East, and a six game lead over the Dallas Mavericks in the West.
The Spurs last game was a loss in Chicago and put the team at 46-10 for the season. With only 26 games left before the playoffs, the remaining focus for the team will be to improve their defense, lockup the number one seed and marginalize players’ minutes as much as possible.
In the words of Rafiki "It is time" to begin Views From The Couch volume 12.
Is Skip Bayless onto something?
After the Spurs loss to the Bulls, the following morning ESPN's Skip Bayless tweeted:
Biggest concern about Spurs: Manu NBA MVP 1st 2 months. Last 6 weeks: awful by his standards. Injury? Age? Slump?
This was a very good question, so I wanted to dig in and figure out if Skip was onto something. I dug up all the stats on Manu from the last 6 weeks. This covers a 20 game span beginning January 9 against the Minnesota Timberwolves and ends on the last game February 17 in Chicago.
Here’s some interesting numbers to look at:
Manu's points per game for the entire season: 17.9 ppg.
During the last six weeks: 16 ppg (The Spurs went 16-4).
Last six weeks on the road: 14.9 ppg.
Rodeo Road Trip: 13 ppg.
Games scored above Manu's season average: 9 games
Games scored below Manu's season average: 10 games
From the numbers, Manu has only dropped 1 point off his average in the last 6 weeks. But as you dig deeper, it shows that he is having trouble on the road. This can be understood when you account several factors: having to fly from city to city, his bodies “clock” is being constantly readjusted and he carried the team for the first three months of the season.
In the four losses, Manu scored either his average or below in all four games (4 points at New Orleans, 17 points at Portland, 8 points at Philadelphia, and 16 points at Chicago)
Do you see the trend? All of the losses were on the road.
Now to answer Skips question - is it injury? Age or slump?
- Injury: I don’t recall any major injuries bothering Manu. He still plays as reckless as ever and all of the scouting reports each game haven’t shown any type of physical injury.
- Age: This is the answer. I’m not saying that because of Manu's age we have seen his best performances for the season, but he needs to learn to preserve his body these next few months.
Manu carried the team on his back for the first three months and as statistical evidence has shown, he’s just tired. He needs rest. He can’t be the go to guy for a full 82 game season. He plays too hard every time he’s out on the floor and coach Pop will have to adjust and monitor Manu's minutes as much as possible down the stretch. It is critical that he is fresh come the playoffs.
Fatigue is what is bothering Manu the most in my opinion. This is evident by his production a few weeks ago:
He played in a back-to-back series and only scored 8 points at Philadelphia and 6 points at Washington. Pop was able to rest him in the Washington game luckily because the team got a huge lead and never let up. The following game, on two days rest Manu scored 22 points at New Jersey. This shows you that Manu still has big games stored in his body; he just can’t be unleashing them every single night.
Manu will need to learn to choose when to carry the team and when to let Parker be the catalyst. If Manu, his teammates and the coaching staff can figure out a way to keep his body fresh for the playoffs, MVP Manu will make a consistent reappearance.
The Past Should Be Revisited Through Laughter
(Please enjoy hilarious commentary from fans, writers and other media outlets via Twitter)
@ Chicago Bulls L 99-109
In the second quarter @madcowheff tweeted “DeJuan Blair might be able to wrestle a real bull and win”
In the fourth quarter, as the Spurs could not grab a rebound, I tweeted “The #Spurs are allergic to rebounds tonight..............”
In the fourth quarter, when Derrick Rose was on his way to scoring 42 points, @russbengtson tweeted “And Derrick Rose should be illegal. #bulls”
At the end of the game, the majority of Spurs fans felt down about the loss. @mojavi74 provided some words of encouragement “Look at the brightside #Spurs fan, at least it's not the Grammy roadtrip. #GoSpursGo” In reference to the Lakers calling their road trip “The Grammy Roadtrip”
Player Of The Week
Tony Parker: Parker tried his hardest to carry the Spurs to victory in Chicago, but his effort wasn’t enough. Parker scored 26 points (11-21 FG) and added 2 steals along with 1 block (anytime a point guard gets a block, that’s pretty remarkable).
Gary Neal: Neal came off the bench in Chicago and in only 22 minutes of action scored 16 points (6-9 FG, 4-5 three pointers). ESPN's program ‘Outside The Lines’ captured a fine documentary on Neal's journey, this is a must watch for all Spurs fans.
By The Numbers
(Gunslinging: +100 points. Teams That Matter: All 8 west playoff seeds and top 6 East playoff seeds. Quality Wins: Wins by +10 points. Blow Outs: Wins by +20 points. Closing Time-: Games decided by 5 points or less.)
The Week Ahead
|Vs. The Mighty West||29-5|
|Vs. The East||17-5|
|Vs. Southwest Division||(7-3)|
|Gunslinging Wins||37/55 Games|
|Vs. Teams That Matter||17-8|
|Quality Wins||18/50 Games|
|Blow Outs||6/50 Games|
|Last 10 games||(7-3)|
|Holding Opponents to||96.3ppg|
|Victory Margin||(+) 7.1ppg|
This week the Spurs return home and play two Top 15 teams in the NBA, along with one lower tier team.
Game 57. Oklahoma City Thunder (Team That Matters): the Thunder are ranked #6 in the NBA at 35-19 and have gone 7-3 in their last 10 games. The Spurs are 2-0 thus far against the Thunder. Expect James Harden's beard to get some valuable playing time.
Game 58. New Jersey Nets: The Nets are ranked #25 in the NBA at 17-40 and have gone 3-7 in their last 10 games. The Spurs won the first battle in Jersey. There were a lot of Sasha Vujacic jokes in the last game from Spurs fans, I expect more of the same because Sasha is just one of those people who it’s almost impossible to not crack a joke on him.
Game 59. Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies are ranked #14 in the NBA at 31-26 and have gone 8-2 in their last 10 games. The Spurs won the first game against the Grizzlies earlier in the season. I’m interested in seeing if Marc Gasol yells loudly like his brother Pau when he attempts a layup?
I Want Your Thoughts: The Chicago Loss
This past Thursday the Spurs lost to the Chicago Bulls 99-109. There were three ways to look at the loss, pick a reason and give your answer why you believe this:
a.) The Bulls shot 54% for the game; there was nothing the Spurs could do.
b.) Derrick Rose just had an extraordinary game (42 points, 8 assists) but that won’t happen in a playoff series against the Spurs.
c.) The Spurs need serious help in the frontcourt because the Bulls out-rebounded them 41-29 without their best rebounder (Joakim Noah).
Derek Rose had a hell of a game. Its OK to lose a game on the road when a star player has a career day. With that being said, the spurs also stopped rebounding late in the game and missed at least 2 easy layups. They had a chance to cut into the lead like we all expected and did not execute.
@Edge Agree a mixture of a.) & c.) led to the loss. I don't think it's a big deal to fret over it. Some stars will have "big nights" against us. But not consistently in a playoff series. Thanks for the input!
The entire game seemed slow to me. I mean the Spurs would get within two and then the Bulls would just tear into them bringing the lead back up to 7 or 8. The game just didn't flow from the start for the spurs. I believe they are ready to start the rest of the season off right tomorrow night back at home! #gospursgo
@TeamGeorgeHill Totally agree. And as you and me discussed via twitter. The young guys are playing a very crucial role on how far this team can go.
The Chicago loss was depressing two things a) we need to improve the defense allowing 54% shooting from the field from our opponents. b) If Tiago don't play, we really need added help on the frontcourt.
@TD21 I really hop the injury bug leaves Tiago alone already. He really needs to establish himself in the frontcourt to a player we can rely on in the playoffs. Thanks for the input!