It is that time of year again as the San Antonio Spurs prepare for their annual Rodeo Road Trip. Every February the Spurs are forced out of the comfy confines of the AT&T Center, due to the San Antonio Rodeo. This is the time of year that San Antonio is looking towards the playoffs and gaining ground in their conference. The team this year will be faced with some adversity as they have been recently hit with the injury bug to three of their five starters.
Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter and Danny Green are still injured. Gregg Popovich told USA Today's Sam Amick that he is disappointed for them and that the team will not be at full strength.
"I'm disappointed for the team, because this is a time when we always try to make hay," Popovich said. "Historically, that 'Rodeo Road Trip,' that time before, during and after the All-Star break has always been good for us. We've got a lot of away games. It's a great time to come together and get the bunker mentality, and all that trade crap. But it works for us. So this road trip, and the one right after it, you'd like to be at full strength for that because it has been important for us getting momentum for the season. So I'm disappointed for them.
San Antonio's next 12 out of 14 games are on the road. Definitely a time for the team to come together. In the past, San Antonio has fared well. The past two years San Antonio compiled a 15-3 record during the Rodeo Road Trip. Looking back at 2012, they went 8-1. In 2013, 7-2.
The Spurs are hoping to cap off another successful road trip as they begin play on March 3rd against the New Orleans Pelicans. San Antonio will be playing some sub-par teams and teams that should make the playoffs this season. The Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Clippers and the Portland Trail Blazers.
The team not at 100% is not a bad thing. We have seen many players for the Spurs step up this season when their numbers are called.
Nine games equates to a lot of frequent flyer miles for the Spurs in the next month. Here are the teams that San Antonio will be facing during this years Rodeo Road Trip.
February 3rd, 2014 New Orleans Pelicans (19-26, 5th Southwest Division):
Still a work in progress, the Pelicans seem to have some pieces in place in the direction the team wants to go in. Center Anthony Davis is the heart and sole of this young ball club. Davis is averaging a double-double with 20.1 points and 10.5 rebounds per contest, he is the team leader in both catergories. In his second year out of Kentucky, Davis is performing at the level New Orleans was hoping when they drafted him. Looking at their roster, the Pelicans do have a young team with their oldest player being 27 and their youngest, 20, that being Davis and Austin Rivers. Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordan could possibly be one hell of a duo. Both of which can create their own shots and when all the focus turns to Davis at times, these two can light up a scoreboard quickly.
The Spurs and Pelicans have done battle two times prior to this meeting and San Antonio won both. Their previous meeting in New Orleans on January 13th, Tony Parker paced the Spurs with 27 points and 7 assists in a 101-95 win. Tim Duncan finished with 18 and 9. Anthony Davis led the Pelicans with 22 points and 11 rebounds in the loss.
February 5th, 2014 Washington Wizards (22-23, 3rd Southeast Division):
The Spurs and the Wizards have met just one time this season and for the Spurs, a dominating performance. From the start, the Spurs set the tone in this game. The Wizards had no answer for Tony Parker and Boris Diaw whom both led the charge. Parker finished the game with 16 points. Diaw came off the bench to fnish with 15. Six players reached double-figures for San Antonio. They also shot 50% from the floor while holding the Wizards to just 36%. The Wizards do have a bright young star in Bradley Beal and he has continued to turn heads this season. Against the Spurs in their only meeting this season, he finished with 19 points. Teammate Martell Webster did all he could to spark the Wizards finishing with 21 points off the bench. What hinders the Wizards is their bigs. They do not have anyone that can body up or match blow for blow against the San Antonio bigs. Most of their points are coming from their back-court of Beal and Wall.
Though the first meeting was a wash for the Spurs, the Wizards do have some talent and as we know, San Antonio sometimes does play down to their opponents, and that can end with a loss. We will see how this goes for San Antonio as this is the first of a back-to-back for them during the road trip.
February 6th, 2014 Brooklyn Nets (20-23, 2nd Atlantic Division):
December 31st was the first meeting against the Nets for the Spurs. San Antonio did come out with a 113 to 92 win. The Spurs came out the gate running. First half was all San Antonio as they finished the first quarter with a ten point lead winning the quarter 30-20. In the second, defense clamped down for San Antonio as the Nets were held to 16 in the quarter. As he has been donig through the season, Tony Parker led the charge for the Spurs with 18 points. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili finished with 15 each. The Nets did not get much scoring output from Derron Williams, Joe Johnson or Kevin Garnet. Paul Pierce did not have a break-out performance either finishing with just 13 points. A team that will be in the playoffs this season, the second meeting between these two will certainly be a different game than the first. Nets big four, Williams, Garnett, Pierce, and Johnson will definately bring out their best in front of their crowd.
This is the second game of a back-to-back for San Antonio. History does not look good for the Spurs in these types of games, but they have made strides. With a team not being at 100%, how will they fare this go around?
February 8th, 2014 Charlotte Bobcats (20-27, 4th Southeast Division):
The Spurs will have one days rest before facing the Bobcats in Time Warner Cable Arena. The Bobcats this season are sitting in fourth in their division with a 20 win and 27 loss record. The team is led by big man Al Jefferson whom is averaging 19.3 points per game. He also is averaging just under 11 rebounds per contest. This will be the first meeting between the Spurs and Bobcats this season.
Lets face it, the Bobcats have been the laughing stock of the NBA for years. They seem to be heading in the right direction as far as personal goes, its just taking longer than surely the front office is concerned to start clicking into place. How long can Jefferson carry this team? On both sides of the ball, this team struggles. They don't have much of a scoring output as they are averaging 94 points a game while giving up 97.
February 10th, 2014 Detroit Pistons (18-27, 3rd Central Division):
On this looks to be a decent ball club. Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings, Andre Drummond.....wait who am I kidding. This team has so many hot heads, their record thus far proves they can't co-exist. Detroit Meltdown if you will. The signing of Josh Smith to me was a bit of a surprise. Drummond, he is young still and has upside to his game. As many teams in the Eastern Conference tend to do, they play pretty well against the Spurs.
Smith and Jennings are streaky shooters and they can get it going after a few made buckets. They could become a good, not great, back-court duo in the league, if they knew how to play with one another. Look for this to be another warm-up game following the Bobcats before finishing off the road trip with two teams they could possibly see in the playoffs.
February 12th, 2014 Boston Celtics (15-33, 5th Atlantic Division):
Their big three and head coach left the team for greener pastures in Los Angeles to be with the Clippers, now first year head coach Brad Stephens was left with a mess to clean-up. Jeff Green is leading the team in points per game with 16. Green is the leader of this team? I know, don't forget about Rajon Rondo. Oh you mean the guard that has only played six games this season? He can't carry this team.
Never would of thought he would or could be the face of a franchise. I am not trying to bash him in any way but this is got to be a hard season to take in for Boston fans. You went from having a good core of guys, playoff team, to well, nothing. Their defense is just horrendous. The team gives up 98 points a ball game. Right now, I feel that the Boston fans are waiting for the end of the season. For them, it will be long as the first half is just ending.
This will be the second meeting of the season for these two teams. Back on November 20th, the Spurs defeated the visiting Celtics 104-93. In that game San Antonio shot 48% from the field. Tony Parker led the way with 19 points and 4 assists. Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley led the Celtics with 19 each.
February 18th, 2014 Los Angeles Clippers (33-15, 1st Pacific):
This is where the end of this rodeo road trip starts getting tough. The San Antonio Spurs next two games are against playoff potential teams. The first pits the Spurs against the Clippers. So far this season, the teams have split their meetings with the last game being January 4th where the Spurs defeated the Clips 114 to 92. In that game the Spurs came out strong in the first quarter ending with a 33 to 17 lead after one. That continued on in the second as they matched their output, scoring 33 while holding the Clips to 18.
Clippers would storm back in the 3rd as they did a role reversal on San Antonio holding them to just 18 while putting up 30+ in the quarter. That would not be enough though as the Spurs shot 55% from the field to take the victory. Tiago Splitter had a huge game for the silver and black as he notched 22 points, leading the team. Tim Duncan had just another day at the office finishing with a double-double.
For the Clippers, they were without their captain Chris Paul and had to look eslewhere for their scoring opportunities. Jamaal Crawford did what he could putting up a game high 24 points. Blake Griffin finished with 19. The Clippers shot 46% from the field.
February 19th, 2014 Portland Trailblazers (33-13, 2nd Northwest):
It does not get any easier for San Antonio in their second back-to-back of the Rodeo Road Trip. This go around they are taking on the Trailblazers whom every year seem to have the Spurs number. It is no different this season. In their first two meetings the Trailblazers have won both with the most recent being on January 17th. The Blazers had three players score over 20 points with LaMarcus Aldridge leading the way with 26. Wesley Matthews finished with 24 and Damian Lillard 21. What is scary is how good Aldridge and Lilliard can become with one another. They are a great one-two punch. Lillard does a remarkable job running the team and he can create shots on his own. Aldridge, he is just a beast when it comes to playing against San Antonio. Every shot he seems to take hits nothing but the bottom of the net, I hate that guy, but love watching him play.
In the January 17th loss, Manu Ginobili led the way for San Antonio off the bench pouring in 29 points on 9-of-17 shooting from the floor. He also was 4-of-5 from the three point line.
These two games before their last against the Phoenix Suns on this road trip to me are must wins. Even if the team is not at 100%, seeing how they play against some of the top teams in the Western Conference will prove something.
February 21st, 2014 Phoenix Suns (27-18, 2nd Pacific Division):
The Rodeo Road Trip is finally coming to an end. The previous two games are a challenging one for the Spurs but I feel that this trip to Phoenix will sum up the way the team played during their time away from home. Goran Dragic is the leading scorer for the Phoenix Suns.......that is right. He is averaging just under 20 a game. Recent highlights have shown that this team is trying to head back to the run and gun style they once had. Gerald Green is trying to prove that is is a legit player. The kid has some springs in his legs and if you don't watch out, he surely will try to make you one on a poster.
This season San Antonio has won two of their previous meetings against Phoenix. December 18th, was their last meeting and the Spurs won 108-101. As he has been doing all season thus far, Manu Ginobili once again let the good guys off the bench with 24 points. Tim Duncan added 17, while Kawhi Leonard finished with 14.
There you have it. My breakdown of another year, another grueling road trip for the silver and black. What are your thoughts? How do you think they will fare this go around given the injury issues they have been dealt with?