It’s becoming clearer and clearer that the San Antonio Spurs have issues that make it difficult to predict they will be back in the NBA Finals this season.
Albeit the team was without Tiago Splitter and Danny Green due to injuries and head coach Gregg Popovich was ejected in the third quarter, the Spurs still fell to the Portland Trail Blazers Friday night in San Antonio. A one-point lead heading into the fourth quarter turned into a 109-100 loss.
Given the circumstances, it’s easy to toss this loss away and focus on the next opportunity, but this idea of the Spurs not ready to take on the contenders is in the minds of the team now as well. Manu Ginobili stated after that loss the team currently isn’t ready and needs to work on sharpness and precision.
As the article stated, the only Spurs win against a team considered a contender was against the Los Angeles Clippers – a game in which Chris Paul was out due to injury. Not exactly the type of ringing endorsement one would hope for when making the argument that the Spurs will make it back to the finals.
Aside from this game, the Spurs only had one victory in which the team had control over – a 110-82 victory against the Milwaukee Bucks. It was nice to see players like Nando De Colo and Malcolm Thomas get some burn in a Spurs uniform, but it’s a shame that Spurs fans couldn’t see them earlier this week.
Against the current last seed Utah Jazz on Wednesday, the Spurs squeaked out a 109-105 victory at home, a game in which the team really missed Tiago Splitter. Allowing 70 points in the paint, the Spurs rim defense was basically non-existent. Enes Kanter took full advantage of the Spurs weaknesses and scored 25 points on 12-for-15 shooting to go with 11 rebounds.
Going back to Monday, the team went on the road to face the New Orleans Pelicans and was able to pull off the road win at a final score of 101-95. Tony Parker was the biggest reason for this win, as he poured in 27 points and executed down the stretch while Tim Duncan watched from the bench as he fouled out with six minutes remaining in the game. The team was able to make it down the stretch despite Anthony Davis‘ 22 points and 11 rebounds.
There is a bit of room to give the Spurs a pass for not being able to make it past Portland this week and it will be disappointing to see them go up against the league elite without a couple of key players, but this is a team that runs its offense to perfect execution – an offense that can be plugged in with players that have been conditioned for situations like this. The team should be able to at least make it a close game as they move forward and face a couple of finals favorites.
Jan. 22 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Without a doubt the biggest obstacle in the way of making it to the NBA Finals, the Oklahoma City Thunder come back to town and look to shave away the current one-game deficit in the conference standings. The team is facing its own injury wall with Russell Westbrook still out after undergoing knee surgery yet again.
Jan. 24 @ Atlanta Hawks
Not exactly an NBA-elite team, but the Hawks may be able to make this a close game due to the intelligence of head coach Mike Budenholzer. The Spurs are looking for whatever win the team can get, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Popovich mail this game in by benching players and let Coach Bud have this win so the Spurs can prepare for the next game.
Jan. 26 @ Miami Heat
This game. The first time that the two face off since the Spurs had to walk out of the American Airlines Arena with no trophy in hand. There will be no Splitter for LeBron James to posterize, but this will still have the stinging feeling that remains in the Spurs since June. Will the team be able to pull off the upset or will it roll over as it has against the other contenders this season?