Spurs usually thrive on their ‘Rodeo trip’ at this time of season…
The San Antonio Spurs have set the standard in the NBA for almost two decades with five championships in the last 16 years but the end could finally be coming.
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The Spurs currently sit in seventh spot in the Western Conference with a 34-23 record, and while they slip further adrift of their rivals above them, it may well be worth looking over their shoulder too.
Despite being ravaged by injuries this season, the Oklahoma City Thunder are just two games behind them and so Gregg Popovich and his men face a real danger of scraping into the playoffs with the last spot available as OKC look to extend their current seven-game winning streak.
In contrast, San Antonio have now lost four straight and after receiving the benefit of the doubt for months, their struggles on their ‘Rodeo trip’ have magnified their problems and put them into the spotlight.
Certain media outlets have pointed the finger at point guard Tony Parker in particular, as his numbers and overall performance are on the slide this year. However, Manu Ginobili has defended his teammate and insisted that it is a team problem that must be fixed together.
Part of the issue is their usually exceptional offense which is now down to 100.4 points per game, with the defensive-minded Memphis Grizzlies the only team in the top eight in the West with a lower average.
Their defensive statistics are relatively decent, and so Popovich may well be forced into a few minor tweaks to get his team going again as the pick-and-roll in particular hasn’t been as effective this season with their opposition comfortable running under the screen and leaving Parker with jump-shots instead of allowing him to attack the lanes.
Fans of basketball will invariably appreciate the Spurs for their style of play, work ethic and dedication to the fundamentals, and so it is disappointing to not see them at the top of their game with their rivals in the West of course disagreeing.
While it would be foolish to write this team off so early given that they have continually proved their doubters wrong over the years in holding off father time, there are worrying signs this season that the magic may well be starting to disappear.
It is unclear at this stage as to whether veterans Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili will call time on their careers at the end of the year, but with ‘Timmy’ still playing at an elite level, it would be a shock to see him bow out if he can still contribute.
Make no mistake, a few wins will move them right back into the mix for a top four finish in the Western Conference, but with their rivals all strengthening through trade deals over the past few months, it will be their biggest achievement yet if they can get it together and defend their crown.