SAN ANTONIO — Coming off a 30-point shellacking by Portland on Friday, their largest home defeat since 1997, the San Antonio Spurs could relinquish their top seed with a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight. It would be the first time since the All-Star break that San Antonio wouldn't be in the pole position.
However, should the Spurs lost the top spot in the West, Tiago Splitter says it is no big deal.
"Well, it's always good to be a number one seed," Splitter said after the loss to the Blazers. "We want to win every game. That's our goal. The world's not going to fall if we're not number one. But, Pop (Gregg Popovich) wants to win every game even if he rests a couple of players."
Yes, that means that we shouldn't expect copious amounts of Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili during Tony Parker's absence. That's not Popovich. Instead, he will rest his best players optimally even if it means losing ground in the playoff bracket.
Oklahoma City, meanwhile, will continue to put the pressure on San Antonio. The Thunder, winners of eight of nine, have whittled the deficit to one game.
Long-term health is at the forefront of Popovich's concerns. The Spurs are the sixth oldest team in the league and the "Big Three," especially, could use a down-tick in minutes.
Last season, the Spurs looked gassed. A week after winning their 20th consecutive game, they were bounced from the playoffs entirely. The year prior, the Spurs fell in the first round to the eight-seeded Memphis Grizzlies.
Apparently, the pole position hasn't been ideal.
But, the first seed is still important. It ensures the Spurs will not be on the road for a deciding game seven. And, historically, San Antonio fares much better as the top seed. Contrary to the past two seasons.
Put it this away, as the first seed during Popovich's tenure, San Antonio has won 68.7 percent of their games — a rate equivalent to this year's Los Angeles Clippers. Without home-court advantage, that rate dips to 54.4 percent — Atlanta Hawks territory.
More proof: The Spurs captured two championships (1999, 2003) as the top seed.
While dropping to the second spot literally won't be the end of the world, it wouldn't be in the team's best interest to trail behind the Thunder in the standings.
It's all in the odds.