The Spurs have used the annual road trip as a turning point of their season. This is usually the time when the team supposedly “turns the corner” and use it a s a litmus test for the rest of the season.
However, as much as the Rodeo Road Trip is important to the team and the direction it will head towards, the Spurs are about to embark on a crucial stretch of games in the next few days. It will test the team’s resolve to the highest as they will play eight games in the next thirteen days and will face six probable playoff-bound teams with four of them on the road. Unfortunately, it didn’t start off on the right foot.
This past Wednesday, the Spurs faced the Orlando Magic on a second night of a back-to-back in Orlando. A game which they lost. Badly! Blame it on fatigue or a poor shooting night by Tim Duncan who went 1-10 for the game. The bottom line is they lost the game right from the get go. Not a good sign if you’re on a hot streak and are trying to climb up to the standings. Spurs fans hope that this was just an aberration.
The Spurs will get their chance to redeem themselves as they play against the Golden State Warriors at home tonight. But they will go back on the road for another set of back-to-backs against the Atlanta Hawks and the Oklahoma City Thunder before playing the Los Angeles Lakers and the Cleveland Cavaliers at home.
After that, they will hit the road once more to play the Boston Celtics and the New Jersey Nets on back-to-back nights. Okay, maybe the Nets don’t count but talk about a test for this team!
This could be the most important part of the Spurs’ season. Yes, even more important than the Rodeo Road Trip. It’s make or break or as Manu Ginobili puts it “This is when the regular season is really going to get decided, it’s very important to start getting some more wins and play better. We want to climb a little bit more in the standings.”
After winning 8 of their last 10 games, the Spurs remained seventh in the West and are only a game behind 5th placed Oklahoma City Thunder, and three games behind 4th placed Utah Jazz. More importantly, the Spurs have tightened their grip on a playoff spot with a five game lead over currently 9th placed Houston Rockets in the Western Conference playoff race.
Nevertheless, the question remains, “Will the Spurs be able to survive?” If the history of this season is any indicator, then it’s not looking good. Stop me if you heard this before this season, “The Spurs lose to above .500 teams and will beat below .500 teams.”
But with the way the team has played lately, there is hope. Ginobili seems to have returned to his old form and is clutch as ever. Richard Jefferson appears to have finally found his way within the Spurs system and is peaking at the right time. Since being re-inserted into the starting lineup, he has averaged 18.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per ball game.
Tim Duncan is still “Tim Duncan” and George Hill is making Spurs fans feel relieved to have a great backup point guard while Tony Parker is out for the remainder of the season. But more importantly, the Spurs’ defense has started to pick up.
This month, the Spurs have held down their opponents to just 44.4% shooting from the field while making 48.7% of their own shots. Excluding the stat from the game against the Orlando Magic, the numbers was more impressive at 49.2% field goal shooting by the Spurs compared to just 43% by their opponents.
It will be a tough challenge, but it could also be a good time for the Spurs to see where they’re at as the regular season comes to an end. As Coach Pop pointed out, “Nothing good can happen, playoff wise, if you can’t play ‘D’.”
In essence, this stretch-run of games is the proverbial “gut check.” It’s up to the Spurs to show what are they really made of. To prove their detractors wrong, to prove that their window of opportunity at another title is not shut! Now is the time! But if the loss against the Magic is any indication, then this stretch of games will not be pretty.
Should they end up successful during this stretch of games, it could mean another deep run into the playoffs and possibly contend for another NBA title.
But if they are not up to the challenge, it could be another early playoff exit for the Spurs or even worse. They could miss the post season for the first time in the Duncan era.
What do you think? Will the Spurs be able to survive arguably the toughest part of their regular season? Share us your thoughts.