Back during the early portion of the 2014-15 NBA season, Philadelphia Head Coach Brett Brown and the 76ers came into San Antonio for a November matchup with the Spurs. Before the game, Brown had revealed one of the Spurs’ benchmarks for how they evaluated their team when he was an assistant coach under Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich.
“We sort of look to Christmas, and what goes on after Christmas to the All-Star break,” said Brown. “We always talked about ramping stuff up right before the All-Star break, when people were getting used to going on holidays. We felt like there was a weakness then, (and) you could just jump on it. The mindset of Post-All Star break, that’s sort of been the rhythm with him for me, since I was here.”
In the past, the Spurs’ previous records show that they did indeed excel after Christmas heading into the All-Star break. The table below displays the Spurs’ record over the last three seasons and this season from the start of the season to December 25th (Christmas day), then from December 26th (after Christmas) to the All-Star break. Afterward, you can see how the Spurs set the tone for the rest of their season after the All-Star break.
|Season||Start to X-mas||After X-mas to ASB||After ASB to End|
Just by looking at the data, the common parallel to this season is that 2015 Spurs team. That season too was marred by injuries to some of the Spurs’ top playmakers, but even those injuries didn’t inflict as much damage as the injuries that have plagued the present team. That season up until the All-Star break, the Spurs’ top scorer in Kawhi Leonard had at least played in 65% of their games up to that point. Their second scorer Tony Parker had played in 74% of their games, and their third scorer in Tim Duncan, had played in 91% of their games up to the All-Star Break.
This season, their top scorer LaMarcus Aldridge has been able to play in 92% of their games, their second leading scorer and best playmaker Leonard has only played in 15% of their games, and the player they brought in to help those two guys, Rudy Gay, has only played in 58% of their games so far up to the All-Star break.
As the trend shows over the last three seasons, the Spurs are usually able to finish strong down the stretch of a season heading into the playoffs. However, with the uncertainty of Gay and Leonard’s health even after the All-Star break, it could be a rough road ahead for San Antonio to finish the season. Of their final 23 games left after the All-Star break, 18 of those opponents are currently .500 or above, and just five are below .500.
With the Western Conference 3-10 seeds being within a handful of games of each other in the loss column, San Antonio might find themselves slipping further down the standings day after day, until Gay and Leonard eventually return. When the Spurs return to work next Friday at Denver following nine consecutive days off, they’ll have to hope the health of Leonard and Gay has improved drastically, so that San Antonio can have their full squad ready to battle in what’s shaping up to be the toughest stretch of their season.