Well look at that. Written off as a middle-of-the-road playoff team just a few short months ago, the San Antonio Spurs are now sitting on top of the Western Conference. They’ve battled injuries and a grueling schedule to ride an 11-game win streak to the best record in the Western Conference, overtaking the Thunder.
Of course, it’s too early to call it and the Spurs are technically tied with the Thunder, but the way they’ve been playing, you have to think they won’t give up that lead.
Naturally, the 1-seed will bring back some horrible flashbacks of last year’s loss to the 8-seed Memphis Grizzlies. Is that what the Spurs are headed for again?
Last year’s loss to the Grizzlies was the basketball equivalent of a perfect storm. The Spurs limped into the playoffs after the injury to Manu. They were up against a team that was playing with a lot of momentum and confidence that they didn’t really match up well against. Even without Manu, the Spurs would have held their own against anyone else in the West, but the Grizzlies just had their number. It was just like the Warriors upsetting the Mavericks back in 2007. They won a couple of games and suddenly they knew it was their series for the taking. The home crowd was insane and it just seemed like the world was backing the underdog.
This year is going to be different.
Barring any injuries for the rest of the season (knock on wood), the Spurs will have a full, healthy, well-rested roster. Coach Pop has led this team to perfection in this lockout-shortened season. He’s managed to rest his stars and Manu’s injuries may have been a blessing in disguise because the Spurs continued to win without him and he got some extra rest.
It’s too early and the West is too jumbled to try and predict the Spurs’ first round opponent, but I really don’t think it matters. I could see the Spurs easily taking care of any of the teams at the bottom of the playoff picture (Nuggets, Jazz, Suns, Mavs). The second round will be tougher, but again I don’t see the Clippers or the Lakers posing much of a threat.
The real danger will come against Oklahoma City in the conference finals. Don’t let the season series make you too overconfident, the Thunder can play. This is when the Spurs will be glad they fought and won the 1-seed. The home court advantage will be huge in this series.
Right now, the Spurs look like the best team in the West. The spot in the NBA Finals is theirs for the taking. This year, they’ll be so happy they have the 1-seed (if they finish the season strong), making last year a distant memory.