Finishing the “Rodeo Road Trip” is always a refreshing feeling for the San Antonio Spurs. After a victorious 114-99 route in Denver, the Spurs capped their annual tour with an 8-1 record, their best since 2003.
Entering the trip, San Antonio was on a four game winning streak. The streak was extended to 11 in the blink of an eye. With big wins in Oklahoma City, Memphis, Philadelphia, and a delirious overtime win against the Clippers, the Spurs showed true resolve versus tough opponents. The bench was a huge factor. Due to the absence of T.J. Ford and Manu Ginobili the Spurs backcourt depth took a hit but contributions from Danny Green and Gary Neal were a great a sign for Spurs fans.
Unfortunately they lost Manu (oblique strain) after a brief return as well as Tiago Splitter (strained calf), but Tony Parker came to the rescue. Parker has been on another level the first half of the season and respectively earned his ticket to an all-star apperance. Tony appears to be in the prime of his career and has San Antonio looking like a legitimate contender. Certaintly not a team that could lose in the first round to a No. 8 seed.
As usual, coach Gregg Popovich has his team on a set schedule and decided to rest Tim Duncan and Parker in their eighth road game of the trip against the Portland Trail Blazers. After a franchise low seven first quarter points the night before, Portland dropped 41 in the first against San Antonio, and ended their 11 game winning streak with a 30 point victory.
Pop was questioned about the decision saying, “I’m not going to run them into the ground.”
Of course, the team performed poorly against Portland without Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, Ford and Splitter but the very next game they came out and beat up on Denver.
This road trip showed fans a few things. This team can run with the best of them. The bench is one of the best in the league. Above all, I think it showed staying healthy is a dire necessity.
They understand the need to get everyone healthy and keep everyone rested for the postseason. Seeding doesn’t matter to Popovich and that is just another factor that makes him such a great coach. San Antonio has always been a team that prides themselves in mistake free basketball and help defense. The fundamentals are key to a successful run to a championship and this road trip was a prime example of the type of fundamentals this team has.
The Spurs showed promise on the road after starting off 5-8. Aside from the injuries it was a successful Rodeo Road Trip.
Can they keep it up until the playoffs?
Only basketball will tell.