John Hollinger, ESPN.com — 4th (2nd in West)
In honor of the master statistician himself, I’ll just pour in some intriguing statistical pertaining to the Spurs. The Spurs are sixth in offensive efficiency (104.0), fourth in effective field goal percentage (.508%), first in opponents free throw rate (22.6), second in turnover rate (12.9), second in opponent’s rebounding rate (24.3) and fifth in assist rate (21.1). The Spurs appear to be a pretty good basketball team. How’s that for insightful analysis?
John Schumann, NBA.com — 5th (3rd in West)
“The Spurs have already lost more home games after the All-Star break (two) than they did before it (one). More importantly, they have Manu Ginobili back for the rest of their seven-game homestand, which features great matchups against the Knicks (Wednesday) and Clippers (Friday) this week.”
Remember when Manu Ginobili was playing at an MVP level? Yeah, me neither. Let’s hope he will sustain his health and be able to do usual Manu stuff. I miss that stuff.
Chris Sheridan, Sheridan Hoops — 4th (2nd in West)
“We gushed and gushed and gushed over them, and what have they been over the past dozen days? A .500 team — with one of the wins coming against the Bobcats. That is the worst thing we’ve had to say about them all year. Their 30-point win over Charlotte was Bobcats’ eighth 30-point loss of season. In Gregg Popovich’s 1,216 games with Spurs, it has happened only seven times (once this season). Richard Jefferson (76) has made more 3s than Ray Allen (70). Matt Bonner (69) is close.”
Yeah, thanks national media. I blame you. In all seriousness, I’m not too worried about the Spurs mini slump. They are still an efficient offensive team and palatable on defense (which is actually a compliment in this context). They remain one of the best shooting teams in the league and that probably explains our enigmatic play this year. Because of the Spurs transition to the offensive side of the ball — especially shooting — they are subject to more stretches of wildly inconsistent basketball. The good news? When the Spurs are shooting the ball and defending well enough, they’re a tough draw for any team. Our immense depth plus the adept coaching of Gregg Popovich gives the Spurs a distinct advantage in every playoff series regardless of opponent.
Marc Stein, ESPN.com — 4th (2nd in West)
“They could probably rationalize the Chicago loss, given the quality of the opposition, but losing at home to the short-handed Nuggets on a night that (A) Manu made his return and (B) Denver lost yet another big man (Mozgov) to injury? The Spurs might need another Rodeo Road Trip to get back on track.”
The break has seemed to stifle the Spurs momentum. Prior to the break, the Spurs offense was running on all cylinders — and that was without T.J. Ford, Manu and Tiago Splitter for a good portion of the trip. In seven of the nine games, the Spurs posted a 100+ offensive efficiency. Their ball movement was seamless; their shot selection, sound. Tony Parker was roaming the paint and creating for his spot shooting teammates. Tim Duncan was playing well despite limited minutes. Everything Pop tried worked.
Let’s hope they can take advantage of the low density of games this month. April will be absolutely brutal (16 games in 26 days — about four games a week — and three games in nine nights against the Los Angeles Lakers).
Tom Ziller, SB Nation — 4th (2nd in West)
“A Friday matchup with the Clippers — with Manu Ginobili back on the court — could tell us a lot about the Spurs’ chances in April, May and (gulp) June. Or one of the teams could no-show, a concept foreign to neither club, and it could just be another regular season game. LOCKOUT SEASON!”
I’m looking forward to watching the potential of this Spurs team. We’ve had glimpses of promise (Jan. 29 at Dallas, the entire Rodeo Road Trip) but the Spurs were missing someone significant in each game. The team with Ford and Manu will definitely look different. How different? I have no idea.
They could implode like last year against Memphis (I’m bringing back bad memories because I’m naturally masochistic) or go on a nice extended run to the Western Conference Finals primarily because our precise execution and technically impressive style. I don’t feel like this team will fail but that’s mostly my (usually wrong) intuition speaking. Thankfully, the Spurs don’t beat themselves. Pop’s entire philosophy predicates on preventing turnovers and extra possessions for the opposing team. When you force a team to feel like every mistake will have resounding consequences, that’s a positive thing.
Or so I keep telling myself.