Lessons learned from the rodeo road trip

By FanSided Staff

Richard Jefferson's goatee was one of the many things lost on the rodeo road trip

There are two things that San Antonians can usually count on at this time every year: the rodeo coming to town and the Spurs coming together as a team because of a long road trip.  This year, however, is different than most as San Antonio finished 4-4 on the trip, dropping the final two games against Detroit and Philadelphia.  While there were certainly some highlights along the way like the big win in Denver, there were many frustrating moments.  Whether it be in Detroit, Portland or Philadelphia, one common theme stood out: an inability to close out tough games.

Blown fourth quarter leads doomed them against the Blazers and Sixers and the team couldn’t find any offense in an overtime loss against the Pistons.  These losses have left the Spurs in an unfamiliar postion; trying to make the playoffs.  Usually at this time of year, the team is just trying to round into form for the first round.  However, as of today, San Antonio is in 7th place in the Western Conference, 1 game ahead of Portland.

With that in mind, here are some things that I picked up on during this road trip:

1.  The defense needs to play better.  Teams were able to play to their strengths far too easily against the Spurs.  It’s one thing to lose, but it’s another to have no answer to the other teams game plan.  There was no stopping the fast break in Philadelphia or the second chance points in Detroit.  For the Spurs to make the playoffs, they have to play better on the defensive end.

2.  The bench isn’t as deep as what was thought.  This has been a developing theme all season, but once Jefferson and McDyess were brought over, it seemed like the Spurs would be one of the deepest teams in the league.  However, it has really meant inconsistent minutes for Matt Bonner and Roger Mason, Jr.  There has also been plenty of games this year, including a few on the trip where the team looked really tired in the 4th quarter.  While the bench has been great with scoring points, that’s because DeJuan Blair and Manu get plenty of opportunities and minutes.

3.  The playoffs start now.  There are 11 teams in the Western Conference with winning records and only 8 playoff spots.  Currently San Antonio is much closer to 11th than they are 1st.  It’ll be a mad scramble to the finish and the schedule doesn’t help matters much.  The Spurs play 21 games against teams with winning records and only 7 against teams with losing records.  How they play against the good teams will decide where they fit into the playoff picture.  The next 7 games are against teams winning teams.  Included in this are 4 games with teams (New Orleans, Houston and Memphis) that are 9th, 10th and 11th in the conference.  It’s still early, but I think these are must win games, because of how competitive the Western Conference is.  If the Spurs fall out of the playoff picture, they may find themselves unable to get back in.