The Rodeo Road Trip is Over and the Spurs are Rolling.

Feb 15, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich calls a play against the Orlando Magic during the second quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 15, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich calls a play against the Orlando Magic during the second quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

After eight straight games on the road and traveling more than 7,378 miles, the Spurs finished their Rodeo Road Trip with a win against the Lakers, 119-98.

With an easy win last night, the Spurs ended their rigorous Rodeo Road Trip with a 6-2 record.

One of their losses came against the Memphis Grizzlies without the services of Kawhi Leonard.

The other loss came against the New York Knicks.

Spurs Rodeo Road Trips:2003: 8-104:6-105:5-206:6-207:4-408:6-309:5-310:4-411:6-312:8-113:7-214:7-215:4-516:7-12017: 6-2

— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) February 26, 2017

The Spurs have gone .500 and over in 14 of the last 15 Rodeo Road Trip’s.

To say that feat is impressive would be an understatement. Unfortunately, with Gregg Popovich and the Spurs, their ability to sustain success is so consistent that it’s overlooked.

Good morning. The Spurs have won 88 of 125 road games during the Rodeo Road Trip (2003-2017).

— Quixem Ramirez (@quixem) February 27, 2017

The Spurs now improve to 45-13 on the season, second-best record in NBA behind the Golden State Warriors, who actually clinched a playoff spot over the weekend with their 49th win.

At this rate, the Spurs should clinch the playoffs by mid-March. The Spurs also increased their road record to 26-7, three more road wins than the Warriors. However, the Warriors have a higher winning percentage on the road with their record of 23-6.

Spurs are now 45-13. San Antonio now has 45+ wins in 31 of their 41 seasons in the NBA.

— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) February 26, 2017

The Rodeo Road Trip is over, and we learned a few things about the Spurs.

Dewayne Dedmon starts over Pau Gasol

Gasol fractured his hand prior to the Denver Nuggets game on January 19th, and finally made his long-awaited return this past Friday against the Los Angeles Clippers.

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In the Spurs last two games, Gasol was relegated to the bench in favor of Dedmon, who has been starting at center in Gasol’s absence.

Many people had speculated, myself included, that Dedmon would be benched as soon as Gasol was ready to play. However, to everyone’s surprise, Popovich decided to stick with Dedmon at center and bring Gasol off the bench.

So far, it’s paying off.

With Dedmon on the floor, the Spurs become arguably the best defensive half-court unit in the league. With Gasol on the floor, the Spurs second unit becomes lethal on the offensive end.

Starters with Pau: 113.5 OffRtg, 104.6 DefRtg, +8.9 net rating

Starters with Dedmon: 110.1 OffRtg, 92.1 DefRtg, +18.0 net rating

— Quixem Ramirez (@quixem) February 25, 2017

Basically, the Spurs are loaded when it comes to their front-court. Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Gasol, Dedmon, David Lee and even Joel Anthony are formidable to say the least.

Although rumors have swirled about a potential Andrew Bogut signing, reports seem to indicate he will sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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People love to get caught up in the starting/bench conversation, but it shouldn’t be everyone’s focus, especially when it comes to Popovich and the Spurs.

In the first game against the Clippers, Gasol played 26 minutes, while Dedmon played 23. In yesterday’s game against the Lakers, Gasol played 19 minutes, and Dedmon played 20.

Dedmon may get the start, but it’s likely that Gasol will see a higher bulk of the minutes, especially with the starters down the stretch. The beauty of the situation is that Popovich can mix and match his minutes at center depending on the opponent.

Against teams like the Grizzlies or the Utah Jazz with centers like Marc Gasol and Rudy Gobert, Dedmon will see a higher share of the minutes for defensive purposes. Against teams like the Houston Rockets and Warriors, Gasol will likely see more minutes to improve their scoring odds.

Pau Gasol in two games off the bench: 16.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.5 3-pointers, 57.9 FG%, 100 3FG%, +21.

— Quixem Ramirez (@quixem) February 26, 2017

Obviously, this all remains to be seen. Foul trouble also plays a factor in minutes.

Either way, the Spurs have quite an ideal situation shaping in San Antonio at the center position. If the Spurs want to defend at a high level, Dedmon is your guy. If the Spurs want to space the floor, Gasol at center can do just that.

In the modern-NBA, having this versatility is crucial, especially against the Warriors.

Kawhi Leonard is the Real-Deal

Let’s not continue to beat around the bush. Leonard is a top-5 player in the NBA.

Without Gasol, the scoring load was thrusted upon Leonard, and he stepped up throughout the Rodeo Road Trip and is the biggest reason for their 6-2 record over that span.

Not to mention, when the game is on the line, Leonard is on the opposing team’s best player.

Kawhi Leonard’s averages in February: 26.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.8 steals, 1.6 3-pointers, 48.9 FG%, 28.6 3P%, 81.1 FT%.

— Quixem Ramirez (@quixem) February 26, 2017

Leonard is in the running for the NBA MVP and NBA Defensive Player of the Year.

He has shooting percentages of 48.6% from the field, 38.9% from three-point range, and 89.4% from the charity stripe. If Leonard finishes strong, he will average 50-40-90 for an entire season, and would be just the eighth player in NBA history to do so.

The only other players to average 50-40-90 for a season? Larry Bird, Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, KD & Steph Curry

— Air Alamo (@AirAlamo) February 12, 2017

Yes, Leonard landing in San Antonio with Popovich and playing in his system has accelerated his growth as an elite NBA player.

However, Leonard is still one of the hardest workers in the NBA, and that has nothing to do with the coach he plays for or the system he plays in.

Kawhi Leonard has now scored double figures in 87 games straight – the longest streak by any Spur since Tim Duncan's 91 straight in 2002-03.

— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) February 26, 2017

Danny Green made comments following the game comparing Leonard’s game to Kobe Bryant’s. According to Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News, Green had this to say:

“If you squint you could see it,” Spurs guard Danny Green said. “Stop on a dime, fake, stop, hezzy (hesitation dribble), fade baseline. Yeah, he’s got it down.”

Green also alluded to the culture in San Antonio, and how it did accelerate Leonard’s growth.

“He’s comfortable where he is, but I think now he could adapt and adjust to any market,” Green said. “It would have been different for him if he would have come into L.A. (as a rookie). I don’t know how he would have been groomed.”

Leonard, when asked about his performance against the Lakers, answered in the most Leonard way possible.

“Every game is the same,” Leonard said. “There’s two baskets. There’s a crowd. So you just try and come out and get a win.”

Let’s take a step back.

Green just mentioned in a post-game interview the similarities between Leonard and Bryant. If we had mentioned this two-three years ago, die-hard Laker fans would be disgusted.

Fast forward to today, and the comparisons make sense. Although Leonard isn’t as flashy and outspoken as Bryant, his play and style on the floor are incredibly similar.

Unfortunately, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and LeBron James are having such incredible seasons that Leonard will likely be left out of the conversation.

In San Antonio, everyone knows who the real MVP is.

The Spurs can catch the Warriors

It’s a long-shot, but the Spurs can indeed catch the Warriors in the standings this year.

As of now, the Spurs are 45-13, 4.0 games behind the Warriors, who are 49-9.

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  • Every team in the NBA gets hit with the “injury bug” at one point or another. It seems as though the Spurs have already been hit, but were able to sustain their success.

    The Warriors, on the other hand, have been relatively healthy all year. With Kevin Durant slated to miss the Warriors next game, their injury bug may be on the way.

    Not only are the Spurs healthy, but they just finished their eight game road trip. The Spurs will play 16 of their 24 remaining games at home, two of which will be against the Warriors. Those two games could potentially cut the Warriors lead in the West in half.

    The Warriors will play seven of their next eight games on the road.

    Since the Spurs won the opening matchup in Golden State, they just need to split the remaining two games to have a regular-season series advantage.

    Lastly, given their regained health, Popovich can spread his minutes around and really use a 10-man rotation. This rest will come in handy against the elite teams in the West down the stretch and in the playoffs.

    Gasol seems to agree:

    “This team doesn’t need anyone to score 30 points a game,” Gasol said. “We’re a balanced, well-diverse team with a lot of players who can score the ball. You’ve got to give up some of yourself for the benefit of the team.”

    To beat the Warriors, the Spurs will need a rested, deep team. Since the Warriors gave up some quality bench players in order to sign Durant, their weakness is their lack of depth. If the Spurs can have 10 guys giving 100% on the floor at all times, that is a dangerous recipe.

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    The Spurs will get some rest and host the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday.

    Let the games begin.