San Antonio Spurs News

The Importance of Capturing a One Seed in the West.

Feb 12, 2017; New York, NY, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich shouts instructions during the second half against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 12, 2017; New York, NY, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich shouts instructions during the second half against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
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With a loss last night, the Spurs are 1.5 games back of the number one seed in the Western Conference. How important is the one seed?

The conversation among Spurs fans since the injury to Kevin Durant was the probability of capturing the number one seed from the Golden State Warriors.

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  • As of today, the San Antonio Spurs are 1.5 games back of the Warriors, with a matchup looming Saturday night in San Antonio.

    Head coach Gregg Popovich is at a crossroads. Popovich is notoriously known for putting rest above seeding, choosing to sit his key players down the stretch and prepare for a playoff run.

    However, this year is a bit different. They are 1.5 games back of the 1st place Warriors, who the Spurs play twice in the month of March, both of which coming at the AT&T Center. The Spurs also beat the Warriors on opening night, so if the Spurs split the final two games, they will own the tiebreaker.

    Unfortunately, Kawhi Leonard left the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder after taking a hit to the face. Leonard will undergo concussion protocol, and is unavailable for the game against the Warriors.

    Ultimately, the Spurs will be fine, whether they end up the one seed, or the two seed. There is no denying, however, the convenience of being the one seed.

    Matchups

    If the season ended today, here are the first round matchups.

    • Warriors vs Denver Nuggets
    • Spurs vs Memphis Grizzlies
    • Houston Rockets vs Thunder
    • Utah Jazz vs Los Angeles Clippers

    First of all, the Grizzlies are a scary matchup for the Spurs. The Spurs lost their first and only matchup at Memphis, although it was without Leonard. The Spurs will play the Grizzlies three more times down the stretch of the season.

    Spurs are now 50-14, equaling the third-best record EVER through 64 games in San Antonio franchise history.

    — Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) March 10, 2017

    Nevertheless, the Spurs and Grizzlies are built very similar. Elite defensive teams who play very efficiently in the half-court offense. A series between these two teams will be low-scoring, incredibly physical, and if the Spurs do pull out a win, it will take six or seven games.

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    Mind you, that is just the first round. If the Spurs advance, which is not a guarantee, they will face the winner of the Rockets and Thunder. While that series is also a toss up, we’ll say the Rockets advance for the sake of argument.

    Yes, the Spurs beat the Rockets three out of the four times they have played this season. If you take a look at the games, all of them were close, and took an incredibly effort from Leonard and the Spurs to pull past the Rockets.

    Unlike the Grizzlies, the Rockets are built completely opposite of the Spurs. The Rockets are an offensive juggernaut who have the green light to shoot three’s at will. A run and gun team led by MVP candidate James Harden, who facilities and scores with great efficiency. If the Spurs were to get past that matchup, it will be another six or seven game series.

    Kawhi Leonard has now scored double figures in 92 straight games, the third-longest streak by any Spurs player in franchise history.

    — Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) March 10, 2017

    The Spurs would have to exert 12-14 games of intense playoff energy just to get to a conference finals against the Warriors, who would have home-court, and presumably, a healthy Durant.

    For the Warriors to get there, they would likely sweep the Nuggets, and play the winner of the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers. Again, this is assumptive, but the Warriors would likely welcome Durant back to their lineup in the second round. If so, they would likely defeat any of those two teams in six or seven games.

    Entering the Western Conference Finals, the Warriors will have a lot less games played under the belt, plus a healthy Durant added back into the lineup. Combine that with home-court advantage, and the odds are not with the Spurs.

    Unless, the Spurs capture the one seed. Here’s what it would look like if the season ended today.

    • Spurs vs Nuggets
    • Warriors vs Grizzlies
    • Rockets vs Thunder
    • Jazz vs Clippers

    Instead of drawing the always competitive Grizzlies, the Spurs would play the Nuggets, in what most analysts would predict to be a sweep. Maybe the Spurs come out flat one game in Denver, and win the game in five, for argument’s sake.

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    In round two, they would draw the winner of Jazz-Clippers, which is definitely a toss up. The Jazz, arguably the league’s best defense, would play a healthy Clippers, which is always dangerous. It’s unclear who wins, but it’s clear that the series would likely take six or seven games.

    Now, the Spurs will have some quality time off from a quick series with the Nuggets, waiting for the battle to end between the Jazz and Clippers. Regardless of the winner, they will give the Spurs a hell of a matchup, but a rested Spurs will prevail in the end, winning in six or seven games.

    On the other hand, the Warriors draw the defensive matchup against the Grizzlies in the first round. Without Durant, that is a scary matchup for the Warriors, who haven’t been great in Duran’t absence. If Durant does return, his health will be in serious question. Nevertheless, Durant at 75-80% will be forced to play, since the Grizzlies can potentially upset the Warriors without him.

    Assuming the Warriors somehow prevail a six or seven game series with the Grizzlies, they will face off against the Rockets, who are built extremely similar to the Warriors, minus the defense. Both teams shoot at will, and look to run in transition whenever possible.

    Spurs have now won at least 60% of their games in 20 straight seasons – longest streak of any team in HISTORY in the four major U.S sports.

    — Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) March 9, 2017

    The Warriors are still the superior team, but that won’t be an easy series. If they make it through, it will be another six or seven game series.

    Now, we’re back to the Western Conference Finals, except the Spurs are better rested, and have the convenience of home-court advantage. The rest is more important than the home-court advantage, as both of these teams are above-average on the road.

    The Warriors aren’t nearly as rested as they were last year, consistently blowing teams out and sitting the fourth quarter. Since Durant’s injury, the starters have been logging way more minutes, as some of their depth was depleted in acquiring Durant this offseason. The Spurs, on the other hand, are arguably the deepest team in the NBA.

    If he is physically able to play, I guarantee he will. That No. 1 seed is important, no matter what anybody tells you. https://t.co/8Yrwls1fQt

    — Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) March 10, 2017

    So, will the Spurs be fine with or without the one seed? Yes, technically, they will.

    However, I believe that whoever secures the one seed between the Spurs and the Warriors will ultimately secure a series victory (assuming Durant is playing). It’s not so much about the home-court advantage in the Western Conference Finals, as it is about the quality of competition to get there.

    Playing the Nuggets in the first round is crucial, as it won’t require over-using Popovich’s key players. Against the Nuggets, the Spurs can play a deep rotation, limit minutes, and still manage a four or five game series. Instead of two tough matchups prior to the Western Conference Finals, you’re cutting it down to one. That is big.

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    As it stands right now, the Spurs are 1.5 games back, and within serious striking distance.

    It will be interesting to see how the rest of the season transpires, but there is no doubt that securing a one seed should the Spurs focal point heading down the stretch.

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