The Rodeo Road Trip can make or break the San Antonio Spurs
By Ethan Farina
The San Antonio Spurs will soon depart on their annual Rodeo Road Trip. The trip will take them all around the Western Conference and could make or break their playoff hopes.
Every year the San Antonio Spurs take off on the most grueling road trip in the NBA. The San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo takes over the AT&T Center and sends the Silver and Black traveling around the league for nearly the entire month of February. The Rodeo Road Trip is always a great barometer for the rest of the Spurs season but this year it will mean a little bit more.
There’s no sugarcoating it, this season has been very underwhelming for the San Antonio Spurs. Porous defense and very questionable rotations have left many fans ripping their hair out every game. In past years, it’s been near unimaginable to think that the Spurs could miss the playoffs. But here we are, into the second half of the season, and San Antonio sits two and a half games out of the playoffs. The Rodeo Road Trip will go a long way towards making or breaking the Spurs postseason hopes.
Now, it is only a two and a half-game distance currently standing in the way of the Spurs and postseason basketball but there are several teams above and below San Antonio in the standings who can compete for the final playoff spot.
The Portland Trail Blazers sit 16 games back and, after a brutal start to the season, have gotten themselves within striking distance of a playoff spot thanks to the astounding play of Damian Lillard.
Dame just won Western Conference Player of the Week after averaging 52.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 9.3 assists over the week. He also recently recorded his first career triple-double while taking down the Houston Rockets. Lillard is the rare breed of player who can carry a team into the playoffs on his own but he’s also getting Jusuf Nurkić back at some point this season.
The Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans are also fighting for the final playoff spot. Both are led by thrilling rookies and both are two of the most fun teams to watch in the NBA right now. It might be too late for Zion Williamson to catch Ja Morant in the Rookie of the Year race but he can still push the Pelicans to the playoffs.
The electrifying Duke product is averaging 27 points and 12.4 rebounds per 36 minutes on 64 percent true shooting percentage. His play since he returned has almost single handily turned New Orleans from potential sellers to potential buyers at the trade deadline.
Which finally brings us to our favorite team, the San Antonio Spurs. After suffering through the most disappointing start to a season in the Gregg Popovich era the Spurs have started to turn things around. Their offense has been given a spark thanks to the newly discovered long-range shooting of LaMarcus Aldridge as well as the ever-present slashing attack of DeMar DeRozan. Both have made their cases for inclusion in the All-Star game but is it enough to get San Antonio into the playoffs?
Season-high 38 PTS ☑️Career-high as a Spur ☑️Eclipsed 16K career points ☑️@DeMar_DeRozan | #GoSpursGo pic.twitter.com/VqCeOdTwFo
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) January 30, 2020
The Spurs have typically been able to weather whatever losses they may take on the Rodeo Road Trip by dominating opponents at home. That hasn’t been the case this year as the Spurs have been barely over .500 on their home court. That lack of dominance in their own building makes this long road trip even more daunting and even more important.
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San Antonio is 8-14 on the road this season and doesn’t face any cupcakes on their long trek away from the Alamo City. In fact, they’ll be taking on some of the top teams in the Western Conference over the course of the multi-week trip.
They will face both Los Angeles teams, the Oklahoma City Thunder (twice), the Denver Nuggets, a rematch with the Utah Jazz, and a surging Blazers team make up some of the most difficult opponents on the trip. Only two of the eight games on the trip will come against teams with sub .500 records.
The Spurs less than stellar road record, combined with the tough quality of opponents on the trip, makes the odds of them winning over half of the games on the trip slim. But if they can tread water and go 4-4 over the eight-game stretch they will still be in a good position to make a playoff push down the stretch. If somehow they are able to use this road trip as a bonding experience as they have in years past, and knock off a few of the top teams in the West along the way, it could be exactly what they need to gear up for a late-season surge.
The Rodeo Road Trip has always played a crucial part in the San Antonio Spurs season. It could mean more than ever this year as the team fights to get back into the playoff picture for the 23rd consecutive season.