With the All-Star break having come and gone, the Spurs will get back to work this week, and luckily will be back in San Antonio after their annual Rodeo Road Trip is over. The Spurs did well on the road, and have won 3 of the last 4. The good news is that they remain tied for second place with Dallas in the division, and both trail surprising New Orleans by two games. The bad news is that the West is so competitive, that both Dallas and San Antonio both are just a few games from being left out of the playoffs altogether. The Spurs went 6-3 on their road trip, as opposed to 4-4 last year.
Before the break, San Antonio beat New York in a tight and exciting game that went into overtime on a Michael Finley three with half a second left on the clock. The Spurs certainly didn’t play well much of the night, and were down by 18 in the third, before rallying to tie, then win in overtime. Tim Duncan had 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Finley added 17 in the contest. Ginobili scored 20. The Spurs were without Tony Parker again, and his absence showed. San Antonio only managed 32 points in the first half, and were down by 16 at the break. Robert Horry hit three straight three-pointers at the end of the third and start of the fourth to bring the Spurs back into the game.
San Antonio allowed a good chance to slip through their grasp on their visit to Boston. The Celtics were playing without starting center, Kendrick Perkins, and also without Kevin Garnett, but they couldn’t quite pull off the upset. While Tim Duncan did score 22 points, and added 14 rebounds, and 6 assists, the Spurs defense wasn’t enough to shut down the high-powered Celtics. Paul Pierce scored 35, and PG Rajon Rondo had 12 assists and 11 rebounds, impressive for a guard. Michael Finley had a chance late in the game to tie it, but his three point attempt rimmed out, and the Spurs were left with the loss and a missed opportunity.
The next night, San Antonio was able to shake off the loss and pick up a needed win against the Toronto Raptors and avoid starting a losing streak. Ginobili was the main reason San Antonio was able to leave Canada with a win, as he scored 34 points and added a career high 15 rebounds. Tim Duncan did his usual thing, scoring 22, and grabbing 13 rebounds. The Spurs never trailed in the game, although Toronto did come within 3 late in the game. Ginobili’s 15th rebound came off his own miss with 20 seconds left in the game, and the Raptors trying to tie. He was fouled, and the game was essentially over.
As fate would have it, the last game of the road trip came in Cleveland against the team that San Antonio buried last year for the NBA title. At the end of a long road trip, and with the All-Star break coming up, not to mention facing a team bent on revenge, one could hardly blame the Spurs for being distracted. They weren’t. Manu Ginobili continued his hot play, setting his second career high in as many days. This time it was his 8 three pointers that did the trick. He ended up with 46 points, as San Antonio won a high scoring affair, 112-105. The Spurs trailed in the fourth quarter, but Ginobili nailed 4 out of 4 threes, and scored 18 in the period to lead his team to victory. As a team, the Spurs shot 78% in the final period, and the team made 7-8 threes. Duncan scored 23 and had 13 rebounds in the game, while LeBron James tried to outdo Ginobili by scoring 39 points, with 18 coming in the final period.
While San Antonio is playing well, not having Parker in the lineup has hurt them. The team has managed to stay in the thick of the division hunt, although there is no room for error. Any losing streak will put the team in danger of making the playoffs in the tight race for the west. Also, the other leaders in the west have upgraded recently through trades, while the Spurs, for the most part, have stayed pat. Time will tell whether that strategy will pay off.