The Spurs choppy season continues, and as the team struggles to overcome the injury bug and regain its championship form of last season, San Antonio finds itself sinking in the standings. A team who possessed one of the best records in the league during the early part of the season, now finds itself in third place in one of the most competitive divisions in the NBA. The good news is that San Antonio finally has everyone healthy and can now focus on regaining the chemistry that has been lost.
San Antonio is 3-2 over their last 5, with the three wins coming over Minnesota, Philadelphia, and Charlotte, the NBA's version of the Sisters of the Poor. The two losses were against stiff competition—Cleveland and Houston--and were close games, even though the Spurs came up just short.
Minnesota is the worst team in the league, having only notched 6 wins so far this season. The Spurs were able to have their way in the 105-88 win. San Antonio actually trailed by a point at halftime, but started the second half with an 11-2 run and the game was all but over. Manu Ginobili led the team with 22 points, and Tony Parker added 21 more. Duncan had a quiet game, only scoring 15 points and 9 rebounds, but added 3 blocks to make his presence felt on the defensive end.
Up next, Philadelphia traveled to San Antonio for what would seem to have been another fairly easy win, but the 76ers had other plans. In the end, the Spurs managed to pull off the 89-82 victory, but Philly held the lead several times in the last quarter. For the first three quarters of the game, Ginobili was simply awful, going 0-6 from the field. In the final period, he was simply unstoppable, hitting four three pointers, and scoring 14 points in the fourth. Duncan had 18 points and 16 rebounds in the effort.
Against the Cavs, the Spurs were looking to keep dominating the team that they swept in the finals last year, but LeBron James had other ideas. James was good for 27 points in the contest, and his squad played tough defense all night. One Spur that the Cavs couldn’t stop, was Manu Ginobili, who scored 31. Tony Parker scored 23, but uncharacteristically missed two free throws with less than an minute left, which would have tied the game. For all of Ginobili’s heroics, though, he too couldn’t come through in clutch time, as he missed a three to win the game as time expired.
Two nights later brought a chance for redemption against the resurgent Houston Rockets. Again the Spurs were involved in a game that came down to the final seconds, and again they came up short, losing 83-81. San Antonio didn’t have an answer for Yao Ming, who scored 21 points and had 14 rebounds. San Antonio had owned the series recently, having won 8 of the last 13. Tim Duncan had an All-Star caliber game, pouring in 24 points and grabbing 17 rebounds, and San Antonio actually outrebounded the Rockets 37-32, but were terrible from the free throw line, shooting 57%.
In the NBA, nothing cures a two game losing streak like a trip to Charlotte to visit the struggling Bobcats, and the latest trip resulted in a 95-86 Spurs victory. The Spurs offense has been off lately, but the team seemed to find its footing against Charlotte. The team shot nearly 50% from the field, and although no one broke the 20 point barrier, Parker, Finley, Duncan, Ginobili, and Udoka all scored in double figures. In fact, Francisco Elson was the only Spur not to score in the game.
Although San Antonio has slipped to third place in the division behind Houston and New Orleans, they still are only 1.5 games out of first, and still have the sixth best record in the West. If the Charlotte game is any indication of what is to come, the Spurs may regain their spot atop the division soon. Of course, all San Antonio fans know that the team is built for the post-season, and a few injuries and losses won’t matter to this team once the playoffs start.