San Antonio remains in first place in their division, and have won 8 of their last 10 games. Unfortunately, those two losses were back to back defeats coming in their last two games to potential playoff teams, Phoenix and Denver. The Spurs are just half a game behind the Lakers for having the best record in the West, but the race is as tight as it has ever been with 8 teams being within 5 games of the lead. Compare that to the East, where only the Celtics and Pistons are within 4 games of each other, and Orlando is in third place, but remain 10 games back.
The Spurs also have division foe, Houston, breathing down their necks. The Rockets have won an incredible 18 straight games, even after losing Yao Ming for the season. Houston and New Orleans are both just one game back of San Antonio.
The Spurs started out the month of March with back to back games against the New Jersey Nets—one game in Jersey, and then two nights later, a rematch in San Antonio. The Spurs entered the month on an eight-game winning streak, and after sweeping both games against the Nets, took the streak to double digits. In the first game, Tony Parker was brilliant, scoring 25 points, while dishing out seven assists and grabbing 8 rebounds. In the second game, it was Duncan who came up big, scoring 29 points and corralling 12 rebounds. The game was far from pretty, but the Spurs are well-known for winning those types of games. In fact, aside from Duncan, San Antonio was close to awful on the offensive end, shooting 33% from the field. Their defense was the difference in allowing them to get the 81-70 win, as they held the Nets to 4-17 shooting from behind the arc, and out-rebounded New Jersey, 52-42.
The Spurs would run their winning streak to 11 games against the Indiana Pacers two nights later. Ginobili scored 28 in the 108-97 win, and Tony Parker added 19. San Antonio’s perimeter defense was again strong, holding Indiana to just 3-19 from behind the arc. Although the game was close at the half, San Antonio came out with a 14-4 run to start the second half, and went up by as much as 23, before clearing the bench to close it out. It was a rough game, and Coach Popovich was ejected in the second period for arguing a call.
The next night took the Spurs to Denver, who although not playing phenomenal basketball lately, are always a tough out. Apparently, coming one night after the tough bout with the Nets, a game in the Mile High City was too much for San Antonio, who lost 109-96. Although Tim Duncan came through with 23 points and 9 rebounds, the Spurs didn’t have an answer for The Answer, Allen Iverson. Iverson scored 29 points and Carmelo Anthony had 25. For the Spurs, it was a rough night on both ends of the court, as they saw their 11 game winning streak come to an end. Although Ginobili had 24 points, Tony Parker had his worst game in weeks, only managing 4 points, and turning the ball over 5 times. Bruce Bowen was the only other Spur to score in double digits.
Two nights later, the Spurs traveled to Phoenix to take on the new look Suns, who were eager to test themselves, and their new, old center, Shaquille O’Neal against San Antonio. Fans of both teams know that when these two teams get together, things are likely to get rough, and in the past, the Spurs have managed to be a little rougher than the Suns. The game was close until the final minutes, but the defense of O’Neal and Stoudamire, combined with some sloppy play by Tim Duncan, allowed the Suns to get the 97-84 win, and give the Spurs a two game losing streak. Ginobili scored 22, but also missed some big shots in the last minutes to help give Phoenix the win. After having a terrible game against Denver, Tony Parker came back strong, scoring 21 and dishing out 5 assists. San Antonio also did not shoot well from the floor, only managing 34% shooting, while Phoenix shot 45%. San Antonio also was outrebounded 52-44.
With the season winding down, San Antonio and the Lakers remain in a fight for the best record in the West, although there is hardly any room for mistakes. Losing the last two games to potential playoff foes could be reason for concern, as the Western arms race that took place just before the trading deadline is now starting to take shape. The good news for Spurs fans is that the injury bug that seemed to bite every other week has apparently moved on, and San Antonio now boasts its full complement of healthy players. The race is on!