Earlier in the season, the Spurs rode an eleven game winning streak to first place in their division. Over the past few days, a four game losing streak has taken San Antonio out of first, and dragged them down to third place in what has been the most competitive division in the NBA. The streak was finally broken against the woeful Chicago Bulls, but with the playoffs just around the corner, the Spurs need to be ratcheting up their game, not letting it get loose.
Three of the four losses did come against teams who all have a legitimate shot at winning the title this year, but those were also games which could have sent a strong message to the rest of the league that San Antonio is ready to defend their title, and that teams should be on notice. Instead, the Spurs did send a message, but not the one that they probably wanted.
The game that started the slide was against division rival, New Orleans, who is currently in first place in the division. In this game, the Spurs simply had no answer for Chris Paul, who exploded for 26 points and 17 assists, to lead the Hornets to the comfortable 100-75 victory. David West also blew up San Antonio for 29 points and 10 rebounds. Tony Parker and Tim Duncan each had 24 points, but no one else helped out.
Next up was a visit to Detroit and an always tough game with the Pistons. Again, Parker and Duncan were the team leaders, scoring 26 and 20, respectively, but no one else was there to pick up the slack. Ginobili had a bad game, only managing 9 points. One bright spot for the Spurs was that they did manage to hold the Pistons to 11% shooting from beyond the arc. For Detroit, Antonio McDyess grabbed 17 rebounds to easily lead both teams in that category. The Pistons outrebounded San Antonio 51-39, and won the game 84-80.
Against the surprising 76ers, the Spurs ran into a team playing for a spot in the playoffs, and sporting a .500 record. Although Manu Ginobili regained his form, and scored 22 in the game, it wasn’t enough to counter Andre Miller’s season high 32 points and 7 assists. Duncan had an off night, only scoring 16 points and getting 6 rebounds. Tony Parker led the team with 27 points and 5 assists.
With three road losses, the Spurs finally were back home, but unfortunately they were playing host to the Boston Celtics. Early in the game, it looked like San Antonio was going to run Boston out of the building, building a 22 point lead at one point. Unfortunately for Spurs fans, the final score read Celtics 93, Spurs 91. Manu Ginobili did all he could, scoring 32 points, but Duncan again had an off-night, as he only scored 10 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. Tony Parker added 17, but no one else scored in double digits.
The Spurs had to go on the road to Chicago to do it, but they finally got back on track against the Bulls with a powerful 102-80 victory. Tim Duncan broke out of his funk, scoring 22 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, and Tony Parker came through with 23 points. At one point, San Antonio led by as many as 28, and had a 22-4 run. Chicago’s fans were booing throughout the game, which must have sounded like music to the ears of the Spurs.
With the conference race so close, losing a few games can have an enormous effect. Coach Popovich said before the Chicago game that San Antonio was 2 games out of first and 2 games out of 8th. The race is certainly a close one, and another streak like the last one could really damage San Antonio’s seeding in the playoffs.