One Last Hurrah? San Antonio Spurs Playoff Preview


There was no way the Spurs were going to be able to come back from this:


Nope. That was their last chance. They're too old to do it again.

Well, guess what? They did it again.

We should all know better than to doubt the San Antonio Spurs by now. Tim Duncan is an ageless wonder, Tony Parker is still playing at an elite level, Manu Ginobili still shows enough flashes of young Manu to be a threat, and someone else in the supporting cast seems to step up every night.

Head coach Gregg Popovich hasn't let this team miss a beat, and they're set to grab the top seed in the West yet again. They're 59-17, but it was a 19-game winning streak the separated them from the rest of the conference until the Thunder snapped it.

Still, they're among the best in the league in points scored (105.5, 6th in the NBA) and points allowed (97.1, 5th in the NBA) per game, showing their effectiveness on both sides of the ball. Where they really stand out - just like every other Popovich-coached Spurs team - is their unselfishness and ball movement, and they top the league in assists per game (25.3).

The championship window is closing on the Spurs we've known for the past 15 years, but it isn't closed yet. The road to the Finals will go through San Antonio...yet again.

Key Player

Kawhi Leonard

Leonard stepped up big for the Spurs in last year's postseason, and many around the league thought that would be a springboard for his ascension to stardom.

Instead, he's had a very similar season to the one he had a year ago. He has very modest averages (12.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg), though his player efficiency rating (PER) is above average.

His play last postseason picked up the slack for a struggling Ginobili, but now that Ginobili is back to playing like himself, Leonard has struggled to get the same number of opportunities.

That being said, his play will determine how successful San Antonio is in the playoffs. He's their best defender, and is the only one who can effectively guard the Durants, Hardens, and Currys of the world for long stretches. The Spurs can still make a deep run without much of his offense, but if he can get back to playing the way he did at this time last year, it'll be just what San Antonio needs to get through the crowded Western Conference and back into the Finals.

Good Matchups

Memphis, Dallas

The Griz and Mavs are the two other old teams in the West - not surprisingly, the Spurs haven't lost to either of them yet this year. All three teams like to play at a little bit of a slower pace due to their age, and San Antonio is just plain better at it than both Memphis and Dallas. If the Spurs face either of these teams in the first round, it'll be a sweep.

Bad Matchups

Oklahoma City, Houston

The same way the Spurs are effective against older, slower teams, they struggle with younger teams that push the pace. San Antonio has only beaten these teams a combined one time on the season, and most of the matchups haven't been that close. The most troublesome of the three OKC, who just completed a season sweep of the Spurs.

The Thunder are San Antonio's biggest challenger in the West. The game does naturally slow down in the postseason, which will eliminate some of this disadvantage, but it's still something to be concerned about.

Best-Case Scenario

San Antonio continues their hot streak in the playoffs, breezing through the first round. They then get Portland in the second round, avoiding Houston, and they overpower the Blazers in five or six games. The Thunder get upset in the second round again, and the Spurs clean up against tired opposition in the Western Conference Finals. They advance to the Finals, where they finish the job against Miami (or Indiana, but Spurs fans would rather beat the Heat) this time around.

Worst-Case Scenario

One of the Duncan/Parker/Ginobili trio gets hurt down the stretch, and San Antonio doesn't recover in time to prevent an upset, losing to a hungry Dallas team in six games.

Brian Says...

The Spurs should easily make it out of the first round. San Antonio just has much more talent, experience, and literally everything else you'd want a basketball team to have than Dallas. However, they'll probably face Houston in the next round, which spells trouble for Popovich's squad. They're 0-3 against the Rockets this season (with one matchup left on April 14), and have lost those games by an average of nine points. I think that series will be a good one, but James Harden, Dwight Howard, & Co. have what it takes to pull off the upset in six or seven games.

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