Long gone are the concerns of yesteryear, where the Spurs faithful quizzically wonder if their team has what it takes to compete for yet another championship despite aging talent.
Boasting their second 10+ game win streak of the season while simultaneously capturing the title as first team to 50 wins , the Spurs have ended the annual discussion of “can they do it again??” Yes. Yes they can. And moreover, they might just be proving that they should be favorited to come out of the Western Conference Finals on top.
While the Eastern conference favorites of Miami and Indiana struggle to set up a good run to finish the season, and Oklahoma City and Portland catch the untimely injury bug out West, San Antonio strides into the homestretch. Portland and OKC, having been in the top 3 teams in the West for much of the season, have gone 4-6 and 5-5 respectively during San Antonio’s 10-game outburst due to injury.
While their foes’ woes are due mostly to injury, the Spurs’ success can be credited mostly to lack-thereof.
Since the last Spur on the laundry list of injuries returned on February 26 (Kawhi Leonard), San Antonio has yet to fall to an opponent. In that time span, San Antonio has racked up an average of over 112 points per game, 7 more than their season average. This scoring increase has also increased their margin of victory to over 15 points per game, over double their season average.
Though San Antonio seems to be firing on all cylinders atop the standings for the entire league, another force out West is close on their heels.
Boasting their own double digit win steak of 11, the Los Angeles Clippers are finally performing to their preseason hype. Having climbed to the 3rd spot in the Western Conference standings, only a game behind OKC, the Clippers are eager to steal away their first ever conference title.
With in-season additions of Danny Granger and Glen Davis, the Clippers have taken the conference by storm and show no signs of let-up. Behind Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, Lob City has proved to be a force to be reckoned with, beating likely playoff teams of Houston, Oklahoma City, and Phoenix.
In the grueling Western conference, sustainability and composure is key. Both the Spurs and Clippers have proven lately that they are able to sustain a positive streak, but the Clippers have shown great lapses of composure several times throughout the season.
Several times throughout the season, Blake Griffin and company have gotten “chippy” with their opponents, ensuing pushing matches and ejections. While some say that this is their way of asserting their dominance in the league after years of playing second fiddle to the Lakers, I chalk it up to utter immaturity. There is nothing mature or worthwhile in getting yourself an ejection, or even a suspension, during a game, especially the playoffs. Time will tell if Los Angeles will be able to work out this looming problem, but for now it remains at the forefront of their credibility as a huge red flag.
So with much of the upper echelon of the Western Conference suffering and the surging Clippers swimming in uncharted waters, all signs point to a promising playoff run for San Antonio. At this point in the careers of Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker, as redundant as it may seem, anything less than a Conference Championship should end in disappointment for the Spurs faithful.