Can the Spurs go the Distance?

HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

SAN ANTONIO SPURS PEAKING AT JUST THE RIGHT TIME

For most of the year, it looked like the San Antonio Spurs were going to be an afterthought in the NBA Western Conference.

  • They were too old and injury prone, with Tim Duncan nearing the end of his career, Manu Ginobili nearing the end of what his legs can do (and he's a player who NEEDS his legs), and Tony Parker having lost a step from his start in the league at a very young age.
  • Newly acquired Richard Jefferson didn't provide the much needed scoring injection people were expecting. If anything, he made the team worse!
  • The Lakers were too good, so nobody else in the West mattered anyway.
  • If anyone else did matter, it was going to be somebody besides the Spurs.

The team was just kind of there much of the season. Good enough to make the playoffs, but not good enough to scare anyone any more. It was a great run guys. Thanks for the memories. Spots for head coach Greg Popovich and star big man Tim Duncan were already reserved in the Hall of Fame thanks to the mini-dynasty. Here's a gold watch, best of luck in the future.

YOU CAN'T FORGET ABOUT THE ALAMO JUST YET!

San Antonio is playing its best ball of the year right now, having won 16 of 21 games heading into last night's meeting with Memphis (which finished after publication deadlines)...including some dominating performances over quality teams. You may have watched them dominate the fading Lakers this past Sunday afternoon on ABC. It was reminiscent of an easy win on the road at Boston not long before that.

Here are the peak performances during that stretch vs. playoff teams:

March 16: San Antonio (+2) beat Miami 88-76
March 22: San Antonio (+5) beat Oklahoma City 99-96
March 26: San Antonio (+1) beat Cleveland 102-97
March 28: San Antonio (+3) beat Boston 94-73
April 2: San Antonio (-2) beat Orlando 112-100
April 4: San Antonio (+4) beat the LA Lakers 100-81

Yes...that's wins over Cleveland, Orlando, and the Lakers...the teams with the best odds to win the championship right now. That's FOUR road victories, with the wins at Miami, Boston, and the Lakers all being straight up by DOUBLE DIGITS!

The Spurs aren't just back, they're hurting people! They're hurting the best teams!

And, more importantly in handicapping terms, they're covering pointspreads. Since March 1st, San Antonio is 16-5 ATS. Of the five non-covers, one came on night two of a back-to-back in Orlando (Popovich is known in handicapping circles for blowing off the fatigue games to keep his players fresh), one came on night two of a back-to-back in New Jersey (and you know it has to be a tank job for a Western Conference playoff team to lose to the lowly Nets), and one came on night two of a back-to-back in Phoenix. If you throw out all the back-to-back spots, San Antonio is 13-2 ATS since the beginning of March.

As you know, they don't play back-to-back nights in the playoffs!

Oh, one of the two losses was as a 3.5-point underdog in Atlanta where they covered at the end of regulation but lost by five in overtime. Make that 14-1 ATS at the end of regulation! Oddsmakers and the betting markets were paying so much attention to college hoops that San Antonio's lines just didn't adjust.

What happened?

  • The older guys paced themselves, and are ready for the games that matter most. Smart veteran teams do this all the time. Too many pundits forgot that the Spurs were a smart veteran team. Let's not forget that missing time with injuries helps to keep you fresh for the playoffs!
  • Role players stepped up. Jefferson is still a disappointment about three games in every five. Others have picked up the slack (which is typical for this very well coached team and smartly run franchise). Most importantly, others have picked up the slack in the areas of defense, rebounding, and three-pointers. That makes Duncan, Ginobili, and the returning Parker even more dangerous.
  • Opponents had stopped taking the Spurs seriously, which made it easier to get caught by surprise out of the gate. It's odd for a well known franchise to suddenly become "underrated." That's what happened with the Spurs. Teams weren't preparing as well as they should for San Antonio. They were getting spanked as a result.
  • There's a lot to be said for chemistry and continuity. In crunch time, it helps when the key players have been in the trenches together before. The Lakers are dealing with Ron Artest for the first time in crunch time. Denver is seeing Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups battle for alpha dog status while their coach misses time with health battles. Dallas just made a big trade that makes pressure a new adventure for the unit on the floor. Is it really a surprise that San Antonio, Phoenix, and Utah are closing the season so well when you focus on continuity?

We're not ready to say that the Spurs are a sure thing to make it to the Western Finals or even win the West. They have a much better chance now than anyone would have given them credit for a couple of months ago. If Tony Parker can get back up to speed quickly (he played only 16 minutes in his first game back at Sacramento the other night, then 25 minutes the next night in Phoenix), they will be a tough out at the very least.

We'll be watching the Spurs closely in their last few games of the regular season, because two quality opponents are still ahead on the road. Here's the full slate.

Tonight: at Denver, in night two of a back-to-back after hosting Memphis Friday Night. Note that this game is scheduled to be televised by the NBA Network. 

Monday: vs. lowly Minnesota in a game that could mean a lot in terms of seeding structure.

Wednesday: at Dallas, in a potential playoff preview that could turn out to be a war if the game is meaningful for both teams.

If you're just getting back up to speed in the NBA because you spent so much time living MARCH MADNESS, make sure the Spurs are on your radar. The Western Conference has gotten very interesting because the Lakers look mortal (as we discussed in our Thursday entry here in the NOTEBOOK). Who's better positioned than a HEALTHY Spurs team to take advantage? It's a short list!

Here at JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK, we're very excited about the coming playoffs. This won't be a case where the first round is a bunch of garbage games and the "real" playoffs don't begin until the second round. The 2010 playoffs will be great from the opening tipoff of the first game. And, we'll be winning money from the get go!

In fact, we've been winning money all along in the NBA, and are still building our clients bankrolls this weekend for the coming playoffs. Better, one of our BIGGEST RELEASES OF THE ENTIRE YEAR is set to go in the immediate future. Call 1-800-323-4453 for details. If you sign up for the full playoff package, these last few days will be included for a nominal charge (be sure to ask about including baseball too!).

Don't forget that game day releases and packages can also be purchased here at the website with your credit card. BIG JUICY WINNERS ARE ALWAYS JUST A FEW CLICKS AWAY!

There are eight games on the schedule tonight...including that San Antonio/Denver game we just mentioned. Sunday's card features a GREAT doubleheader on TV featuring Orlando/Cleveland and Portland/LA Lakers. Monday through Wednesday could get WILD with all the bracket positioning up in the air.

If you liked college hoops you'll LOVE what you're about to see in the NBA!

 

22
Nov

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