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Tag:San Antonio Spurs
Posted on: April 4, 2011 6:41 pm
Edited on: April 4, 2011 6:42 pm
 

The NBA Tournament Bracket: Final Four

The Finals of our NBA NCAA-tournament style bracket as the Spurs, Lakers, Celtics, and Bulls try to reach the promise land. 
Posted by Matt Moore

We're down to it now, friends. We set out to seed the top 16 teams in the NBA and sought out who would win in a NCAA-style one-and-done tournament. Maybe it's the strength of the top teams in the league this year, maybe it's the way the matchups played out, maybe we're just frontrunners, but we wound up taking four No.1 seeds all the way to the Final Four. So who walks away with the win in this wild scenario? Here's how we see it playing out after some fierce discussion from the EOB writers...




West Semi-Finals: San Antonio Spurs (No.1 overall) vs. Lakers (No. 1 seed, 4th overall):


You'll just have to take our word for it that we thought this would be how things would work out before the Spurs' recent slump. A one-game situation makes it awfully enticing for the Spurs, with their mental toughness, offensive explosiveness, and big play ability. But when it comes down to these types of games, the victor is decided by the best overall player on the floor making plays, and that's going to have to be Kobe Bryant from our perspective. Throw in the Lakers's size to deter Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker from attacking the rim and some key three-point shooting, and it's the defending champs in the Finals again. Seven games, one game, too much size, too much talent, too much Kobe. 

Lakers defeat Spurs by unanimous (3-0) vote.


East Semi-Finals: Boston Celtics (No.1 seed, 2nd overall) vs. Chicago Bulls (No.1 seed, 3rd overall):


When we seeded this thing, the Bulls had just taken a half-game lead over the Celtics in the Eastern Conference. Fast forward half a month and the Bulls are running away with it, which leads you to think they probably got shafted in terms of seeding. It would be hard if the tournament were seeded today not to put them as the top overall team in the tournament. Regardless, the Bulls have a great shot in the actual playoffs... and we like them in a one-game environment as well. Boston likes to slow the pace down, drag games to a crawl, and bludgeon you to death. Well, in a one-game series on neutral court, the games' going to revolve around one huge factor: Derrick Rose, Just as Kemba Walker illustrates the power of a dynamic guard in such a tournament, so too does Rose show what one talented guy on the perimeter can do, and there is no better guard in the NBA this season. 

We see Rose taking over when things get serious and pulling off a huge upset, then throwing the ball up in the air while KG cries on the floor. Okay, not really. But we do see the Bulls toppling the Celtics in a slugfest setting up the Phil Jackson Finals. One member of our staff thought the Celtics did hold on to face the Lakers, but alas, majority went to Red. 

Bulls defeat Celtics by 2-1 vote.

NBA Tournament Championship: Chicago Bulls (No. 1 seed, 3rd overall) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (No. 1 seed, 4th overall)


Can the Bulls continue their miraculous run through the tournament, knocking off Memphis, Miami, Boston, and the defending champion Lakers? Or will the Lakers topple everyone in a one-off the same way they look ready to topple everyone in a seven-gamer? 

From the dissenting member of our staff: 

"I kind of like the Bulls in a one game setting against L.A. though. Fisher doesn't have a prayer against Rose, so more than likely Kobe would guard him. And in the paint, Boozer and Noah match up relatively well against Bynum and Gasol. I feel like Luol Deng could make a huge difference."

That's a nice thought, and again, we see that in a tournament like this, a dynamic guard on a roll can make all the difference. 

But it won't. 

The reality is that the Lakers are the Duke of this tournament. The big name team that bully the other squads with a high-character group of players topped by an elite guard (Kobe is also BFFs with Coach K, fittingly). That kind of size, with the perimeter shooting ability means the Lakers are going to be in the lead for most of this game. Rose likely leads a last run to the finish, but down the stretch, you're looking at Carlos Boozer trying to contain Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. And that hasn't worked out well in the past. A great run for Rose, a valiant effort for the upstart Bulls, but once again, the Lakers find a way to win. 

Lakers defeat Bulls by 2-1 vote. 
Posted on: April 1, 2011 3:54 pm
Edited on: April 2, 2011 1:18 am
 

Two weeks to go, the playoff picture is clearing

Posted by Royce Young



It's April. That's not an April Fools joke. It really is April.

That means mid-way through this month, about half the league will be done playing. And the other half's season will just be starting.

The NBA playoff picture is kind of like one of those 3D images where you have to cross your eyes to see it. It's all coming together, it's all becoming much more clear. We've almost zeroed in on the 16 teams that will be standing come April 16, but the back ends of the East and West still need some settling.

The most contested races right now are the crawl to eighth and the fight for second in the East and the battle for second and eighth in the West. But, really, nothing is all that certain. Let's try and clear this fuzzy playoff picture.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Battle for the top: Chicago (55-20), Miami (53-22, 2.5 back of CHI), Boston (52-23, 3.0 back of CHI)

It's a three-team race for the top spot in the East, with the Bulls appearing to have a pretty good grip on the situation. The Celtics have been slipping after appearing to have quite the handle on things. Then they traded Kendrick Perkins, everyone cried and things started to go bad.

Of course the Heat are lingering and a favorable schedule, they could realistically win out. That could very well slide them into at least the two spot and maybe push the Bulls for the top. Wouldn't that be something.

But it really looks like this is Chicago's conference to lose. The Celtics being three back is a pretty big gap to close and even with the Heat's nice schedule to close, the Bulls are just playing too good right now. They'll likely finish the way they stand now with it going Chicago, Miami, then Boston, which of course would mean the Heat would play New York in the opening round. That'll be fun.

Looking locked in: Orlando (47-28), Atlanta (44-32, 4.0 back of ORL)

There is a chance that Atlanta catches Orlando for the four-seed. It's about as likely as Robert Tractor Traylor staging an NBA comeback, but it's possible. The Magic currently hold a four-game lead over the Hawks, but Orlando's schedule of seven games is pretty easy to close.

The Hawks are finally playing some decent basketball and their 85-82 win over the Magic and a big 88-83 win over the Celtics Friday will be big confidence boosters leading in to an opening round series with Orlando. It looks like Atlanta will concede home court to the Magic, though. Everyone remembers the absolute destruction of the Hawks by Orlando in the opening round last season, and it didn't matter if those games were played on the moon, the Hawks weren't winning. Maybe things will be different this year, but I think we can be pretty sure this is the 4-5 matchup in the East.

Light jockeying: Philadelphia (34-36), New York (37-38, 2.5 back of PHI)


It's funny to look back at things people like me were writing after the Knicks acquired Carmelo Anthony. I actually questioned if the Knicks were contenders this year. We were all wondering if the Knicks could move up from six to maybe five and maybe even four. Now they're holding on to seventh with an outside chance to get to six.

I suppose there is even a chance the Knicks could go the other direction too. And, realistically speaking, they could still fall out of the playoffs entirely as they're only up 4.5 games on the Bobcats with seven to play. An unlikely fall, but certainly possible, especially with this erratic bunch. I think if you gave the Knicks another month they'd definitely be a candidate to drop out -- or maybe even rise some. Really, this group is hard to figure.

Philadelphia holds a two-game lead over the Knicks for sixth and with the way the two teams are playing, it looks pretty certain that that's the way they'll finish. They play each other one more time next week, so that game could be the decider.

The ugly dog contest: Indiana (35-42), Charlotte (32-43, 2.0 back of IND), Milwaukee (30-45, 4.0 back of IND)

This is where these three teams have to stop and ask themselves a very important question -- What's better for us: A first-round playoff exit and the money we make from two extra sold out home games, or a lottery pick and chance at good player?

Let's look at the three:

Indiana: It's definitely in their best interest to go ahead and get to the playoffs. For one, they've held the eighth spot for a large portion of the second half of the season, so falling out would feel kind of like a choke of some kind. Not really because when you're eight games under .500, you sort of choked the entire season anyway and just had the good fortune of playing in the East.

But they've built some decent momentum the last two months under interim coach Frank Vogel. And, behind the improvement of Tyler Hansbrough and Roy Hibbert plus some good players like Danny Granger and Darren Collison, the Pacers could win a game. Making the playoffs would serve them better than getting another young player to develop. They already have enough Paul George's.

Charlotte: They should tank away. They've won four straight and are just a game back, but they tried to mail in this season at the deadline when they gave away Gerald Wallace for very little. The Bobcats need more young talent and need to start building. A playoff berth really does them very little.

Milwaukee:
It doesn't matter. The Bucks already have been one of the season's bigger disappointments, so if they made the playoffs at least they'd have that to feel better about. Then again, they're going nowhere and could always use that higher pick to try and snag an offensive player.

The Bobcats probably have the toughest schedule which hurt them Friday losing to Orlando and the Pacers picked up a big one-point win over Milwaukee as well. It sort of feels like Charlotte is headed for the berth for some reason even though the Pacers definitely want it the worst. And Friday night's results go a long way toward helping Indiana's bid. Whatever the case, this whole thing is pretty ridiculous.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

The unexpected race for No. 1: San Antonio (57-19), Los Angeles (55-20, 2.5 back of SA)

Three weeks ago, the top spot in the West appeared to be a foregone conclusion. The Spurs were easily the best team in basketball -- record wise -- and were going to cruise to the No. 1 seed by six or seven games.

Then Tim Duncan got hurt. And then the Spurs dropped six in a row while the Lakers were running off nine straight. Then the gap closed to just 1.5 games with two weeks to play and both teams headed in different directions. Suddenly the Lakers actually had control of their own destiny to win the West.

Thing is, the Spurs aren't going to panic. They aren't going to worry about losing that lead. And if they do, they can live with it. That roster is too veteran, too mature and with Gregg Popovich, there's no anxiety there. Besides, I don't think they really care all that much about the difference between one and two, other than having that home court advantage over the Lakers.

The Lakers and Spurs do play one last time on April 12, so that game could be one to watch. But in all likelihood, the Spurs will regroup and finish up just strong enough to lock up the top seed.

The right to play L.A. in the second round -- or maybe the Spurs: Dallas (53-22), Oklahoma City (50-25, 3.0 of DAL)

The Mavericks are really in an interesting place. Technically they're just 1.5 back of the Lakers for second, but after Thursday's beatdown and the fact L.A. is the hottest team in the league, it feels like that race is over.

And now Dallas has to look over its shoulder just a bit at the Thunder who have been storming (see what I did there?) the past month (14-2 in March). The gap is 2.5 which is pretty big with only seven games left and most of the games on the road for OKC, it'll be difficult to catch Dallas.

Probably better for the Thunder too seeing as I think they'd prefer to have San Antonio in the second round instead of the Lakers. (Ironically if the Spurs keep losing, they might have to get to three. This is so confusing.)

OKC matches up much better with both since the Kendrick Perkins trade, but the Thunder has a better chance versus the Spurs to advance. Dallas is probably thinking the same thing though, especially after Thursday.

Locked in, sort of: Denver (46-29)

The Nuggets have been just outstanding the last month. Think about the mood after they dealt Carmelo Anthony. Most felt like an extra playoff spot had opened up in the West because it was a sure thing Denver would drop out.

Instead, they went up.

And if it weren't for the Thunder playing such fantastic basketball, the Nuggets would be pushing hard for the Northwest Division title and four-seed. But it doesn't look like they'll catch OKC who have a five-game lead. The Nuggets and Thunder do still play twice though and with the series at 1-1 this season, Denver could take the tiebreaker.

It's unlikely Denver would drop behind New Orleans (3.0 back) or Portland (2.5 back), but the Nuggets can't just coast into the five-seed. They appear to match up pretty well with OKC and would likely rather have the five-seed over six versus the Mavericks or seven versus the Lakers.

A real derby: Portland (44-32), New Orleans (43-33 (1.0 back of POR), Memphis (43-33, 1.0 back of POR), Houston (40-36, 3.0 back of MEM and NOLA)

After a very important Friday, the Blazers moved to sixth, the Hornets dropped to seven where they're tied with Memphis. The Rockets picked up a major win against San Antonio to stay three back of the eight spot.

Obviously the Hornets have an uphill battle to fight sans David West. Losing their best scorer is a major, major blow and one that will likely drop them down. Then again, so far without West the Hornets are 2-2 with a big win over Portland Wednesday. There was a bit of worry New Orleans could lose its playoff spot, but three games is a lot for Houston to make up in two weeks (though they do play one more time).

Portland really seems like the team set to get the six-seed. They have the most remaining healthy talent (that's a funny thing to say), are playing really well and don't have a killer schedule to finish. With a nice 99-91 win over the Thunder Friday, Portland finally reclaimed that six-seed and I don't see them losing it from here on out.

Memphis has a chance to either make up serious ground or lock themselves into eighth. The Grizzlies beat the Hornets Friday to knot things up and have one more New Orleans and one against Portland remaining.

And then Houston. I'm keeping them in the mix but a three-game deficit in six games is a lot to make up. The Rockets made their bed in November with their awful start.

Here's how I see this playing out: Portland is getting the six. They're too good, don't have a challenging schedule and have a lot of incentive to get the six because they match up well with Dallas. New Orleans, is falling. The Hornets are going to lose both games to Memphis and drop to eighth. Which is probably a blessing in disguise because they match up much better without West against the Spurs than they do against the Lakers.

And the Grizzlies will settle in at seven, playing the Lakers who they actually match decently against with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol inside. Give Memphis Rudy Gay for this series and I honestly see it going seven.

Right now, 20 teams are still in the playoff mix. In two weeks, it'll be down to 16. Sad that maybe the best race is between three teams a combined 30 games under .500. Such is life in the bottom half of the East.
Posted on: April 1, 2011 10:31 am
 

A historic losing streak for Duncan... five games

Spurs lose five in a row for the first time in the Tim Duncan era. 
Posted by Matt Moore

When the Celtics ran away from the Spurs in the fourth quarter Thursday night, they were making history, they just didn't realize it. With the Spurs falling for the fifth time in a row, it marks the first five-game losing streak in the Tim Duncan era for the Spurs. Granted, it's not like Duncan actually saw those five losses as a player. He was injured for four of the five games. 

Duncan was drafted in 1997. It took thirteen years for the Spurs to lose five in a row with Duncan as a member of the roster. That's stunning. It speaks simultaneously to the rampant success and consistency of Duncan's teams under Popovich and the randomness of luck. Duncan's missed his fair share over the years, though he has played in 78 games or more in eight of those seasons. For the Spurs to never have strung together five losses during that time is at both overwhelmingly impressive and downright bizarre. 

There's something at once fitting and confusing that in what could end up being the most successful regular season of the Duncan era that the Spurs would also suffer their longest losing streak. The Spurs seemed so unbeatable a few months ago and are now not only stumbling to the finish, they've already fallen and are only dragging forward by the the velocity of their own fall. The hope will be that the postseason will bring a different team, a tougher team. But against the Celtics in the fourth quarter of this fifth loss in a row, it wasn't injury or matchups that doomed San Antonio. It was wide open jumpers from Kevin Garnett. It was defense. 

Holding off a five game losing streak this long with Duncan on board is impressive. But there are other concerns besides the trivia-answer aspect here. 
Posted on: March 31, 2011 9:50 pm
Edited on: March 31, 2011 11:25 pm
 

Celtics C Nenad Krstic (knee) to undergo MRI

Boston Celtics center Nenad Krstic injured his right knee against the San Antonio Spurs. Posted by Ben Golliver.

Update: After the game, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers said that center Nenad Krstic will return to Boston where he will undergo an MRI on his right knee on Saturday according to NESN.com. Krstic will miss this weekend's game: the Celtics play the Atlanta Hawks on Friday and the Detroit Pistons on Sunday.

Original Post: With a little more than two minutes remaining in the second quarter of a Thursday night game against the San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics center Nenad Krstic suffered what the team called a "right knee injury." 

The injury occurred when Krstic cut to the basket during a Ray Allen shot attempt and his knee buckled. He was immediately escorted from the court by Boston's training staff. Shortly thereafter, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said that the injury "doesn't look good" and the team confirmed Krstic would not return to Thursday's game.

Here's a look at the play.



Krstic was acquired along with forward Jeff Green from the Thunder in a pre-deadline trade that sent center Kendrick Perkins and guard Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City. Krstic is averaging 9.9 points and 5.9 assists in 17 games since the trade, as the Celtics have relied on him to fill in a fair share of minutes due to the absences of Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal. Should he miss significant time, Boston's thin already thin and often undersized frontline will be stretched that much further.

Updates as soon as they become available.
Posted on: March 31, 2011 6:36 pm
Edited on: April 1, 2011 12:58 am
 

COY: Down to Popovich vs. Thibodeau

Gregg Popovich and Tom Thibodeau have coached brilliantly this year. But who's the NBA Coach of the Year? 
Posted by Matt Moore




They're wrong, you know. Five things are actually certain, not two. Death, taxes, Gregg Popovich will verbally tear you in half should you make an egregious mistake on the floor for him, and Tom Thibodeau will do the same, but be even louder when he does it. The fifth thing? One of those two men will win the 2010-2011 NBA Coach of the Year Award. 

As is the case with any award, particularly this year, there's no shortage of worthy nominees for Coach of the Year. George Karl comes to mind first. After all, he held a fractured, pressured locker room together through the insanity of the Melo saga, then turned a team without a superstar into the fifth seed, one who no one wants to run into in a dark first-round alley. J.R. Smith may be his best scoring component, his point guard is in his third season and two of his best frontcourt defenders are best known for their insane map of tattoos. Karl has done a great job. 

Another head guy that pops up is Lionel Hollins. Hollins has the Grizzlies in the playoffs despite a roster with considerable shortcomings, almost entirely made up of youngsters, and now without its highest paid player with Rudy Gay on the shelf. Zach Randolph is a team leader. Tony Allen is the emotional spark. And the squad that was one of the worst defensive teams in the league last season is all of a sudden a ball-hawking terror on the defensive end. Hollins has been superb. 

Doug Collins is going to sneak under the radar. The Sixers had a disastrous start. It was truly horrible. Then, they got better. Much better. And all of a sudden, they're the team  who is rocketing towards clinching the playoffs with a tough schedule, an over-the-hill star in Elton Brand, and a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none best player in Andre Iguodala. Collins has come out of nowhere to do a bang-up job. 

But in reality, this comes down to those two guys. The two best teams in each conference. But to see the real reason the award comes down to these two, you have to go far beyond the record. And you have to go even beyond that to find who deserves it more between the two basketball geniuses. 

No one saw this coming from San Antonio. They were supposed to be a playoff team, sure. But there was no indication that this season would find the Spurs winning.. and winning... and winning. What Popovich has done is taken a team that was between identities last season and shifted it into a juggernaut. Most people found the re-signing of Richard Jefferson preposterous in light of his contributions last season. Instead, Popovich turned Jefferson into a corner shooter, having him fill the role that so many veteran wings have taken, that of the long, defensive wing who spots-up for kickouts upon drives from Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, and on kickouts from Tim Duncan. Popovich has created an offensive juggernaut, which was tops in offensive efficiency for most of the season (until the aforementioned George Karl's Nuggets started tearing up opponents). George Hill, DeJuan Blair, Antonio McDyess, even Matt Bonner? These are all parts of the offensive albatross Pop put together out of the ashes of a second-round flameout squad. Yes, the health of the Spurs has helped, and yes, the defensive prowess hasn't been as impressive as previous Spurs teams'. But the proof is in the pudding. Popovich not only pushed the Spurs to topple nearly every team they came across, but kept on them through the dregs of January and February. It's only been in March, against elite playoff teams and dealing with injuries as the team starts to coast towards the playoffs, that the Spurs have shown any vulnerabilities in terms of overall performance. 

Maybe most impressive about Pop's work this year, however, is his ability to get outside of his traditional framework. Instead of blasting his team into smithereens when it's winning about its poor defensive performances, instead Popovich pushed the offense more. He's still cranky about the defense; he's Pop. But he also understood as he always has that winning is what matters in this league; it's results that you're judged by in this league. As the Spurs take on the Celtics Thursday night, the contrast is clear. Both Popovich and Doc Rivers have had to deal with new elements built around the same core, and new identities wrapped around the same principles. But while Rivers' Celtics remained a top team for most of the season, but still struggled to understand who they were as a team, Popovich's Spurs have simply kept speeding forward, destroying whatever was in their way, until just recently. If the defense were a little bit better, or had they driven right through the injuries to Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, there'd be no doubt that this would not only be the best coaching work of Pop's career in a regular season, but one of the better performances by any coach, ever. 

If only. 

NBA Awards
But it's those same reasons that we look across to the other conference, and see the barking, hoarse-voiced rage of another genius, whose team is similarly unbalanced, and yet nearly as successful. Chicago is 54-20, three games behind San Antonio for homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs. Tom Thibodeau has been everything many thought he'd be in his first year in Chicago, and more. He's combined the raw emotional challenge of Doc Rivers, with the cold, ruthless tactician work of Popovich in previous years. He commands the best defense in the league, on a roster that features Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng in a prominent role. Boozer, Deng, Korver, Rose, Bogans, the list goes on and on of average-to-subpar defenders who all of a sudden are part of the fiercest trap in the league, the stiffest challenge at the rim, the quickest swarm to a loose ball. They are ball-hawks and charge-takers, dunk-stoppers and steak-makers, and they are constantly, constantly, constantly working to help one another to close any holes in their defense.

Thibodeau has the Bulls believing in themselves, 100 percent convinced that there is no limit to how far they can go. Playoffs? Who cares about making the playoffs. Let's talk about winning the championship. Not in a year. Not in a few years. Now. They buy in, completely and totally, to the team concept, to the defensive principles, to the guidance of their coach and the leadership he's instilled in his star point guard. 

Ah, Rose.

To give Thibodeau credit is as short-sighted as giving Rose credit for the Bulls' defense. In reality, both have excelled by letting the other do their thing. Coaches are often attributed with the success of improving a player, ignoring the work done in the offseason and the fact that so often, these star players simply break off the play and go be their awesome selves. Thibodeau has been honest about his approach. The Bulls' offense isn't a juggernaut, even within the Eastern Conference and certainly not when stacked up against San Antonio's. But it gets the job done, because Thibodeau has taken a hands-off approach. He trusts his players to execute, and trusts his star point guard to make plays. How often do we see coaches doom their teams by demanding they play within the system? Thibs merely asks them to commit to his proven defensive principles, and in return, gives them the freedom to be the players they are. It's a strikingly simple approach that makes you slap yourself on the forehead and ask why no one thought of this before. 

While Popovich has enjoyed the luxury of having his team healthy and complete for most of the season, Thibodeau has led the Bulls to this point despite missing Carlos Boozer for months, and Joakim Noah for weeks. The Bulls have played few games with a full roster, yet here they are. It's a testament to the ability to not only work around roster holes, but to develop a system which makes no individual player essential to the success of the team. Watch the Bulls. It's not the personnel that makes them an awesome force on defense, it's the wholesale commitment to the act. There's no uncertainty when they trap the ball-handler on the wing off the pick and roll, no hesitation when the weak-side defender rotates to cut off perimeter penetration. There's confidence, assurance, belief in their teammates, in the system, in their success. 

Coach of the Year is a regular season award. To try and judge these two based on their playoff prospects is short-sighted and complicated. Instead, it comes down to which team has been more impressive with the hand they've been dealt. And considering the cards and how he's played them, there can be no doubt. Tom Thibodeau is the 2010-2011 NBA Coach of the Year.


Posted on: March 28, 2011 5:06 pm
 

Manu Ginobili out tonight for Spurs

Posted by Royce Young

According to the San Antonio Express-News , Manu Ginboili will miss Monday's game versus Portland.

Ginobili injured his thigh against Memphis Sunday night.


Of course the Spurs have been without Tim Duncan as well the past week because of an ankle sprain and as a result, San Antonio has lost three straight. They still hold a solid four game lead on the Lakers for the West's top spot, but L.A. is charging and with the Spurs dealing with injury, that could tighten these last few weeks.

Either George Hill or Gary Neal will likely start in place of Ginobili.
Category: NBA
Posted on: March 27, 2011 9:11 pm
Edited on: March 27, 2011 10:47 pm
 

Spurs G Ginobili bruises thigh, status 'in doubt'

San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili left Sunday's game against the Memphis Grizzlies due to a thigh injury. Posted by Ben Golliver.

As we noted earlier on Sunday, the San Antonio Spurs have their eyes set on a deep playoff run, but only if they can stay healthy. After losing franchise big man Tim Duncan to an ankle injury last week, another member of the team's big three went down on Sunday night.

MySanAntonio.com reports that the team's leading scorer, guard Manu Ginobili suffered a left thigh injury shortly before halftime of a game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Manu Ginobili left the game at mid third quarter due to a thigh bruise. He was hurt late in the first half and started the second half. He was taken back out with 6:10 left in the third quarter. Ginobili played 19 minutes and had two points on 1 of 3 shooting.
After the game, MySanAntonio.com reported that the injury wasn't "serious" but that Ginobili's status is "in doubt". 
Stiff-legged, with a gait recalling that of Frankenstein’s monster, Manu Ginobili hobbled down a hallway at the FedEx Forum after the Spurs’ 111-104 loss to Memphis on Sunday night. A left quadriceps contusion had knocked him out for most of the second half, and cast into doubt his availability for Monday’s home game against Portland.
“At first, when I came to the bench, I thought I was going to be OK,” Ginobili said. “Then it stiffened up. I can’t put my full weight on it.”
Here's video of the play.



The Spurs play next on Monday night against the Portland Trail Blazers in San Antonio. The Blazers beat the Spurs in dramatic fashion on Friday night in Portland. 

Without both Duncan and Ginobili, the Spurs fell to the Grizzlies, 111-104. The loss dropped San Antonio to 57-16 on the season and marked the first time the Spurs have lost three games in a row this season. San Antonio's lead over the Los Angeles Lakers is now down to 4.5 games. The win improved Memphis, the West's No. 8 seed, to 41-33.
Posted on: March 27, 2011 4:32 pm
Edited on: April 12, 2011 4:18 pm
 

Road to the Finals: San Antonio Spurs

Assuming they get Tim Duncan back healthy, the Spurs are eying a Western Conference Finals date with the Los Angeles Lakers. Posted by Ben Golliver.

manu-artest

When the San Antonio Spurs contingent descended upon All-Star Weekend back in February, their message was unanimous: Our luck avoiding injuries has been incredible, and we just hope it lasts. “Honest to God, you look over your shoulder thinking something’s got to happen,” coach Gregg Popovich joked to reporters in Los Angeles.

Well, something did happen. Franchise big man Tim Duncan, the engine of more than a decade of Spurs dominance, severely sprained his ankle last week. For the team with the league’s best record, Duncan’s absence has prompted a total reevaluation. Point guard Tony Parker summed it up recently, telling the San Antonio News Express that San Antonio is “not going anywhere in the playoffs without him.” That, evaluation, of course, is representative of the perputally high standards in San Antonio, one of the rare NBA cities where advancing to the second round of the playoffs isn't a triumph. 

Parker’s statement made it clear, if it wasn't already, that San Antonio has sky-high internal expectations this season. As they should. Despite a two-game losing streak, the Spurs possess a league-best 57-15 record, a stunning figure given the lack of name players complementing the longtime core trio of Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili

The Spurs have succeeded by owning the fundamentals and mastering the basics with a consistency that’s unrivaled in today’s pro game. They move the ball brilliantly and unselfishly, confidently and purposefully. They move without the ball aggressively and always with the team concept in mind. Their perimeter players are extremely disciplined, feasting on the clean looks created by the ball movement and Parker’s ability to probe defenses off the dribble (17.4 points and 6.6 assists a game). The Spurs can still dump it in to Duncan (13.3 points and 9.0 rebounds per game) and expect him to deliver when it matters and Ginobili remains one of the game's best late-game decision-makers (18.0 points and 5.0 assists). Together, it’s made for the league’s second most efficient offense through Sunday, a unit that scores more points per possession than both the star-laden Miami Heat and the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. This is "fives fingers equals a fist" offense at its best.

Road To The Finals

Defensively, San Antonio is the king of getting your hopes up on paper: Duncan’s lost a half-step, power forward DeJuan Blair is undersized, wing Richard Jefferson is past his prime, and Matt Bonner is Matt Bonner. And yet their commitment to team defense, their uncanny ability to take away their opponents’ first option, and their opportunistic ability to push out in transition off turnovers have combined to make this a nearly elite defensive unit that's earned respect around the league, even in Duncan's absence. “They do a good job of rotating. Just that experience that they have, they have won a lot of championships, they know how to adjust in-game really well," Trail Blazers guard Brandon Roy said before Friday night's game against San Antonio in Portland.

The juggernaut has just one real weakness: interior depth. A big man rotation of Duncan (28 minutes per game), Blair (21.8 minutes per game), Bonner (21.6 minutes per game), veteran forward Antonio McDyess (18.5 minutes per game) and promising but minimally used center Tiago Splitter (12.0 minutes per game) is solid but not superb. The Spurs are only slightly above average at clearing the defensive boards and they ask their wings and guards to rebound more than they would probably like. It's worth noting that Duncan will almost certainly see his minutes ramp up significantly in the post-season, which could change things a bit.

Regardless, the surest way for a team to send San Antonio home is to pound the paint, crash the boards and limit turnovers, extracting the maximum efficiency from each offensive possession by forcing San Antonio’s starting bigs to play with fouls and work tirelessly on the defensive glass. Surveying San Antonio’s most likely first round opponents – the New Orleans Hornets, Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies – none figures to have the ability to do that, at least on paper.

The Hornets lost their star forward and leading scorer David West to a season-ending ACL injury this week, leaving recently backup forward Carl Landry and Emeka Okafor, never a true go-to scoring option, to pick up the interior slack. Given San Antonio’s ability to throw multiple defensive looks at Chris Paul and New Orleans’ lack of a bench, a series between the two teams very well could end in a sweep.

The hard-charging Houston Rockets, winners of five straight, are looking to salvage their season by making a nice post-deadline run. Guard Kyle Lowry is leading the way with his strong recent play, but the Rockets would almost certainly be exposed as fool’s gold if they do manage to sneak into the Western Conference’s No. 8 seed. Houston is really an off-brand version of the Spurs, a cut below San Antonio in every way, even their strengths. They have very efficient guard play, but not as good as San Antonio’s. They can put up points, but not with the same efficiency as San Antonio. They are hurting on the inside even more than the Spurs and their overall team defense suffers for it. This would likely be another cakewalk for the favorite.

San Antonio’s least favorable first round matchup on paper is the team that they are most likely to face: their Sunday night opponent, the Memphis Grizzlies.   Memphis sports an excellent scoring, offensive rebounding and foul-drawing duo of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, and the pair will do damage against the Spurs, the only question is how much. But Popovich has made a career out of chewing up and spitting out teams that aren’t ready for the big stage. I already feel sorry for Mike Conley, a talented point guard but one with no playoff experience. He has no idea – he simply can’t know – what’s about to hit him when the post-season begins. The Grizzlies, a slightly below average offense thsi season, are also entering the playoffs without star wing Rudy Gay, a versatile scorer who would be critical to freeing up Randolph and Gasol inside. Without Gay, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to envision the Grizzlies keeping up.

As Parked noted, though, clocking one of the West’s weaker sisters is not going to be enough for the Spurs. Their road to the Finals will go through whichever team emerges from a first round series between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets. Those are two talented, motivated, athletic, balanced teams, and the winner of that series will be riding a wave of confidence into Texas. San Antonio is 33-3 at home on the season, another league-best figure, a fact that will weigh heavily in the second round, as both the Thunder and Nuggets are solid at home in front of their excited crowds. Oklahoma City, newly balanced with the addition of Kendrick Perkins, figures to be the tougher match-up because their elite skill level and athleticism will stress and stretch San Antonio’s older players. Denver, though, possesses the one offense in the league that is more efficient than San Antonio’s and George Karl is as good a match for Popovich as there is in the NBA. Neither will be an easy draw and both series have a solid chance of going six, if not seven games.

Should the Spurs weather that tough second round they will almost certainly have to go through the team that presents the greatest set of challenges: the Los Angeles Lakers. With an interior trio of Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, the Lakers are versatile, long, athletic and immensely talented, a nightmare group that will require San Antonio to regularly provide interior help, scrambling their defense. Both Parker and George Hill are tough match-ups for the Lakers, and would likely have a field day, but L.A.’s wing defenders are experienced and physical enough to make life significantly more difficult for San Antonio’s tertiary perimeter players. Stripping away the hype, not much separates Kobe Bryant and Manu Ginobili these days, and both have the ability to take and make game-winners in front of a hostile crowd on the road, a rare commodity in the NBA.

If the Lakers played with San Antonio’s discipline and consistency, a series between the two teams would be no contest. As it stands, though, the West’s top two teams are on a crash course for an entertaining, drag-out Western Conference Finals. Assuming San Antonio gets Duncan back healthy -- and they do expect him back in time for the start of the playoffs -- they’ve got a legit shot at dethroning the reigning champs.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com