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Well now that teams are clinching divisions and spots in the postseason I thought it would be cool to go ahead and preview each team that is going to be a part of the 2009 NBA Postseason. I will do one for each team as they clinch a playoff spot and since we already have teams that have clinched, we will start with them. Now we will continue with a team that has won four championships in ten seasons: the San Antonio Spurs.
You look at the Spurs and you look at a core group of players that have been there and done that and have no problem doing it again. Tim Duncan and Greg Popovich both have four rings, and Tony Parker, Bruce Bowen, and Manu Ginobili each sport three championship rings and that alone is worth giving your vote of confidence to the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs ability to play their style on the road and win on the road has spurred (no pun intended) a very successful stretch that has seen the Spurs win four championships in ten NBA seasons. Their emphasis on defense, amazing ability to shoot the three point shot, letting that shot stretch the defense and allow Tim Duncan room to opperate and Pop's uncanny ability to find and manage players that can fill roles and provide key plays for the Spurs have allowed the franchise to be great for all of recent history. They've won at least one playoff series every year since Tim Duncan came into the league in 1997, minus the 2000 playoffs which Tim Duncan missed due to injury.
The Spurs defense is having an off year but you know that, even through Bruce Bowen and Jacque Vaughn have seen limited minutes all season, they and players like Kurt Thomas will will step in and provide tough, tenacious minutes on their opposing man and provide the frustration necessary for great team defenders in Manu and Tony to possibly create turnovers and lead to fast break opportunities for the Spurs. And when the Spurs get on offense, they have a perfect inside-outside game that makes them dangerous from all angles. They have two of the top ten players percentage wise from behind the three point line in Roger Mason Jr. and Matt Bonner. Other players like Manu Ginobili, Bruce Bowen and Michael Finley can and have hit big three point shots in the postseason when called upon. And of course, Tim Duncan is possibly the best power forward of this generation. He can step out and hit the 20 footer and his footwork makes him nearly unstoppable around the basket as well. He's nearly unguardable. Add to the fact that players like Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili also thrive driving to the basket, and the Spurs get to the free throw line a respectable amount of times as well.
Age and athleticism have been brought up as problems since around the 2006 postseason loss to Dallas for the Spurs. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker have actually thrived this season, but Manu's problems with injury and a reliance on older players like Bowen, Vaughn, Finley and Thomas may prove to be tough for the Spurs as minutes and games stretch out with time. We've seen them play against younger, athletic teams this season and really struggle to stop them. Since they've played Mason at the shooting guard position and Matt Bonner at center, the Spurs have given up a lot as far as defense is conerned. Bruce Bowen and Fabricio Oberto usually stood in at those positions for the Spurs and neither hardly gets into the game, although that seems like it will change for Bowen in the postseason. The Spurs also seem to have an infatuation with the three point shot, and sometimes can get caught up taking too many of them, instead of driving to the hoop and creating offense in the paint. Granted, Tim Duncan is the only person who you can give the ball to under the basket and watch him create, but you can't have too many games where you shoot 4 for 20 something from beyond the arc.
Also, depth may prove to be a problem for this Spurs team. They've always brought Manu off of the bench as a coaching ploy, and Pop should look to do that this year as well, but Tony Parker has played a lot of minutes this season for this Spurs team and George Hill, as a rookie, doesn't figure to get many minutes in the postseason. When Parker goes to the bench, Jacque Vaughn comes in and provides effecient basketball, but can't hit a jumper to save his life, and Roger Mason sometimes handles the ball but he can be turnover prone at the point guard position. Fact of the matter is, although Tony Parker is one of the biggest workhorses in this league, you have to wonder if his body can hold up and if it can't then the Spurs are in big trouble. Also, because of Manu's inability to stay healthy this season, a sense of chemistry and continuity seems to be lacking on this Spurs team that has been prominet on previous squads. That all still has time to be worked out, but could be a problem in early rounds, and the Spurs aren't guaranteed a first round victory this season.
Why They Will Win It
The Spurs have been there, done that, and this is an odd year, which bodes will for San Antonio's pride and joy. They shoot the three point ball well, they play solid defense and they have the best low post player in the game in Tim Duncan. With all of those intangibles, it's hard to ever count the Spurs out of championship conversations. They can beat you in so many ways and are actually a versatile squad that can outscore you if called upon (see the Phoenix series of the past few years). But still, the Spurs bread and butter is slow, grind it out defensive basketball which usually is the poster of postseason basketball. They're a team that's always confident and always seems to be built for the postseason.
Why They Won't Win It
Continuity is a problem with this team. Ime Udoka, Bruce Bowen, Kurt Thomas, Jacque Vaughn and George Hill have had inconsistent minute distributions all season and therefore you don't really know who's going to be where in what situation. Drew Gooden was added to give another low post scoring threat, but he's been eased very slowly into the rotation and still doesn't look completely comfortable. Add to the fact that the Spurs may have a tendency to rely on the three point shot too much this season, and they can catch themselves becoming jump shooters. They've also had problems keeping Manu healthy all season, and even if he plays, if he's not 100% it's going to hurt the Spurs (see last season's Western Conference Finals).
History tells us the Spurs are on in these odd years. Tim Duncan and company have been there, done that, and will always be among those mentioned as favorites for a championship. This team and city embraces the work ethic and no nonsense approach that the Spurs bring, and they always play their best basketball in the postseason. Pop always does a great job of managing his star player's minutes in the regular season, and this year will be as important as any to see if that really paid off. However, something seems to be missing from this Spurs squad. That spark, that "it" factor that's kept you always believing in them seems to be missing this year and an overreliance on the three point ball may cause them problems in tough games. However, with Tim Duncan and company in the mold, you have to consider them a contender for a championship every season. Even with all of their problems, you can't be surprised if the Spurs make a run at a title. After all, they're the most effecient, consistant team in the league and they've done a great job of coming out of nowhere to win championships before. So the Spurs will be right there in the end among those mentioned as possible championship contenders. Even if by reputation.
The next team to clinch will be covered in the next preview.