I talk about this all the time, how the Spurs value process over results. That starts with coach Gregg Popovich. And on Saturday night, after a win, mind you, Popovich blasted his team for its performance:
"Tim Duncan saved us. He's such a professional. We're so lucky to have him here for as long as we have," Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said. "He was the ultimate professional and he rose above a lot to do it.
"We had some guys that hadn't played much that busted their butts. But in general, other than Timmy, in a lot of ways it was a pathetic performance. That kind of play isn't going to get us very far at the end of the season. And it's not the first time we've played like that in the last few weeks. This team needs to get its head around itself and understand what it takes to be there, because as a group they don't have it right now."
The Spurs' defense has been the problem. In November and December, the Spurs surrendered just .97 points per possession, via NBA.com. In March and April, they've surrendered 101.6, slipping from a top-five defense to 10th. This is the third year in a row this has happened, and the Spurs were eliminated in the previous two years because of their defense.
To be fair, the Spurs' defensive mark, even since March 1, is much better than in years past, and they've been without Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili for long stretches. But overall, Spurs fans have noted how they haven't been playing like they did for much of the year. They've got to get it together. They can probably get past the first round. But this Western Conference is as tough or tougher than any year in the last five. There's no margin for error or time to waste if they want to get where they want to go, the Finals.
That means playing better than they have been, whether they won or not.