Trend Watch: How long can the Spurs keep rolling?
The Spurs haven't lost in more than a month, the Knicks aren't dead, and the Pacers are completely lost. Checking the trends in the NBA.
Let's check what's trending in the NBA.
How long can the Spurs go?
I don't know if you know this, but the Spurs have won 18 straight games. That's a lot of straight games.
How far can they go? The Heat won 27 straight last season, but the Spurs won't catch that -- because they only have eight games remaining in the season. So if the Spurs were to win out, it'd be 26 straight, making it the third longest in league history.
Can they get to the postseason without having lost for almost two months? It's obviously unlikely, if only for the reason Gregg Popovich notoriously rests starters, particularly in back-to-backs. And look in the immediate future: The Spurs play the Warriors tonight, and then visit the Thunder tomorrow. You can be sure that key players won't be suiting up for that one.
And there's also this: The Thunder are 3-0 this season against the Spurs, and have a lot of incentive to beat them. They're three games back in the loss column, so if there's any hope of catching San Antonio for the top seed, it's do or die on Thursday for OKC.
If the Spurs were to survive this back-to-back, they have the Grizzlies at home, at the Wolves, at the Mavs, home against the Suns, at the Rockets and home against the Lakers. The Spurs have always had trouble with the Grizzlies (who are in a playoff scrap), a rivary game against the Mavs could produce anything, the Suns are desperate, and the Rockets are 3-0 against San Antonio. So, it's kind of unlikely the Spurs roll out to a 26-game streak.
Which might be good. Because something to note, for you history buffs: Remember the 2011-12 season where the Spurs entered the postseason on a 10-game winning streak? They then swept their first two series, and took the first two from the Thunder to extend out to a 20-game winning streak, and no losses in a 60-day span. Then the Thunder blew them out in Game 3 and the Spurs ended their season on a different streak -- a four-game losing streak. That's just to say, entering the postseason playing at a ridiculously high level doesn't guarantee anything.
Still: You can't deny how special this is from the Spurs. They aren't going to actively try and keep the winning streak going, because that's not their style. But, if they were so inclined, their franchise-best season record is 63-19, set in 2005-06. They'd need to go just 6-2 to finish the season to top that. Considering the collective age of the group, and with how last season ended for them, that'd be a nice little feather in their cap, wouldn't it?
And then there's this
That's just... absurd.
Once more, with feeling: What's wrong with the Pacers?
It's probably not a good sign when this has been question now three weeks running. Most times, when there's a "what's up with the [insert team]?" that team gets things sorted and we all move on to the next current storyline.
But the Pacers? They've been drowning for almost a month now.
What is wrong with them? Is it simply an offensive issue? The fact they haven't scored 90 points in six games seems like a big deal. But there's a growing dysfunction just with the way they're playing. With Paul George not playing like the superstar he became, it's like the Pacers are all looking around at each other and waiting for someone to do something. Lance Stephenson tried for a minute to do that against the Spurs, but that was just a short burst in the second quarter.
The Pacers had an obvious identity the first three months of the season: defense first, offense second, but a blend of both ends of the floor, one side playing off the other. Like the Bulls, but with depth and talent. The defensive end hasn't totally slipped, but there's just no chemistry and continuity on the offensive end. Is it as simple as tracing things back to acquiring Evan Turner? Adding a player playing for contract that came from being one of the only options on a horrible team to now needing to fit a role for a contender could produce some discomfort.
But that's not it. Turner has been an average fit, but the Pacers' issues go far deeper than that. Since March 1, the Pacers are scoring just 96.5 points per 100 possessions, and with Turner on the floor, it's 95.1. There really isn't any single lineup that's produced better than others, but the Pacer starting five hasn't been nearly as effective as it has been in the past. That was always the weakness of the team, its bench. But that's been decent, and Turner was brought in to improve it. The starting five is playing high level defense since March 1 -- 95.2 points allowed per 100 -- but it's having issue scoring as well (97.3 points per 100). Of lineups that have played more than 15 mintues together since March 1, only three are a net positive per 100 possessions -- the starting five being one of them.
The obvious fix for the Pacers is just to play like they were in December. At least that's what I'd tell them if I were their coach. But I wouldn't be a very good NBA coach. How do you get this on the right track? Nobody seems to know, and that's the biggest problem.
The Knicks aren't quite done... but almost
After their embarrassing loss to the Lakers, it seemed as if the Knicks were cooked. But then the Hawks lost six straight and all the Knicks had to do was win a couple games to get back in the playoff discussion.
The Hawks host the Bulls tonight, the Knicks host the Nets. The Knicks only have seven games left, four of them at home. But those seven games include the Wizards, Heat, Raptors, Bulls, Nets and Raptors again. That's right: All seven games are against playoff teams.
The Hawks have nine games left, six at home. They play the Bulls, Cavs, Pacers, Pistons, Celtics, Nets, Heat, Bobcats and Bucks. That's five games against playoff teams.
And remember: The Hawks are still up two games in the loss column. So if the Knicks are going to pull this off, they're going to have to finish the season playing their best basketball yet, and still get some help. Not looking likely.
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