The Spurs have just had, perhaps, the most difficult two week stretch of games of any team this season. Despite facing some of the best teams in the league, the Spurs played hard and picked up some key wins. Any other normal year this would have been what was expected, but this season has been far from normal after high expectations made all the problems seem much bigger than they are. But with all the heartbreaking losses we saw early on, the Spurs are winning now; and doing it against good teams in classic (good) Spurs fashion. It's impossible not to feel good if you are a fan who has followed the team this season and seen the improvements that have been made.
So we all know we didn't have the best start to the season but we are certainly putting together a good finish. BlaseE even shows in this graph that we have the best momentum going into the playoffs. A perfect example to show that there is always a chance to improve in a long 82 game season. Better late than never. Since we have been winning games I've noticed my friends reclaiming their love for the Spurs and showing support in every way. Again, better late than never. This winning has seemingly had healing effects on one Tony Parker who is apparently ahead of schedule for his return from his broken metacarpal in his right hand. It would be great if Tony is ready before the playoffs start, and I do mean ready.
So to what do we owe this sudden surge in winning percentage? Well a few things actually. But the most important reason we are now able to play with the best of them is that the team, as a whole, has made improvements from the beginning of the season.
- Turnovers are down, although not far enough but it is still a lot better than those horrendous amounts we saw in the beginning of the season.
- Defense is better. Not quite Spurs trademark D but it is definitely getting the job done and a huge improvement from where it was in October
- Chemistry. It's debatable but this may be the biggest reason for the improvement. Took almost the entire season but the guys finally look like they trust each other out there. They know where to be on the floor and at times the rotations and ball movements are heavenly. Hope this keeps up.
- It should also be made known that Pop's rotations haven't been as headache-inducing as before. Small ball still exists but much less frequently than before.
Players have also stepped up big, especially since Tony went down. The rotations are pretty much set, for now at least, and guys are taking advantage of the minutes they get. Tim Duncan, the great one, once again was forced to do far to much at the start of the season to keep the team from tanking. As a result, his productivity has fallen severely since the all star break. Thankfully other guys got the message that they need to step up and do more to help us win.
- Richard Jefferson. RJ has actually played better, not great but much better than he did at the start. He has finally learned that "aggressive" is a favorite word of his coach and we've this aggressiveness from RJ on a number of occasions in drives to the basket and especially in his rebounding. He still has a lot to improve on but the improved aggressiveness has helped the team a great deal.
- Matt Bonner. Matt has always been a dependable shooter and he still possesses a deadly three point stroke that defenders can not ignore. However, Matt has taken his game to the next level in order to help his team. No longer can teams simply close hard and force him to take contested threes. Matt has developed the ability to drive "strong" to the bucket and finish with a variety of teardrops, jump hooks, and he even gets a dunk in every now and then. No longer is he a one-dimensional player and this has certainly made a difference in recent games.
- George Hill. This young man has been sensational over the last few games. We know he always brings effort but the way he has contributed, especially on offense, has been amazing. He has broken his scoring career high three times this season, twice in the last two weeks. His defense has gotten better, his decision making is still improving at an alarming rate, and he shows a greater leadership quality than before. It is impossible to truly replace Tony Parker but I can't think of any other back up PG I would want to take his place other than Mr. IUPUI.
And then there's this guy.
In case you didn't know, Manu Ginobili is a winner, at everything. Basketball, soccer, pool, poker, dominoes, battleships, even tic tac toe. He just wins, period. He is the biggest reason that the Spurs are where they are now. Perhaps it was something he ate, or simply him regaining his confidence. Whatever the reason, Ginobili is playing his best basketball in over two years. He is scoring at a scorching hot rate, averaging 26.5 points on 50.6% shooting and 44.1% from deep. Scoring isn't all he's doing either, he also gets about 6 assists each game as well as plays great defense on some of the best guards in the league. As cliche as it is, Ginobili is back to his old tricks, reeking havoc on the rest of the league and bringing joy back to Spurs fans everywhere. The impact he has had on this team can not be overstated as his mere presence encourages everyone to pick u their level of play, resulting in the improved team play as a whole. It has been said before by fans, pundits, players, and coaches; a healthy Ginobili means the Spurs have a shot. Do not take this lightly. Anyone who didn't know the impact that this man can have now knows and perhaps now respects his greatness.
The toughest stretch of the season is almost over and we've done well so far. Hopefully we can continue this stellar play into the playoffs. Surely we would not consider it a successful season if we don't hold the gold at the end but considering how the season has gone, we can surely be happy with the improvement. It will not be easy but they can get it done. Let's Go Spurs.