Looking at the schedule the rest of the way I think it's possible the Spurs can win 60 games and that we ought to use this goal as a dare to our bench - the deepest in the league - to develop a Championship Attitude among the younger guys and second unit.
First off, how I get 60.
It's awesome that the All-Star Break splits up the rodeo trip this year. Of the games left in the first half, the back-to-back versus the Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls on the road looks toughest. Assuming we drop one, I think we still take 5 of 6 before the ASB (Wizards, Pistons, Timberwolves and Cavaliers). This would put us at 42 wins in the first half.
3 out of 4 to wrap up the trip after the break - we can beat the Kings, Suns twice and won't lose to both the Clippers and Warriors. Taking our team's philosophy and skills versus the teams we face - 7 wins in March, and 5 more in April. I'm not calling specific games this far in advance, just looking at the schedule. If I'm right, this would total 57 wins and 25 losses. [prediction for our final record]
I'm being presumptuous as hell, but I see these wins because we have balanced minutes and five, six and even seven guys in double figures a lot of nights - blowing out teams with everybody sharing the load of minutes. Yeah, I think we end up 57-25, maybe 56-26, if we clinch early.
But I want us to want 60. I see three or four more wins in there; important games against serious opponents - the Clips, OKC, Golden State, Denver and Utah - in which our bench and younger guys are going to be called upon to win it. They can beat these teams.
You might ask: "Why should we care about achieving 60 wins when our rep is we win the regular season and can't maintain in the playoffs? Shouldn't we rest Tim, Tony and Manu when we want, guarantee home court and not worry about win count?"
I would agree in part: I approve Pop resting the big three and weighing the value of wins versus the fatigue of our starters. But wins that come out of the grinder in those situations - the absence of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili - are highly dependent on the success of our bench being led by younger players like Danny Green, Tiago Splitter and Kawhi Leonard. We have to inspire them to aim higher.
Last year we only just got the best record and it didn't make much difference when we got beat four straight by OKC. Let's make the 60-Win Season a throw down to those second unit guys. Let's get Jax and Patty Mills and Aron Bynes whipped into a frenzy to find 60 wins and turn our system into a well-oiled machine. If our second unit gets mentally tougher and more cohesive without the leadership of The Big Three, we'll be nearly impossible to beat.
Old fans will remember that the dominating Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers teams that won three in a row in the 90's and early Aughts had killer instinct and a will to destroy everyone all season long that translated into potency and intimidation in the playoffs. 60+ wins were expected of those teams. It also made the team tighter as a unit and pushed bench performers to bring their best game.
Some of our guys may be old, but we don't have to act so resigned to it. When we lose, Pop shrugs and says, "It didn't go in the hole," and that's about it. While it's accurate - which he loves - it isn't exactly motivating toward a killer instinct. I want more Nasty all season long. I want us to want to bury everybody and our bench and younger guys to storm into the playoffs with confidence; all cylinders clicking so Pop can design whatever unit he wants on a game-to-game, quarter-to-quarter, or even minute-to-minute basis.
Maybe what I'm saying is sophist; of course we're always trying to win every game. But I'm talking about Danny Green's disappearance at critical moments at the end of last year here. I'm talking about Captain Jack being 100% reliable because he steps up into the role of Commander of the second unit all year long; about Kawhi, Tiago and Gary, all of whom are and were playing great basketball, but who need to show the mental toughness to pull out big wins coming from behind, or in tight endgame situations without Tim, Tony and Manu.
We can use regular season games to inculcate this toughness.
Go Spurs Go.