Despite the minimal roster changes over the summer, the Spurs didn't start the year where they left off, thanks in large part to a flurry of injuries. Whereas the 2013-14 campaign ended as a perfectly chiseled, shimmering gem, this season resembled another raw stone, amorphous and undefined.
It's taken time and patience, but the sheen of this team appears to be revealing itself just at the right time. And each game resembles more and more the considered stroke of a stone-cutter, whether it's a resume-building win or an embarrassing loss.
The Spurs are still only in sixth place, but they're tied for the second-best point differential in the West. It's important to keep playing at an elite level, but staying out of the four-five slot (and avoiding a second-round matchup against Golden State) isn't the worst thing, either.
The team's current three-game streak included a win in Atlanta on Sunday afternoon against, admittedly, a Hawks team that hasn't been looking its best as of late. Atlanta didn't seem to show up yesterday and the Spurs absolutely made them pay, winning by 19 in a game that never felt close. It was only the Hawks' fifth loss at home this season, and while San Antonio looked sharp at times, it's safe to say it wasn't the team's best all-around performance of the year, which is encouraging going forward.
The past two losses (the other being the Kyrie Irving game) have definitely left a one-step-back-two-steps-forward feel with the Spurs, in which the team has come back stronger from each setback. Kawhi is continuing to play with confidence, Tiago is looking great and this feels like a different season from when it took every kilojoule of Tim Duncan to will out a victory.
Marc Stein, from ESPN (Spurs rank: 5. Last week's rank: 5)
It would appear, judging by the clinic they uncorked in Atlanta, that losing Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden scared the Spurs straight as much as any Pop rant. Important scheduling note for you nostalgia buffs: We've got two Timmy-versus-Dirk duels to watch and savor this week.
Drew Garrison, SB Nation (Spurs rank: 7. Last week's rank: 8)
What if I told you Tim Duncan was caught dancing on the Spurs' bench? 30 for 30: Moves like Jagger
Marc J. Spears, Yahoo Sports (Spurs rank 6. Last week's rank: 7)
Fun fact. The Spurs passed the Lakers this season as the all-time winningest franchise in NBA history, winning at a 61.4 percent clip.
USA Today (Spurs rank: 8. Last week's rank: 8)
Tiago Splitter, Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard all have found their offensive games this month.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com (Spurs rank: 5. Last week's rank: 6)
Tuesday's loss in New York was rather embarrassing, but Sunday's win in Atlanta more than made up for it and the Spurs still haven't lost in regulation in almost a month, a stretch that coincides with Tiago Splitter moving back into the starting lineup. The starters have outscored their opponents by 41 points per 100 possessions in 133 minutes since then.
Matt Moore, CBS Sports (Spurs rank: 3. Last week's rank 4)
It was nice of the Spurs to let all the other fan bases get excited about being contenders before they come in and crush everyone's dream as they are wont to do.