Most Spurs fans know that, while it gets most of the attention, the Rodeo Road Trip is not nearly as important as what comes after: the final stretch of the regular season. This year that was doubly true since a break in the schedule had the Spurs playing the six games following it at home. If they were going to show signs of life and make a push up the standings, it had to happen then or it would not happen at all. Fortunately, the team has taken advantage of their homestead so far, following two away wins with three in San Antonio against the Kings, Nuggets and Bulls to get their second five-game win streak of the year.
The way they have been doing it -- with individual play instead of the team approach from last season -- was chronicled by Michael Erler and is something to keep in mind before announcing the Spurs are decidedly back to last season's level. The opponents weren't exactly great teams. Yet it's hard to not get excited when Tony Parker starts looking like himself and Kawhi Leonard begins to resemble the two-way terror he was in last year's playoffs with more consistency.
The improvement the team has showed has not been ignored around the league and wins in the three home games next week could raise the Spurs' profile at the right time, for the final push before the playoffs.
Marc Stein, from ESPN (Spurs rank: 4. Last week's rank: 8)
So predictable. As soon as we call ourselves out here for overrating the champs, what happens? Tony Parker is suddenly getting into the paint again and the Spurs ring up 116 points on stubborn Chicago on the same day Tim Duncan goes without a bucket for the first time in his entire career. Of course.
Drew Garrison, from SB Nation (Spurs rank: 8. Last week's rank: 9)
Tony Parker has been devastating lately, and his run of 15 consecutive points against the Bulls was masterful. The Spurs need Parker to continue stepping up his game as they look to close out the season with some momentum.
Marc J. Spears, from Yahoo Sports (Spurs rank 7. Last week's rank: 11)
Tony Parker might have finally overcome his lingering hamstring injury as he's averaged 20 points during the team's five-game win streak.
USA Today (Spurs rank: 8. Last week's rank: 11)
If Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker both are scoring 20 points a game, a repeat seems likely.
John Schuhmann, from NBA.com (Spurs rank: 7. Last week's rank: 11)
Suddenly, the Spurs have won five straight games and Tony Parker has broken out offensively, averaging 25.0 points on 65 percent in his last three. He's only averaged 4.0 assists though, and the five-game winning streak is the first time since April of 2011 that the Spurs have assisted on less than half of their baskets over a five-game stretch. Un-Spurs-like.
Matt Moore, from CBS Sports (Spurs rank: 6. Last week's rank 12)
The Spurs have the third-best record since Jan. 1. Tony Parker went Lazarus this week. It's about time for the Spurs to start crushing hopes and dreams.