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Using the Spurs' hot streak to predict the playoffs

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With a commanding 103-91 win, the Spurs secured their 18th consecutive playoff appearance. Can the Rodeo Road Trip predict how fruitful this year will be?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe it’s time we revisit that "awful" Rodeo Road Trip.

At the time, it was understood that the Spurs were completely finished, the season a waste, the Spurs were missing the playoffs, every player (even Kyle Anderson) should retire, the entire front office and possibly the arena would fold, and the Spurs were probably just moving to Seattle.

Or some crisis to that effect.

Nonetheless, the morale could've been better. After the Spurs first-ever losing record on the RRT there were serious questions to be answered. We tried to glean hope from the destruction of the final two powerless opponents (after a horrid 2-5 start). I pointed to the fact that the Spurs were 10-2 in the game immediately following the trip, which they furthered to 11-2 against the Kings.

But the first game is only the surface. I should've looked further. It isn't really what happens ON the Rodeo Road Trip that is significant, it's what happens because of it. To quote myself:

"The best year to point to for evidence of the Spurs coming together after the trip came in 2006-07, when the Spurs ultimately swept the Cleveland Cavaliers. After going .500 on the RRT, the Spurs ripped through their next 27 games 23-4 (before resting the starters for the final two and letting Jackie Butler and James White soak up 40+ minutes a game) and the playoffs 16-4. That's an 83% winning percentage. Like this year, they had a very mediocre trip, punctuated with huge wins against bad teams, and won the final two games...and the next 11. That is the absolute, unwavering, faith-like-a-preacher best case scenario.

While the Spurs haven't won 11 straight, they have won 13 out of 16. It's hard to project what they'll do in the remaining seven games, especially because that stretch includes games against MVP favorites Steph Curry, James Harden (x2), Russell Westbrook, and Anthony Davis. But imagining they go 5-2 down the home stretch would see them win at least 78% of their post-RRT games for a ridiculous 5th year (out of 13).

RRT 2.0.2

For real quantification of how much the trip propels the team toward the postseason, analyze the winning percentage differential.

  • In 2006-07, the post-RRT win percentage is just over 79%. While that is no doubt excellent, compared to how dominant they were before embarking on the trip, it is only the 6th best differential.
  • The lockout-shortened 2011-12 season (slightly smaller sample size of 66 games). The Spurs played 31 games after the RRT (tied for the most ever, even with 16 fewer total games) but they won a scorching 26 of those 31.
  • For this year, consider that this is the latest the trip has ever concluded and therefore the smallest sample of post-RRT games. So far, this is the 3rd best winning percentage and the 2nd best percentage differential.
  • For the hypothetical 5-2 down the stretch run this season, the differential would drop, but would still be the 2nd best in Rodeo Road Trip history (at ~15.5%).

While finishing the season strong is admirable, the Spurs have never prided themselves on their regular season performance. Is there a correlation between improvement after the RRT and playoff success?

  • In their second championship (first after the RRT was started) in 2002-03, they won 80% of their games with a nearly 15% win differential. That is the 2nd best best mark (excluding this season) and ultimately saw the Spurs grind out the Nets in 6 games.
  • The following year was a slight drop-off, winning 76.9% of their games for a 13.66% differential. Unfortunately, their repeat attempt was thwarted by about .4 seconds and their 3rd best mark (again, excluding this season) was squandered.
  • The championship against the Pistons in 2004-05 saw their 3rd worst differential, but that can mainly be chalked up to an ankle injury to "offense and defense utterly relies on him" Tim Duncan that healed just in time for the playoffs.
  • The 2010-11 season shows how smart the Grizzlies were to want to take on the Spurs. Besides having no big men to match them, the Spurs had posted their worst season-ending stretch, winning just 57% of their games after winning a mind-boggling 85% before the RRT (and 89% of the games on it). They were clearly trending downwards even before Manu was injured in the last regular season game.
  • In the three seasons of Peak Ball Movement preceding this year, the Spurs have had their best post-RRT season (84%, and +22% in 2011) that resulted in a 20 game regular season/playoff win streak cratering in an Oklahoma City-sized sinkhole, their 2nd worst post-RRT mark (54%, -23.4%) that was a Ray Allen jumper away from a ring, and then the incredible redemption year that just restored our faith in humanity (84.6%, +12.3%).

Conclusion: the Spurs have a definitive advantage when they get on a hot streak in the 4th quarter of the season. While no amount of regular season success guarantees another championship, I think it's acceptable to start dreaming of that elusive repeat, Spurs fans.

Quote of the Night

"Oh we did? That's awesome."

- Danny Green, unaware the Spurs had secured a playoff spot (via Jeff McDonald)

Game MVP

The Whole Benchilada (NICKNAME ALERT!).

The Spurs bench outscored the Magic equivalent 69-12 and their own starters 69-34. That was some serious domination, led by the Thunder from Down Under Aron Baynes. Boris posted a boxscore +37 and did a little bit of every single thing you could ask from a player and Ginobili rebounded from a poor outing with only one turnover and 13 points/3 assists. Cory Joseph (8 points, 7 rebounds) was solid as the first PG off the bench and Marco Belinelli led the team in minutes and had a good all-around game.

In the end, every Spur scored, including Matt Bonner on a floater.

Odds and Ends

  • The Magic have some really decent pieces. With some consistency playing together and a decent coach, they could be a factor in the East in the coming years. You could do worse than a Tobias Harris-Nikola Vucevic-Elfrid Payton-Victor Oladipo core (combined age of 89).
  • The "Elfrid Payton cuts his hair" hoax for April Fool's Day was pretty epic.
  • The majority of this game can be summed up like this:

Numbers Game

18. Straight with double-digit lead.

19. Straight with double-digit scoring from Kawhi.

20. Straight with a Kawhi steal.

25. Day span in which Ginobili had only made one 3-pointer. He had 3 tonight.

Mr. 1000.5

The starters only played around a half of a game anyways, so the title still applies:

Mr. 1000

Dear Internet,

Back-to-back Rehashes!!!

It was Baynes' world tonight, we were all just living in it:

;(

:)

That's rough:

...