What did we learn about the NBA this holiday season?
We learned that, at its core, Golden State is a one man show, for when you take that man away, the Warriors become a very mediocre NBA team, getting blown out by Dallas and barely escaping Denver with an overtime win. As long as Curry's healthy, they're indomitable, but it's interesting to see how different they are underneath the hood from the Spurs.
Speaking of the Spurs, they redeemed their Christmas Day abomination by destroying those very same Rockets in style, capping a delightfully memorable week in which Manu made the assist of the year and the team itself went 3-0.
We also learned that Phoenix is done. As in, turn off the lights and lock up, because they didn't look good WITH Eric Bledsoe, and they dubiously rival the Sixers and Lakers without him.
Chicago opened our eyes with an unforgettable 40-point second half performance from Jimmy Butler in a wire-to-wire win against Toronto, breaking His Airness' Bulls record for points scored in a half, which had stood at 39. The Bulls now stand second in the East, which as a whole looks much more legitimate and scary than it has in recent memory. The Cavs may prove invincible, but there's a host of Eastern contenders who would like to take a crack at disproving that theory.
Golden State has had their Curry-less struggles, OKC is typically beginning to deal with the annual breakdowns of their stars (Durant out with a toe injury), and outside of a Clippers team who has been very hot and cold this season and a surprising Mavericks squad who keeps winning when they shouldn't, the West quite frankly looks pretty shabby. Memphis and Houston continue to underachieve, and nobody in the rest of the conference even resembles a playoff team.
Despite the upheaval, some things never change. And chief among those are the dear old basketballers from San Antone, who simply transcend trends. Always three steps ahead, the Spurs have retooled their roster brilliantly with a mixture of well-known and unknown names, all of whom are now working together night after night to create a new and magnificent chemistry...a beautiful game, if you will. Plus, the Spurs have Erier's Tea Time.
Marc Stein, from ESPN (Spurs rank: 2, Last week's rank: 2)
For all the focus on Tim Duncan's donut, or the fact Timmay has totaled just 70 points in the last 10 games he's played, don't lose sight of the big picture. The Spurs, while trying to be extra careful with Duncan's recent knee issues, just became the first Western Conference residents to start 20-0 at home since the Ralph Sampson-led Rockets in 1985-86.
USA Today (Spurs rank: 2, Last week's rank: 2)
Shutting out Tim Duncan doesn't stop them from winning.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com (Spurs rank: 1, Last week's rank: 2)
The Spurs have recovered well from their Christmas Day loss, winning their last four games by an average of 18 points. This stretch of 10 straight games against below-.500 teams (which runs through next Monday) has allowed them to kick the tires on Boban Marjanovic, who has quickly become a sensation. He shot 7-for-7 against Minnesota on Monday and grabbed 12 boards in 15 minutes against Phoenix on Wednesday.
Matt Moore, CBS Sports (Spurs rank: 2, Last week's rank: 2)
Kawhi Leonard is 80th percentile or better in spot-up, pick and roll (ball-handler), post-up, transition and isolation sets offensively, per Synergy Sports. He's also 92nd percentile on overall defense, and 89th percentile in isolation defense. There is, literally, nothing he does poorly at this point.
Jeremy Woo, Sports Illustrated (Spurs rank: 2, Last week's rank: 2)
It’s pretty hard to ignore the Spurs as they beat the pulp out of pretty much everyone. They’re off to their best start through 35 games in franchise history, they’re 20–0 at home, and are really more 1B than 2. My superlatives have run dry.
And now, Happy New Year!