Last week had it all: a thriller in Milwaukee where the Spurs showed off their chops in the clutch, a workmanlike road victory at Minnesota, a disappointing (but somewhat predictable) loss to the Chicago Bulls on national TV, and finally, what we’ve all been waiting for: a home smack-down of the far inferior Brooklyn Nets.
At this point, it’s pretty much a consensus that the Spurs are a top 4 team, yet they still seem to be in search of an identity. (But hey! They’ve returned to being a top 10 defensive team!) Patty Mills and Manu Ginobili have indicated that they are done horsing around and ready to start taking things more seriously. A good start would be continuing to do what they did to the Nets in this week’s three games, two of which are at home, and only one against a team with playoff aspirations (Boston).
John Schuhmann, NBA.com - 3 (last week: 2)
Thursday's loss in Chicago wasn't only the Spurs' first defeat on the road (after a 13-0 start). It also ended an 11-game winning streak in games that were within five points in the last five minutes (though they never led). Their defense still isn't nearly at the level it was last season, but has allowed less than a point per possession over the last seven games to get back into the top 10 on that end of the floor. Tony Parker has been in and out of the lineup, but Patty Mills has remained a reserve and has averaged 15.7 points on 50 percent shooting over the last three games.
David Aldridge, NBA.com - 2 (last week: 2)
Pop lays into his guys again after a poor performance on the road in a loss to Chicago. That’s the third time he’s called them out publicly already this season. That’s not normal. But they’ve deserved it.
Marc Stein, ESPN - 3 (last week: 3)
Tim Duncan's historic No. 21 will be retired in a postgame ceremony Sunday, so a teary week for your trusty Committee awaits. We do have a surprise planned to commemorate the occasion, mind you, but that's as much as we can say about it for now. Stay tuned. In Kawhi Leonard news, meanwhile, Duncan's heir apparent -- both in terms of importance to the franchise and his devotion to spotlight avoidance -- is up to seven 30-point games this season after San Antonio smoked poor Brooklyn on Saturday night. Kawhi had only four such games coming into this season ... all of them coming last season.
Jeremy Woo, Sports Illustrated - 4 (last week: 3)
Tim Duncan retirement update: he got a massive back tattoo. Spurs update: Pop is mad about their effort, but they’re mostly fine.
Matt Moore, CBS Sports - 4 (last week: 2)
We'll have more on this later this week, but the Spurs' defensive stats are all kinds of screwy right now. They're winning because their offense is brilliant, particularly Kawhi Leonard individually.
Kurt Helin, NBC Sports - 3 (last week: 2)
After a slow start to the season on the defensive end, the Spurs have started to look like the Spurs on that and and now have a top-10 defense, although the numbers are odd — for example, they still struggle some with a pick-and-roll ball handler who can score. It helps to have Kawhi Leonard on that end… and on offense. The Spurs won 3-of-4 on the road and 5-of-6 overall recently, with a soft schedule this week.