Blowout losses to Golden State and Cleveland, the two teams most likely standing in between the Spurs and a sixth title, were an embarrassing pill to swallow for an organization and fanbase that had been riding high on a 13 game winning streak coming into last week. Yes, the defense looks night and day different from the rest of this season. Yes, Tim Duncan's extended absence could have something to do with that. And yes, we haven't even hit the All-Star break, and we all know Pop is in full tinkering mode. Still, those annihilations from supposed peers were hard to watch. And the media took notice.
It's bad enough that ESPN and USA Today ended up looking more right than anyone after being the only major media outlets to hold out on declaring the Spurs the number one team in the league at this stage. To make matters worse, CBS's Matt Moore and NBA.com's David Aldridge dropped San Antonio to 4th and 3rd in their Power Rankings, respectively. Overreaction? Maybe. I tend to think so. But I also thought Marc Stein had just been being obstinate.
All that said, like a great jockey, I believe Pop is holding his thoroughbred back until just the right moment. Then he'll let go and let his horse fly to a victorious finish. As long as some little California-bred upstart pony doesn't get in his way.
Marc Stein, ESPN (Spurs rank: 2, Last week's rank: 2)
The Spurs' first six losses came by a combined 33 points. So some panic is inevitable after the huge deficits they faced in both Golden State and Cleveland. We prefer not to overreact to one bad week, but there are some warning signs: Tim Duncan's knee is ailing, Kawhi Leonard's scoring has declined every month this season and San Antonio is now 4-6 on the road against .500-or-better teams.
USA Today (Spurs rank: 2, Last week's rank: 2)
Coming off a bad week will lead to adjustments galore
John Schuhmann, NBA.com (Spurs rank: 2, Last week's rank: 1)
The Spurs still have the league's best point differential and remain undefeated at home. But they've obviously been taken down a notch after losses at Golden State and Cleveland, the first two times this season that they've trailed by 20 or more points. A healthy Tim Duncan may not have changed either result, but it was made clear that his presence is missed on defense, where the Warriors and Cavs combined to shoot 53 percent.
David Aldridge, NBA.com (Spurs rank: 3, Last week's rank: 1)
Per the NBA, the Spurs' recent 13-game win streak was the 10th such streak in franchise history, tied for the most in league history with Boston. Just incredible.
Matt Moore, (CBS Sports) Spurs rank: 4, Last week's rank: 2)
Yeah, their performances against the Warriors and Cavaliers were stunningly bad. Then again, they ran as many zone defensive plays against the Cavaliers as they have all year, via Synergy Sports. So no, I don't think they threw the kitchen sink at Cleveland to win that game.
Jeremy Woo, Sports Illustrated (Spurs rank: 2, Last week's rank: 1)
Watching the Warriors tear a hole through the Spurs was pretty eye-opening. The Cavs had their way with them as well. But given all they’ve done, it’ll take at least one more down week to raise concerns. And though it’s not necessarily why they lost, they miss Tim Duncan.