Rodeo Road Trip life got off to a nice start for San Antonio with an 18 point win over the Heat, though their team defensive effort was lacking a bit. Next up was Orlando, and Kawhi Leonard saved the Spurs from a sub-standard night with a game-winning dagger at the 0.9 second mark. Then he was gone.
Leonard has yet to play again due to a calf injury, and the Men in Black have looked all the worse for it. He is, without doubt, the most essential member of this team, and that's saying something. In his absence, the Spurs were dismantled by the hated Clippers and followed that embarrassment up with poor performances, albeit wins, against the Lakers and Suns, the two worst teams in the West.
Indeed, it was a bit of a forgettable week for Spurs fans. But we've all heard these Rodeo Blues before, and if the team can pull off wins in Sacramento, Salt Lake City, and Houston and finish the trip 7-1, this melancholy tune will morph into a surging power anthem of victory once again.
Meanwhile, the NBA at large has completed a busy week. Damian Lillard ate the Warriors for dinner with a 51 point performance and a 32 point win. Anthony Davis made history with a 59 point, 20 rebound showing against Detroit. Cleveland beat down another great team with a 23 point drubbing of OKC, without the services of Kyrie Irving, Iman Shumpert, Mo Williams, or the newly acquired Channing Frye. They're for real, and they're letting everyone know it. And the gents proposing the power rankings below are taking notice...
Marc Stein, ESPN (Spurs rank: 2, Last week's rank: 2)
With stops looming in Sacramento, Utah and Houston, San Antonio is 4-1 on its annual Rodeo Road Trip despite a fresh calf issue for Kawhi Leonard. The Spurs, like Golden State, are still alive in the hunt to become the first team to go an entire season without losing at least two games in a row. The previous best is Boston's 74 games in 1984-85 without a losing streak of any kind.
USA Today (Spurs rank: 2, Last week's rank: 2)
Kobe Bryant may have gotten 25 in his last meeting vs. the Spurs, but San Antonio improved to 11-0 in the second game of back-to-backs.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com (Spurs rank: 2, Last week's rank: 2)
Tim Duncan is back, but Kawhi Leonard (tightness in his left calf) is out. The Spurs are 4-1 without the reigning Kia Defensive Player of the Year, but the four wins are against the Sixers (x 2), Lakers and Suns, and three of the four have been by single digits. They rank 24th defensively since the All-Star break and could use Leonard as they finish the rodeo trip against Gordon Hayward and James Harden.
David Aldridge, NBA.com (Spurs rank: 3, Last week's rank: 2)
Now 4-1 on Rodeo Trip with games remaining at Sacramento, Utah and Houston.
Matt Moore, (CBS Sports) Spurs rank: 3, Last week's rank: 3)
The Spurs give up 92.7 points per 100 possessions with Tim Duncan on the floor, and watching, you can see why. He's maybe the most impactful 39-year-old in NBA history.
Jeremy Woo, Sports Illustrated (Spurs rank: 3, Last week's rank: 2)
Kawhi Leonard may or may not actually have a calf injury, but as the Spurs finish out a run of eight games on the road, it’s not the worst time for some well-earned rest. On the other hand… they just surrendered 113 and 111 points to the Lakers and Suns.