Spurs Continue Win Streak Against Golden State: What's Next?
Following a home win over the Golden State Warriors, the San Antonio Spurs are putting the league on notice as a team to worry about in the Western Conference. As the hottest team in the league right now, they are on a 9-game winning streak and have won 11 in a row at home. It seems to be no coincidence that the winning streak began with the change from Davis Bertans to Jakob Poeltl in the starting lineup. In the 8 games played and started during the win streak (inactive against the Hawks), Poeltl has provided a defensive presence that has paid off for the Spurs’ team defense. Since the winning streak began, the Spurs rank second in the NBA in defensive efficiency, a vast improvement over 23rd in the league prior to the winning streak.
Something needs to be said about the longevity and greatness of Gregg Popovich. After losing promising young point guard Dejounte Murray to an ACL tear, the Spurs were largely written off as a contender in the West. Pop’s development of guards Derrick White and Bryn Forbes is nothing anyone could have imagined, especially alongside a relatively ball-dominant player in DeMar DeRozan. His constant midseason adjustments to get his team playing consistently and at its best by the end of the season shows how phenomenal he is as a leader.
Maintaining a 29-7 home record and a solidified playoff spot in a star-studded Western Conference with this somewhat limited roster should put Popovich in consideration for Coach of the Year. I have to include one of the most incredible statistics I have ever seen to show just how great Popovich was and continues to be: Since the 1997-98 season (Pop’s first full season as head coach in San Antonio), the Spurs have had a losing record for a total of 65 days, about 3 days per year. The next fewest? 1,007 by the Rockets.
With the eight playoff teams essentially locked up in the West (the Kings are six games behind the 8th place Clippers), the Spurs have 11 games remaining to maintain or improve their seeding. If the playoffs started today the Spurs would be the five seed, matched up with the Blazers in the first round, though teams seeded three and eight are within 3.5 games of each other, so the playoff picture is likely to shift on a nightly basis. The Spurs earned an important win over the Warriors on Monday night to gain the confidence they will need heading into the playoffs. As good as they’ve been as home, the Spurs know that any chance to make noise in the playoffs requires road success too; they’ll see playoff atmospheres with road games against the Celtics, Rockets and Nuggets before the regular season is over to prepare for the real thing.
*Stats accurate as of 3/19/19