Late January is about the time when the San Antonio Spurs lit a fire in their level of play last season. And it seems as if they are starting to heat up as we speak.
In the 2006-2007 NBA Season, the Spurs went 25-7 from January 19th through the end up March before cruising into the playoffs with a #3 seed.
San Antonio typically has these spurts in the latter half of the season. Coach Greg Popovich and the San Antonio always seem to go thru some time of lull in the season. And in their last 2 championship winning seasons, 2005 and 2007, they had a stretch of games where they went 12-10 and 15-11, respectively. That may not seem like a big deal, but to play such mediocre ball for over 25% of the season, and go on to win the championship is quite astounding. Think of it like this, should they have won games at that rate for the entire season; you’re talking about a 44-37 season in 2005, and a 47-34 in 2007. Both of those are not records that you would ever expect a championship contending team to have at season’s end, and yet the Spurs got away with playing that brand of basketball for more than 25% of the season in each case.
This season, they have also had a lull in their play. They went 8-10 in a stretch of 18 games from early December to mid-January. That is sub-.500 basketball for the reigning champions for just under 25% of the season. While the Spurs have had many injuries, they also have lost a good portion of their games with all three of their stars in the lineup. This raises the question as to whether or not attrition and age has taken its toll on a group of players who have averaged more than 100 games per season over the last 7 years. Not to mention that their stars, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, have been players for their respective national basketball teams for multiple summers over the last few years.
However, a decisive victory of the Los Angeles Lakers on January 23, 2008 may have been the start of another big run, just like the one they had in 2007. The Spurs schedule over the rest of January and February has a combined winning percentage right around .500 and includes games against the likes of the Miami Heat, Seattle Sonics, Indiana Pacers, New York Knicks, Charlotte Bobcats, Minnesota Timberwolves and Atlanta Hawks. Facing those teams for 7 out of their next 16 could be just the boost they need to get back in the hunt for the top seed in the West. Who knows, by the start of March, I may be writing an article on how the Spurs have pulled off another run to boost their championship hopes.