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Derrick White, Gregg Popovich, Jakob Poeltl, Spurs

Editorials

We never should have doubted Gregg Popovich, Spurs

We never should have doubted Gregg Popovich, Spurs

The San Antonio Spurs notched a huge win on Monday night, topping the Golden State Warriors by a score of 111-105 for their ninth straight victory.

This recent streak comes on the heels of a miserable stretch where the Spurs went 1-7 on their famed Rodeo Road Trip, a time of the season where San Antonio generally comes together to prepare for a playoff run.

Obviously, the Spurs did things a little bit differently this time around, but hey; whatever works, right?

Regardless, San Antonio is getting red hot at the right time, and everything seems to be clicking. The Spurs are scoring, they are defending and they are executing very well late in games, a quality that was a hallmark of their remarkable run during the Tim Duncan years.

San Antonio is currently the fifth seed in the Western Conference and keeps climbing in the standings, now sitting just two losses behind the Portland Trail Blazers for fourth and three losses behind the Houston Rockets for third.

Could the Spurs somehow nab the third seed in the West after such an inauspicious start to the season?

If they do, it would definitely come as a surprise, as most of us felt that San Antonio would be a fringe playoff team at best heading into the 2018-19 campaign. But, at the same time, this is the Spurs we are talking about here, a franchise that has continued to defy odds for a decade running.

Now, to be clear, this is not the same San Antonio team from the Big Three years. That team was a legitimate title contender year in and year out, and while these Spurs are certainly good, they are not on that level.

That’s just a little disclaimer.

But how dare any of us to think that the Gregg Popovich-led Spurs would somehow finish out of the playoffs for the first time since 1997.

I’ll admit it: I was worried about San Antonio’s postseason hopes myself going into the year, and the team’s 11-14 start did nothing to dissuade my doubts.

But then, the Spurs righted the ship, and before you knew it, they were smack dab in the middle of the playoff picture, and while they have certainly gone through some bumps along the way, here they are, with less than a month remaining in the season, getting ready for another playoff run.

No Kawhi Leonard? No Manu Ginobili? No Tony Parker? It hasn’t mattered. Popovich has merely adjusted, finding other players to fill those roles as best as they can and mixing and matching rotations until he found the perfect formula.

We know that LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan are the main weapons, but it’s guys like Bryn Forbes, Derrick White and Davis Bertans who have truly taken the Spurs to the next level, with seasoned veterans such as Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli—the last Spurs standing from the 2014 championship team—helping along the way. Let’s also not forget Rudy Gay, who has really transformed his game to fit San Antonio’s needs.

Remember the days of Gay being an inefficient chucker? Those days are long gone, as he is shooting 51.1 percent from the floor, 42.1 percent from three-point range and 83.6 percent from the free-throw line this season.

Make no mistake about it: these Spurs are a dangerous opponent, as they don’t make many mistakes and will make you pay if you make those mistakes yourself.

They also have lethal outside shooting and two guys who can take over a game at moment’s notice in Aldridge and DeRozan.

Are they as stingy as they used to be defensively? No, but they can still lock in for stretches, and let’s face it: not many clubs can be as dominant defensively as the Duncan era Spurs.

In a declining Western Conference, this is a San Antonio squad that actually has an outside shot of making the conference finals if everything falls into place.

Of course, the Spurs will need to avoid the Warriors in the second round, so it would strongly behoove them to land the 3-seed, but if they are able to do that, they can make some noise.

Are the Denver Nuggets and the Rockets really that much better than the Spurs? San Antonio can top either of those two teams in a potential second-round playoff series, and if it ends up facing the Oklahoma City Thunder at some point, the Spurs can give them a run for their money, too, especially considering how poorly the Thunder have been playing of late.

The Spurs aren’t beating the Warriors in a seven-game series, but they may very well end up seeing them in the Western Conference Finals if the chips fall that way.

And that would be a heck of an accomplishment given where San Antonio started this season.