Don’t look now but the Spurs just won four games in a row – the last three against the alleged contenders of the Western Conference. Granted the Mavs were without Dirk, it’s still satisfying to watch S.A. smash thru the early conference favorites one after the other.
After beating the Lakers 97-82 last Tuesday, the Spurs went on to beat the Mavs in Dallas on Thursday 99-93. That was an interesting game since the Mavericks were without Dirk Nowitzki but the Mavericks still gave the Spurs all they could handle behind Caron Butler’s season-high 30 points and yet another triple-double from Jason Kidd. Unfortunately for the Mavericks, Tim Duncan had a bounce back game with 17 points and 11 rebounds, and Gary Neal came off the bench to bombard Dallas with 21 points of his own. I kind of had to laugh at the Mavs starting Brian Cardinal. Did they think he could pass for Nowitzki and draw double-teams or something? Anyway, the poor Mavs – who I actually am more worried about than the Lakers right now – suffered another setback when Caron Butler hurt is knee in their next game, a loss in Milwaukee. finally, the Spurs completely dismantled the Thunder 101-74 on Saturday night. They held Kevin Durant to 16 points and the Thunder to 33% shooting from the field. Only Serge Ibaka came to play with 14 points, 13 boards, four blocks, and a steal – although he shot only 5-of-13 from the floor himself. Tim Duncan led all scorers with 21 points while Tony Parker had 14 points and 10 dimes.
So there the Spurs sit atop the West – the league in fact – with a 29-4 record. Nearly halfway thru the season I have to say that I think they’re only contending with three teams this year: The Mavericks (25-8), the Celtics (25-7), and maybe Miami’s Dwyane Wade and Friends (26-9). Orlando has an outside shot with their revamped roster, and Lakers can’t be counted out just yet, but if I had to call it now then I’d say get ready for a Spurs-Celtics finals. I just don’t see anyone in the West with the depth or the championship pedigree of the Spurs. Dallas is deep but are not proven winners. The Lakers are winners, but their depth is non-existent – and WTF happened to Ron Artest? Can someone chuck a beer at this clown and get his blood pumping again? As for the East, the Celtics are the clear front-runner so long as they can remain healthy during the playoffs. It seems that they are getting their injuries out of the way early this season (Rondo, Pierce, Garnett, Shaq) so maybe that won’t be an issue. Miami is kind of a question mark. They are figuring out how to win, but can they do it in a 7-game series against a quality team? I say no. And they have to remain healthy too. Losing Haslem hurt them a lot and their interior defense was weak to begin with. Can LeBron and Wade win them four games in a series on their own? Probably not.
Next up to bat are the New York Knicks, who are actually one of my favorite teams. Yes, I grew up loving the Knicks – partially cuz I was a kid who was happy to sport some Ewing sneakers, I hated Michael Jordan and all of his zombie-like worshippers, and gravitated to the scrappiness of players like Xavier McDaniel, Charles Oakley, and John Starks. Chris Childs punching Kobe also helped. Having said all that, the Knicks stand no chance. The Spurs are just better in every way, and the Knicks will be without Danilo Gallinari who is expected to miss the next 2-3 weeks with a sprained knee. So with that, I expect the Spurs to notch their 5th win in row tomorrow night.