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Almost There

By Jeff Koch on April 11, 2011.

Utah 102, San Antonio 111  //  61-19  //  1st in the West

As advised here, the Spurs continued to play the starters in lean minutes while giving the bench plenty of run against the Jazz. Also, as predicted here, this resulted in a victory. The highlight of the game was the play of Richard Jefferson and Tiago Splitter. It’s nice to see RJ engaged and aggressive. I never really look at or care about his numbers (other than maybe his 3-pt shooting); for me, RJ’s value to the team is all in his activity. He is still a tremendous athlete, which means he can still provide plenty on both ends of the court. What seems to happen too often is that he becomes mentally disengaged and passive, going long stretches of game without making any sort of meaningful impact. We don’t need him to be a leading scorer or a lock-down defender, but we do need his hustle and activity and energy, creating scoring opportunities in the open floor, and knocking down 3-pointers.

Copyright 2011 NBAE (Photos by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images)

Tiago continues to impress when given the minutes. He was a beast inside, drawing offensiv fouls, grabbing rebounds and scoring put back baskets. It’ll be interesting to see how playing time is divvied up come playoff time. Splitter seems to fit the playoff mold more than either Bonner or Blair with his size and defensive ability; but Bonner and Blair have been in the system all season long and might have more of Pop’s and the team’s trust.

Not much other on-court analysis left in the game or the regular season. Most of the drama and excitement now lies in decisions made off the court and results from other games. For the Spurs, the great question still remains: how hard do we play these last two games? With the Lakers recent skid, that question takes on new meaning, as the Lakers have a chance to fall from 2nd all the way to 4th in the West if they continue to lose (meaning, if we beat them). Obviously, we want the Lakers to stay in the 2nd or 3rd seed. With Dallas winning tonight against Houston, they now move 1/2 game ahead of the Lakers. If OKC wins tonight, they will be just 1/2 game behind.

Too many scenarios at play here to dive into too fully, but if we beat the Lakers tomorrow, the Mavs have the inside track to the 2 seed, which is not a bad thing, as long as the Lakers remain at 3. However, if the Thunder win out, they could still surpass the Lakers, pushing LA all the way back to the 4 seed…where we obviously don’t wan them.

If the Lakers beat us Tuesday, they remain tied with Dallas with one game to go and holding the tiebreaker over them. Which begs the question: do we want the Lakers to win Tuesday night?

Ultimately, I think the best decision is to not worry about such things and just worry about your team. My thinking has always been that, for other reasons, if we did want to give a night off to anybody, Tuesday’s game is the game to do it. Whatever happens will happen.

In lower seeding news, the Jazz did us a favor tonight by beating the Hornets, putting New Orleans in sole possession of 8th place, right where we want them. If the Grizzlies can win out (or if the Hornets lose on Wednesday), they Hornets will stay in 8th and be our first round date. The catch in all of this: the Hornets play the Mavs on Wednesday! Setting up a situation in which we might want both teams to lose! Again, too many permutations to run through all of them. In Tuesday’s recap as things become a touch clearer, I’ll try to address all of the possibilities and what the Spurs and Spurs’ fans want to happen on Wednesday.

And I haven’t even started talking about the Bulls and the overall #1 seed. Oi vey.

That’s why it’s best to just worry about your team and how they are playing. Let me needlessly play out all of the permutations and analyze every possibility and fret over who needs to beat whom so that the seedings fall exactly as we want them. I have trouble sleeping anyways, but I can hopefully save some of yours.

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