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And So It Shall Be

By Jeff Koch on April 17, 2013.

Minnesota 108, San Antonio 95
58-24 overall, 35-6 home

That was an exciting finish.

Not the Spurs game; the Spurs played about the least interesting game tonight, and certainly the least significant in regards to the Spurs’ playoff future. No, most Spurs fans were watching the scoreboard all night: Denver-Phoenix, Memphis-Utah, Clippers-Sacramento, Golden State-Portland, and, most exciting, Lakers-Houston. And by the end of the night, as the last seconds of the regular season ticked down, it came down to a simple equation: Rockets-Lakers, OT; winner gets San Antonio, loser gets the Thunder.

And it played out exactly as it should. The Lakers will play San Antonio, a battle of the old (and new) guard, the standard bearers of the Western Conference for the last decade plus. (And James Harden will get his revenge series.)

Oh, man. This is going to be one interesting series. Even if it is a 4-game series, it will be interesting. The usually media-averse Spurs have been stepping in it left and right for the last few weeks, so it’s doubly fitting that their first round opponent will be the ringleader of the media circus. Plenty of people are going to pick the Lakers to beat the Spurs.

And there’s plenty of reason to worry. Sunday night’s game is certainly Exhibit A. Even without Kobe, the Lakers sport a bunch of current and past All-Stars, and have a strong inside presence, a usual achilles for the Spurs. Suddenly, our greatest advantage (Tim Duncan) plays right into their strengths; and the place where they are weakest (PG defense) is where our biggest question mark currently resides.

Parker has been astoundingly mediocre since returning from injury. He’s had flashes (for about 5 minutes tonight), but has mostly been pedestrian. Without him, the offense falls apart. If he can’t completely dominate his match-up against Nash and Blake, we’ll be in trouble.

And the Spurs have bigger worries beyond that, having played no better than .500 ball for well over a month, falling steadily down the ranks on both the offensive and defensive ledgers, landing squarely in the “good but not great” range. This isn’t the team that started the year; this is a team struggling for rhythm, execution, and identity.

But color me optimistic. I think the Spurs will win 2 games handily in San Antonio, and win the series in 5 or 6 games. I think we’re a lot closer than we appear to being playoff ready, and I think most of the team has been in a mental and physical holding pattern until the start of the playoffs. I think we’ve barely seen our best players healthy all together, and I think we’ll have most everybody back in time. I think it will be an entertaining as hell series, but I think we’re winning.

As for the Wolves game, nothing of significance could possibly happen, since the game meant nothing. All that can be derived is a few nuggets:

–Ginobili had a cameo appearance, and looked pretty good. His shot was still off, but he looked spry, getting to the basket on a few occasions and playing better defense than we had seen over the last part of the regular season. Most importantly, he kept the ball moving, and showed that magical touch that only he can have. As up and down as his season has been, he really is the key to our second unit.

–Interestingly, Joseph got the majority of the back-up PG minutes, and De Colo didn’t show up until 4th quarter garbage time. Particularly if Manu is back, I think Joseph is the right choice for those few minutes a night to spell Parker. He is showing great confidence in his shot and in running the offense (in a very basic manner), and he is a surprisingly tough defender and rebounder. De Colo excels in certain other areas, but areas that Manu helps make redundant.

–Gary Neal continued to be good and aggressive on offense. I think he’ll only continue to blossom with Manu back, and his only responsibility will be scoring.

–Meanwhile, Green continues to struggle with shooting, which seems to have seeped into his defense. He’s playing very poorly right now, and it’s been going on long enough to start to be worrying. After a torrid stretch in February and March, it’d be horrible to see him slump now through the playoffs.

It looks like the playoffs start Sunday. Finally!

Go Spurs Go!!

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