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The Wheels on the Bus Keep Falling Off, Falling Off, Falling Off

By Jeff Koch on April 13, 2013.

Sacramento 101, San Antonio 108
58-21 overall, 35-5 home

The game against the Kings last night was really an afterthought, a nice little dessert after a day of troubling main courses.

But let’s examine the game first, briefly. Tony Parker returned and played quite well, though he did seem a bit sloppy and out of sorts. As would be expected for a player regaining his rhythm. But from the start you could see how much better the team works with him on the court.

This was really a 12-18 point win masquerading as a 7-point win due to the fact that the Kings had a nice 6-minute stretch to start the second half, and were on fire from behind the 3 the entire game (and we were not). Even as the Kings hung around, it never felt like the outcome was in jeopardy because, frankly, they’re just not a very good team.

There are still plenty of concerns on the court as the Spurs head into the playoffs, but beating the Kings is a nice way to gain back a little confidence.

Off the court, however, things are a little wackier. Cutting Stephen Jackson with a week until the playoffs is so out of line with the way the Spurs operate. I was stunned. It’s also completely in line with the way the Spurs operate, choosing chemistry and “family” over another productive body. Word coming out of San Antonio is that Pop and Jack had been feuding over playing time and his role on the team in the playoffs. Jack is a great chemistry guy and adored by teammates, but if he is unhappy, he can unravel a team quickly. The Spurs are probably unravel-able, but it isn’t worth risking having that level of malcontentedness around. While I loved Jack’s toughness, especially in the playoffs, he was having a very mediocre season, shooting extremely poorly, and looked a bit like my 65-year old father running around on the court.
But he was also our only true back-up SF behind Leonard. So this stretches the rotation very thin. Kawhi will play upwards of 40 minutes a game, I imagine; but there isn’t even another body on the roster capable of playing SF. Danny Green is the closest thing we have, and he is much better as a 2. This will be interesting to monitor.

Also interesting to monitor: the big man rotation. We also found out yesterday that Boris Diaw is expected to miss 3-4 weeks after having a cyst removed from his back. That puts us most likely into the 2nd or 3rd round of the playoffs. Diaw had settled in nicely as the 3rd big man in a mostly 3-man rotation. He was also our 2nd best playmaker off the bench (Manu being first), and helped to keep the team going on the 2nd unit. This really throws things out of whack. Bonner and Blair will now get playing time, and both are capable and system-knowledgable. But they are not playmakers, and, without Manu, we don’t really have anybody who can make things happen for other people in the second unit. De Colo is the hope, but we haven’t seen enough from him yet to trust long stretches of playoff games to him.

And this is why you don’t get rid of players who fit and know the system at the deadline for nothing. Both Bonner and Blair have fallen out of favor this season, but both will be very important for playoff games in resting Splitter and Duncan and being productive.

With last night’s win, we also settle into the top 2 in the West (and with OKC’s win, are more or less locked into the 2-seed). Our most likely first round opponent is either Golden State or Houston. Golden State is currently a half-game ahead of Houston, but Houston owns any tiebreaker with them. Houston has 3 games left, all winnable; Golden State has 2 games left. One against us. So if we beat them on Monday night, we will go a long way to making sure they are our opponents in the first round.

Their season finale is against Portland on Wednesday. Assuming they go 1-1, they would finish 46-36. Houston’s remaining schedule is: Sacramento, Phoenix, Lakers. If they go 2-1 (very doable), they also finish 46-36, and would get the 6-seed. If Houston wins out, regardless of Golden State’s finish, they get the 6-seed.

The other interesting race to watch is the 3-4-5 seed in the West. Lots of variables, but it will determine who our potential second-round opponent will be.

It should be an exciting final stretch of basketball.

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