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Old 02-16-07, 12:17 AM
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Spurs not in bad shape at the break

Spurs not in bad shape at the break

Johnny Ludden

With two victories in two nights having put a little bounce in their step, the Spurs scattered Thursday for the All-Star break. A few of them headed to Las Vegas, some left elsewhere for a quick vacation and others will spend the four days at home relaxing.
When they gather again at their practice facility Monday, the Spurs have reason to be optimistic about what lies ahead, but also more than 31/2 months of evidence telling them still have plenty of work to do. Yet even that might be the best thing they have going:

The Spurs continue to believe they're not a finished product.

While the Spurs split the eight games of their rodeo travels, they did show some signs of progress. Had they not surrendered an 18-point lead in Orlando last week, their trip likely would have been called a success, particularly for how it ended.

Wednesday's victory in Detroit ranked as one of the Spurs' most important of the past seven weeks given the level of competition. There were a handful of other factors that also pointed to them losing: They were at the end of a nine-day trip, playing for the second consecutive night and didn't arrive at their hotel until 3:30 a.m.

The Spurs instead shook off any fatigue and turned in one of their more complete games.

"We are taking all games seriously right now because we are not playing very well and we are just trying to get back into an upswing," Tim Duncan said. "We wanted to get this one going into the break, especially coming off some games in the last few that we thought we should have won."

While the Spurs appear to have little shot of catching Dallas, which has an nine-game lead in the Southwest Division, they haven't fallen out of the hunt for the Western Conference's No. 2 seed.

Steve Nash's recent absence from Phoenix's lineup has helped reduce the Suns' lead over the Spurs to five games.

The Spurs' schedule also eases a bit after the All-Star break. They have one game apiece against Dallas, Phoenix, Utah and Houston and have already finished their series with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Of the Spurs' remaining 29 games, 18 are at home — though given the team's play at the AT&T Center this season that might not be a positive.

Establishing a comfort level at home is just one objective the Spurs hope to accomplish during the season's final two months.

If they want to pick up any momentum before the playoffs, they have three things to accomplish.

Find some support for their stars.

Duncan is playing significantly better than he was a year ago, Manu Ginobili is having the best season, statistically, of his career, and Tony Parker was again voted to the All-Star team. Each also has remained remarkably healthy considering the lengthy list of other top players to go down with injuries.

But it's become evident the Spurs will have a difficult time surviving in the playoffs if they can't get consistent production from another source. And if coach Gregg Popovich sticks to his contention of not dealing any rotation member before Thursday's trade deadline, that help is going to have to come to from within the roster.

For now, that makes Francisco Elson the team's X-factor. Elson can sometimes be slow to react defensively, but Wednesday's 18-rebound, 12-point performance shows he has the athleticism and length to help considerably on both ends of the floor.

"We need effort on the boards like that," Duncan said after Elson's career-best performance. "We are lacking in that area and we need somebody to step up.."

Sustain their defense.

The Spurs rank second in the league in scoring defense and sixth in field-goal percentage defense, which shows improvement. But Popovich still is concerned about the team's lapses.

Last week in Orlando, the Spurs held an 18-point lead in the second quarter, but lost after the Magic shot 58 percent in the second half. Two days later the Heat shot 60 percent in the second half.

"This is probably the toughest period we've gone through in a lot of years as far as inconsistency, and mostly at the defensive end," Popovich said. "The defense is a bit mystifying because a lot of that has to do with being together for a while and being able to communicate and know the system. We have no excuse because we've been together and know the system."

Gain some confidence against the league's elite.

The Spurs are a combined 5-9 against the Mavericks, Suns, Jazz, Rockets and Lakers. In only one of those nine losses were the Spurs not within reach of victory with less than six minutes remaining.

That's evident of the Spurs' competitiveness, but it also shows the team's difficulty in finishing games. And it helps explain why the league's oldest roster has frequently heard questions about its collective age.

Beating the Pistons was a start for the Spurs, but little else.

"We know we can do it," Ginobili said. "We just have to go forward from this point."
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Old 02-16-07, 06:48 PM
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For starters, we have to stop losing games to teams like orlando.
Joey Crawford T's me off!!
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Old 02-17-07, 01:37 PM
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Originally Posted by DizzG View Post
lets see if the big win over Det can carry the momentum forward

after all star break is usually the Spurs time
I do believe that SPAM still applies.
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