San Antonio Spurs' 7 Most Anticipated Games Remaining in 2012
The Spurs entered the 2011-2012 season receiving criticism from analysts and others who questioned the veteran team's ability to keep up with the younger, more athletic squads.
It seems as though these comments are made every year, but every year the Spurs stun critics.
This year is no different. The Spurs have gotten off to a great start (16-9), and have silenced critics once again. Despite the injury to star player Manu Ginobili, San Antonio has impressed everyone as they lead the NBA's Southwest Division, as well as remain in the top tier of teams in the entire Western Conference.
With such a crazy season where anything can happen, upcoming games have fans even more excited than usual.
Here's a breakdown of the most anticipated games remaining in the Spurs' schedule.
February 29, vs. Chicago Bulls
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Starting February 6 against the Grizzlies, the Spurs embark on the Rodeo Road Trip, a nine-game long trip of away games in order to keep the team out of the AT&T Center, which will be hosting the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo.
After such a long stretch of away games, expect San Antonio's fans to be in a frenzy, hopefully propelling the team towards a victory.
The team will need all of the help it can get, as this is one of the tougher games the Spurs have on their schedule.
While they do have the 13th-ranked defense in terms of points allowed, the older team could have trouble keeping the all-star point guard Rose from dominating. The Bulls will have their fair share of trouble as well, with San Antonio ranking sixth in points per game.
A prime contributor in this game will be the rest factor. With the 66-game schedule, teams can be forced to play three games in three nights, something almost impossible to do.
San Antonio will receive a six-day break as they return home, while the Bulls will have played only the night before. Rest is key to veteran teams like the Spurs whose players' stamina and energy are not what they used to be.
The most important contributor to the anticipation will be the return of Argentinian guard, Manu Ginobili.
"He's shooting mid-range shots, lefty," Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich told media on Monday. "He'll be cleared to go one-on-one in a week or so."
This is huge news for the Spurs, who despite their successful outings, have clearly been negatively effected by Ginobili's injury.
He will most likely have returned by this time, and this could be his first home game. Expect San Antonio's fans to be going crazy as Ginobili makes his return.
March 9, vs. Los Angeles Clippers
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After the hype surrounding the addition of Chris Paul seemed to subside, Blake Griffin had fans going crazy after abusing Kendrick Perkins Monday night with what is already being called the dunk of the year.
"Lob City" continues to put on a show, and no matter where they play, fans will be exited to watch Blake Griffin perform inhuman dunks.
This will be the second meeting between the two Western teams. Their first meeting, early in the season, showed fans that not only can the Spurs keep up with younger players like Paul and Griffin, but that they can outshine them as well.
The first game ended in the Spurs' favor, as a dominant performance by Manu Ginobili helped lead the Spurs to their 25-point win.
The re-addition of Ginobili will be a huge factor in the outcome of this game, and if he can perform as well as he did prior to the injury, this game can go either way.
Both teams have strong offenses. The Clippers rank ahead of the Spurs in points per game, averaging 98.6, compared to the Spurs' 97.7.
What will decide the outcome of this game is the defense, where it appears the Spurs have the edge. They have only allowed 93.8 points per game, opposed to the Clippers' 97.8.
The game will certainly have the basketball world wondering whether or not San Antonio can pull it off again. It will be a hard fought match and both teams will have to shine on both ends of the floor with the hopes of bringing home a win.
March 16, vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
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It's always exciting when you take on the best team in your conference.
It's even more exciting when you've beaten them previously in the season.
In San Antonio's final game before the Rodeo Road Trip, they took on Kevin Durant and the Thunder at home, handing them an 11-point loss.
The Thunder have been dominating teams, but their fifth loss came Saturday night against the Spurs. Tony Parker's 42 points drove the veteran team past all-stars Durant and Russell Westbrook in the fast-paced game.
On March 16, the Spurs will take on the Thunder in Oklahoma City, a more difficult task than playing them at home.
Nonetheless, the Spurs proved they can easily stay with the top-seeded team once, so why not count on them doing it again?
Also, this time the Spurs will be playing with Ginobili, a huge contributor to the team.
The Thunder rank a solid third in points per game, and 10th in points allowed. Both teams will have to work hard on both sides of the floor if they desire to end out on top.
March 21, vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
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The game is not the only anticipated part of this evening.
Before the game, Bruce Bowen's number will be retired and find a place in Spurs history. The No. 12 will join James Silas’ No. 13, George Gervin’s No. 44, Johnny Moore’s No. 00, David Robinson’s No. 50, Sean Elliott’s No. 32 and Avery Johnson’s No. 6 in the rafters of the stadium.
While that adds to the anticipation, let's not forget the actual game.
The Spurs look to take revenge on Minnesota, who has beaten them by margins of 10 and eight. While the Wolves are currently .500, they have still proved to be a fierce competitor in the West.
This will be the last matchup between the two teams before the end of the regular season, and the Spurs have a lot to prove. No team likes losing, but after two losses to a team not over .500, the Spurs will be fired up and ready to play harder than ever.
It was in the teams' first meeting that Manu Ginobili injured himself, and with his presumed return, the Spurs have a decent shot at pulling off the win.
March 23, vs. Dallas Mavericks
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The Dallas/San Antonio rivalry has been arguably one of the NBA's biggest rivalries in recent years. The Spurs will take on the defending champions at home on March 23, six days after playing the Mavericks in Dallas.
This will be the teams' fourth matchup this season; the teams split the first two.
Early in the season, San Antonio defeated Dallas by 22 points, but that game was soon forgotten.
On January 29, the two squads met in Dallas in an incredible game. Dallas began with a huge lead, but after Coach Pop put in the reserves, the Spurs began to come back. With the scored tied and 0.5 seconds left on the clock, Danny Green hit a fading jumper to put the Spurs ahead.
After review, officials determined that the shot did not leave his hands in time, and the game was pushed into overtime, where the Mavericks won, 101-100.
Any game between the two Texas teams will be interesting, but after such a game, the rivalry will be pushed to a whole new level.
It will be interesting to see how Ginobili changes things, and how Popovich handles his player's playing time. In the last matchup, after a disappointing performance by the starters, the reserves (Danny Green, Matt Bonner, Tiago Splitter, Gary Neal and James Anderson) came in towards the end of the third quarter.
Those five players went on to play the rest of the game, with the exception of a short appearance by rookie Kawhi Leonard.
Now, in San Antonio, the fans will look to ignite the Spurs, and help them defeat the Mavericks after the crushing loss.
April 12, vs. Memphis Grizzlies
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The Grizzlies/Spurs rivalry is one of the newer ones in the NBA. Last year, the eighth-seeded Grizzlies upset the first-seeded Spurs in the first round of the playoffs.
Since then, Spurs/Grizzlies games have meant more than just a win. The Spurs look to get revenge, while the younger Memphis team looks to prove that they are still better.
The April matchup will be the teams' fourth and final meeting of the season. So far, two of the games have already been played. In the season opener, San Antonio finished on top with a 95-82 win, but both teams hit an enormous bump in the road, each squad losing a top player.
The next game was played without former all-stars Zach Randolph and Manu Ginobili. Once again, the Spurs powered their way to an 83-73 win.
The teams will match up once again on February 6 before the highly anticipated game at the AT&T Center in April.
The Grizzlies will look to seek out wins in the two games and split the season series with San Antonio.
For the Spurs, it will be another chance to bring down the team that knocked them out last year.
With the assumed return of both Ginobili and Randolph, the game will be another hard fought rematch of last year's playoffs.
April 20, vs. Los Angeles Lakers
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The Lakers/Spurs rivalry is one of the most perfect in all of sports. Here we have two talented, yet extremely different teams with strong histories.
In San Antonio, you have the complete opposite. Led by the Big Fundamental himself, Tim Duncan, the Spurs have never been focused on putting on a show. They are not fancy or flashy in any way. For years, Coach Pop has taught his team that the best way to win is through the basics.
On April 20, these two teams will match up for what will be an extremely entertaining night. Both teams know how to win—both franchises combine for nine of the past 13 championships.
This matchup will feature some of the greatest players to ever play this game in a meeting between two veteran teams. Two of the top shooting guards in the league will face off, as Pau Gasol and Duncan both pose as dangerous threats from down low.
The Spurs (16-9) and the Lakers (14-10) both remain strong competitors in the West and to each other. Expect this rivalry matchup to be as fierce as ever.