Five Reasons the San Antonio Spurs Will Fold in the Conference Semifinals

Kent CalhounContributor IMarch 25, 2009

SAN ANTONIO - JANUARY 31:  Guard Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs talks with Chris Paul #3 of the New Orleans Hornets on January 31, 2009 at AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Most basketball fans know the Spurs are the NBA’s oldest team, but fans seldom consider the full repercussions of how advanced age affects a total team’s athletic performance.

1)  The Spurs play “soft, half-court basketball.”

Spurs do not exert a sustained consistent energy level of effort the entire game. The NBA schedule favored the Spurs against the LA Lakers in 2009, who had to play the Spurs twice on the second game of road back-to-backs. Lakers won one of two and 2009 series. 

During the March 12 game's second half, Kobe Bryant drove thru the entire Spurs team, turned in mid-air looking backwards in disbelief no Spur had come within two feet to touch him!

Kobe smiled at the Spurs while dropping the ball into the basket knowing they had ran out of gas.

Lakers took home court advantage in the Western Conference Finals with an easy seven point win. Spurs won’t be in the 2009 finals, not if they face New Orleans first.

During the Tim Duncan/Spurs era, the Spurs have adopted a game plan of not losing games opposed to trying to win each game. When the LA Lakers, Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers are on the court, it is unmistakable those teams are there to play hard-nosed basketball and are seriously determined to win each game.

2)  Manu Ginobli and Tim Duncan are constantly injured due to old age.

Their injuries are placing too much pressure on Tony Parker to carry the Spurs scoring load without consistent points from his teammates. Parker has been injured this year too.          

Ginobli is all heart with no brain. The “Argentine Comet” is at the end of his meteoric career because he does not play intelligently by getting himself injured. He is an accident-prone overly emotional player.

You don’t foul Dirk Nowitzki in the seventh game of a Western Conference Finals, when you have a three point lead with less than 20 seconds on the clock.

Ginobli couldn’t resist temptation. He fouled Dirk on a layup. Spurs lost their second overtime game during the 2006 Western Conference Semifinals to the Dallas Mavericks.

Ginobli’s “Bonehead Play of the Decade” cost the Spurs the 2005/06 NBA Championship against the Miami Heat. Spurs had dominated the Heat that year winning by an average of 10.5 points a game in two easy wins.   

3)  Spurs suffer Old Man’s Syndrome (OMS).

Spurs seldom win important overtime games because their legs are shot. This also explains why the Spurs often have droughts of not  scoring in four to eight minutes spans during the second half against stronger teams like the Hornets, Lakers or Magic after resting at halftime. In the 2003 Semifinals, Spurs lost a 16 points late second half lead at home due to OMS.  

The Spurs are a fading memory of a good, not great, team that won four championships over the last decade. The Spurs benefited by defeating weaker college-level Eastern Conference teams, and the megastar ego clashes between O’Neal and Bryant.

The Western Conference consistently had the NBA’s strongest 8 teams, but none were great teams before 2006.

(NBA officiating in Los Angeles was blatantly atrocious stealing at least one outright NBA Championship from Sacramento. Even Ralph Nader called for congress to investigate NBA game officiating in Los Angeles.)

4)  The Spurs miss critical game-winning foul shots.  

Second half fatigue results in missed foul shots, the easiest points in basketball.  Last week, the Spurs lost an 80-77 game to the Celtics after they choked 0 for 6 (Parker 0 of 4) at the charity stripe in the final two minutes. Purely fatigue.  

Tim Duncan is a great candidate for the “Hack-a-Shack”. Duncan often chokes critical fourth quarter foul shots and he has very weak hands. A pass into Duncan will immediately draw double teams late in games.  A slap at Tim’s hands produces a loose ball turnover or two less-than-70%-accurate foul shots.

5)  Popovich is an over-rated one-dimensional defensive coach.

Despite his impressive win/loss record, Spurs win only .500 against winning teams.  Pop’s coaching strength knows when to rest his players, but he no longer has that luxury since his starters are often injured or exhausted.  

Pop’s weaknesses are a failure to counter opposing offensive plans with effective player match ups (or altering his defensive game plan) and personality/player conflicts.

His shoddy treatment of Malik Rose, the Spurs last true power forward, was emotionally based poor decision-making that cost the Spurs key playoff games, and very likely an NBA Championship in 2004!

In 2004 the Spurs won the first two home games of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Lakers. Tony Parker scorched the Lakers averaging 25 points a game. Coach Jackson readjusted his defensive plan and Parker would not score 20 points again.

Pop could have readjusted Parker’s offence with picks, screen and rolls after Jackson jammed the lane shutting down Parker’s dribble penetration. Or Pop could have added Malik Rose to the lineup to counter Karl Malone's lane defensive presence.

Pop did nothing as Rose idly sat on a seat rudely ignored by his coach. After winning 17 games in a row, the Spurs were shocked losing four games in a row!

Popovich was clueless and could not counter Coach Jackson's new defensive scheme shutting Parker down. Pop showed arrogance and ignorance by not playing Rose, known for his instant energy.

Malik Rose, as center, led the Spurs single-handedly with 15 points and hard-nosed defense against Shaq in his prime, and Bryant Lakers tandem in a 117-120 OT loss. Parker and Duncan sat on the bench the entire game!

Despite his heroics, Pop did not let Rose play in the Lakers Conference semifinals! Why, after Rose had played so brilliantly against the Lakers that year? Only Pop knows.

When one Spurs starter is injured, an inconsistent bench means overall team performance plunges. The Spurs have lost their ability to compete at the NBA’s highest level except for brief periods: just one or two games per series.

Spurs barely have won seven of their last 14 games, including a one point win tonight over the lowly Golden State Warriors, a team that has not beat them at home in over a decade.

When the San Antonio Spurs lost last Sunday to the Houston Rockets, they had a losing record over their previous 13 games, with 13 games remaining.

Now with 12 games remaining, and seven on the road, the Spurs will likely end the season with 55 to 57 wins, yet with two possible losses to New Orleans going into the playoffs.

If the Spurs do not meet New Orleans in the playoffs, they might make the Conference Finals, but that seems very unlikely unless Ginobli plays smart (for the first time in his life) and Drew Gooden gets much more serious playing time. These two players hold the keys to the success for Spurs 2009 playoff efforts.


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