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San Antonio Spurs, MLK Jr. Day and the Hottest Teams at the NBA's Halfway Mark

Lake CruiseAnalyst IJanuary 17, 2011

San Antonio Spurs, MLK Jr. Day and the Hottest Teams at the NBA's Halfway Mark

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Could the Spurs this year win the franchise's fifth NBA championship?  Most experts believe the Lakers— for the third time—will three-peat.  In the friendly confines of this column—Reasoning on the Riverwalk—I'll reveal how I feel about this revolting situation.

    Sporting a record of  35-6 at the halfway mark—the Spurs are one of the NBA's elite after the first 41 games.  Who predicted the Spurs to be on pace for 70 wins? Not I.  If anyone did, please stand up. 

    The Spurs have been a stand up team so far.  Can they keep it up?  Join me as I compare my preseason predictions to the midseason results.  Go Spurs—go!

Atlanta Hawks: Could Their Fans Shoot a Better Percentage From Deep?

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The ATL has three topnotch guards—Mike Bibby, Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford.  Their frontcourt is solid, but their backcourt depth is lacking. 

    The Hawks had lost 12 games in a row in San Antonio coming into this season.  Their next meeting with the Spurs is in April in the ATL.  

    Prediction: The Spurs will win the series, 2-0.

    Result: The Spurs cruised on Dec. 10 at the Alamodome and made it 13 straight over the Hawks at home.  Johnson was inactive.

Boston Celtics: Will the Leprechauns Luck Out Over the Spurs This Season?

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Boston admits their window is closing, and they expect to challenge for a championship.  They sound just like the Spurs, don't they?

    Three-point shooting could be the Celtics’ Achilles.  Besides Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, the Leprechauns have Nate Robinson. 

    Doc Rivers coaches a bigger, nastier and deeper frontcourt.  They seem to have a physical toughness advantage over the Spurs. 

    Rajon Rondo has become one of the best guards in the NBA.  The Spurs allow their guards, though, to play a faster game than their opposition.

    Prediction: The Celtics will win both games.

    Result: Boston won the first one.  The Spurs will try to return the favor on March 31.   

Charlotte Bobcats: Are the Playoffs Within Paw's Reach?

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    Brian A. Westerholt/Getty Images

    Port Arthur, Texas native Stephen Jackson was the Spurs third leading scorer in the 2003 playoffs.  For being solid for San Antonio, he won an NBA championship ring. 

    Coming in it seemed like the Bobcats had ringing holes in the backcourt on their frontcourt-stacked roster.  Backcourt reserves Shaun Livingston and rookie Sherron Collins were risky business, and that's how the 2010-11 season has played out so far for Charlotte.

    Larry Brown's teams, though, usually play the Spurs especially tough.  See the first game.

    Prediction: Charlotte will split the series with the Spurs. 

    Results: M.J. is a sharp dresser, but his team needs more sharpshooters.  San Antonio won 95-91 in Charlotte in November.  They play again on March 19.

Chicago Bulls: Will a Raging Derrick Rose Keep Goring NBA Guards?

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    A question I had coming in was how much fear would Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah strike in opposing NBA frontcourts?  Turned out to be a lot.  

    Noah is one of the top rebounders in the NBA and Boozer is a Bruiser even when Noah is inactive.  Those types of players and teams give the Spurs starters problems.

    It is easier, however, to game plan to stop one rebounder and a lack of reserves.

    From the reserves perspective, the Spurs matchup well.   Rose will continue to gore guards, but the Spurs have a pretty good set of guards to throw at Chicago's star. 

    Prediction: The teams will split the series.

    Result: The Spurs won on Nov. 17 in San Antonio.  They play again in February.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Could They Fall From First, Finish Worst?

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The Cavs this season could end up under .500 by more games than Monopoly.  Some Cleveland fans are still burning to have LeBron back in the neighborhood.

    Also gone but not forgotten are Zydrunas Ilgauskus, Delonte West, Mike Brown and Danny Ferry.  To quote Moses Malone from the old school: "The ship be sinking."

    Prediction: The Spurs will sink the Cavs, 2-0. 

    Results: The good ship Cavalier be sinking.

Dallas Mavericks: Will Mark Cuban Go River Walking In San Antonio?

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    Jason Merritt/Getty Images

    The eccentric owner had issues with the cleanliness is next to impossible concept of the San Antonio River Authority.  I'm paraphrasing him.

    He thought he had the team to clean up in the Alamo City.  Injuries decimated his team, however, and the Spurs mopped them up in their last meeting. 

    Prediction: The Mavs will win the regular series, 3-1.  Cuban will not go river walking.

    Result: The Mavs walked the Spurs in San Antonio in the first game.  The Spurs won the next two—the latest being on January 14.  Nowitzky was inactive for both Spurs wins.

Denver Nuggets: Can George Karl Write a Happy Ending for Carmelo Anthony?

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    Alexandra Wyman/Getty Images

    Who knows what will happen if Carmelo is traded.  The drama could continue for the next five weeks until the trading deadline. 

    Depending on what they get in return for a trade, Denver could still scare the Western Conference this season. 

    Prediction:The Nuggets will split the season series with the Spurs.

    Result: The Spurs won the first three matchups.  The season series finale is on March 23 in Denver. 

Detroit Pistons: Will Joe Dumars' Seat Suddenly Get Hot By This Year's End?

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Rip Hamilton, Ben Wallace, and Tayshaun Prince are all remnants of the NBA Finals team that lost to the Spurs. 

    Charlie Villanueva, Chris Wilcox, Jason Maxiell and rookie Greg Monroe could grow into a solid frontcourt but not this season.  Or at least it hasn't happened so far. 

    I don't see them competing in the Eastern Conference. 

    Prediction: This series will be game, set and advantage Spurs, 2-0.

    Result: They play on February 8 in Detroit and March 9 in San Antonio, Texas.

Golden State Warriors: Will Their Gladiator Guards Make Them Contenders?

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    They played the Spurs in November and December.  Their next meeting is on January 24, and the series finale is in March. 

    Even with new head coach, Keith Smart, the Warriors march to the tune of the injury bug.

    When they're healthy, the strength of this team is their offense—the backcourt.  Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry started the season playing like the backcourt duo to beat. 

    Warriors get hurt in battles and seasons begin to wane.  Golden State will need something out of Wayne Manor to make the playoffs—yet again.

    Prediction: The Spurs will win the series, 3-1.

    Results: The Spurs are up, 2-0. 

     

Houston Rockets: Is There a Problem In H-Town This Season?

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    Kevin Martin is now a Rocket man.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Yao Ming is a mystery.  Luis Scola and Kevin Martin can solve it.  Diminutive rocket Aaron Brooks may be an All-Star this season.  

    He'll try to lead his team to a win over the Spurs on January 29.  After that, the teams will play in March and again in April.

    Coach Rich Adelman's teams usually play hard and this Rockets squad is no exception.  This is usually a tough game for the Spurs. 

    Prediction: If Yao Ming remains healthy, Houston will not have a problem winning the series, 3-1.

    Result: Without Ming, the Rockets are hovering around five games under .500.  The Spurs won the first game 124-121 on Nov. 6. 

Indiana Pacers: Could Roy Hibbert Elevate Them Over Their Competition?

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    Roy Hibbert (l) and Brooke Lopez (r)Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Going into the season, the Pacers had two huge question marks.  How will Mike Dunleavy II bounce back from his severe surgery?  

    He's averaging 11 points per game—close to his career average (12).  Roy Hibbert's game has improved, but the Pacers lost Troy Murphy to New Jersey and it hurt them.

    Danny Granger is Team USA-caliber, but the rest of the Pacers are playing like team AAU.

    Prediction: The Spurs will win the series, 2-0.

    Result: The Spurs opened the season with a win over the Pacers and took the broom to Indiana. 

Los Angeles Clippers: Will the Paper Clips Hold Things Together?

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    Eric Gordon goes for the deuce.Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Eric Gordon deserves a better team.  My pick for NBA Rookie of the Year, Blake Griffin, does, too.  The world deserves a better team owner than the Paper Clips.  

    Prediction: The Spurs will scatter their papers and sweep the series from the Clippers.

    Result: The Clips shocked the Spurs 90-85 on Dec. 1, 2010, but the Spurs handled the rest of the games easily and won the series, 3-1.

Mighty Los Angeles Lakers: Could Ron Artest Win Another Ring?

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    The defending champions added Steve Blake, and he won the first game—on ring ceremony night—with the go-ahead three-pointer with 18.8 seconds left.  L.A. rallied for a 112-110 victory over Yao, Scola, Martin, Brooks and the Rockets.

    The Lakers started the season hot and cold—first in scoring, three-point field goal percentage and turnovers.  They already have double digits in losses, but the NBA world isn't overly concerned. 

    Prediction: The mighty Lakers could meet the Spurs in the first round of the NBA playoffs and sweep them on their way to another three-peat.

    Result: The Spurs have the best record in the NBA, and they'll have home court advantage in the first round if they keep it up.  Cleveland had the best record last year.

Memphis Grizzlies: Will the Beale Street Ballers Stand Up?

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Rudy Gay is certainly solid.  O.J. Mayo is a good scorer, and he will benefit from Mike Conley and Greivis Vasquez—some day. 

    Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol are a solid a post combination—on paper.  Tony Allen could be an asset to Memphis' toughness. 

    They played the Spurs in December and the Spurs won 112-106 in San Antonio.  They meet again in February and twice in March.

    Prediction: The Spurs will win the season series, 3-1.

    Result: Everything is going as prognosticated.

Miami Heat: Could the Super Friends Powers Really Activate?

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    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    The super friends arrive in early March, and the Spurs go to South Beach two weeks later. 

    Chris Bosh matches up well with Duncan, and LeBron James can do it all—including guard some centers. 

    On offense, Dwyane Wade is every bit as talented as LeBron, except he is an NBA champion. 

    Their bench has been solid, and even though they had a rough start; they're close to being the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. 

    Maybe LeBron was right about the "not one, not two, not three, not four ..."

    Prediction: The Heat will catch fire and take the series, 2-0.

    Results: The teams haven't played yet.

Milwaukee Bucks: Why Should the Spurs Fear the Big, Bad Deer?

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    Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

    The Deer usually scrape and sharpen their antlers against the Spurs.  The matchups are close in just about every position.

    This season, however, the Spurs have no reason to fear.  The Bucks got tough draws when it comes to injuries.  Brandon Jennings and Michael Redd—a potentially solid backcourt—were both out in the last game the teams played.  

    Prediction: Have no fear, the Spurs and the Deer will battle to a draw in the series.

    Result: The Spurs beat them at home on Dec. 15 before heading to Denver to beat the Nuggets. On January 12 in Milwaukee, the Spurs swept the series.

Minnesota Timberwolves: They Should Dress Warm This Season

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    The two teams faced one another starting Dec. 3 in San Antonio.  They met in consecutive games in January, and the Spurs were done with them on Jan. 11 in Minnesota.

    That was the five technicals game when referee Ken Mauer went off.  Beasley hobbled off with another tweaking of his injured ankle.

    Commentators saw the footage of him limping to the locker room with a Wolves staffer and began to compare his ankle to Grant Hill's back in the day.  I'm not sure if it's a fair comparison, but it got my attention.

    The Spurs got the Wolves radar up, and they battled hard in the first three losses, but game four was a sham.

    If the NBA was the English Premier League, then the Wolves could be demoted to the minors.

    Prediction: The Spurs will win the series, 4-0.

    Result: You know what it is.

New Jersey Nets: Will the Russian's Red Army Invade San Antonio?

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    Nets owner Mikhail ProkhorovMike Stobe/Getty Images

    It is what it is.  If I know head coach Avery Johnson, and I do, then he circled both games against the Spurs on the calendar—is what it is. 

    The teams meet twice in February within two weeks time; the first game is on Valentine’s Day in New Jersey.  A.J. could break his former love's hearts.

    With assistant coach and former NBA Coach of the Year Sam Mitchell’s aid, New Jersey is getting more love in the wins department than last year.

    Prediction: The Spurs will split the season series. 

    Result: The teams have yet to play this year.

New Orleans Hornets: How Much Sting Can Monty Williams Bring?

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    Monty Williams (l) and Peja StojakovicChris Graythen/Getty Images

    It appears that coach Williams' sting is mightier than most experts thought.

    The Hornets started as one of the hottest teams in the league, including a victory over the Spurs in the Alamo City.  The Spurs bounced back against them in New Orleans and at the AT&T Center. 

    They play the Hornets for the final time in the regular season on Jan. 22 in the tail end of back-to-backs.  New Orleans plays the Spurs tough, but the Hornets miss Tyson Chandler's ear-splitting alley-oops ability.

    Prediction: The Spurs will split the four games set.  

    Result: San Antonio is up, 2-1. 

New York Knicks: Will Stoudamire Star In Animal House Madison Square Garden?

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    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    Spurs playoffs assassin Amare Stoudamire is having an MVP type year—his first in Madison Square Garden.  With him, under Broadway's bright lights, the Knicks are vastly improved on offense. 

    Stoudamire also gives them defense, blocks, swagger and toughness—enough to thoroughly compete with the Spurs.  With a medium range jumper and driving the lane now consistently in his arsenal, he's dismissed rumors that he needed Steve Nash.   

    Maybe it was Nash who Needed Amare.  San Antonio and others could've signed him last year.  

    Prediction: Defense will win both games this year, and San Antonio will win the series, 2-0.

    Result: The Spurs lost to the Knicks in New York on January 4, but they play again on Friday at the Alamodome.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Will They Roll Like Lightning Over San Antonio?

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    Scott BrooksJamie Squire/Getty Images

    Defending NBA Coach of the Year Scott Brooks has an improved roster, but is it good enough to challenge the Lakers?  We'll see.

    They caught the Spurs in a vulnerable second game of a Saturday-Sunday weekend; Philly came to town, then the Spurs went to Oklahoma City on Nov. 14.

    They played again on New Year's Day.  Their last meeting of the season comes on February 23, 2011 in San Antonio.

    Prediction: OKC will win the series by the slimmest of margins, 2-1.

    Result: The Spurs won the first two and look for the sweep.

Orlando Magic: Is Dwight Howard the NBA's Best Center?

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Magic players suspect they will compete for an NBA championship, and they could be right.  Dwight Howard is possibly the best center in the world.  

    Orlando had perhaps the deepest front court in basketball: Dwight Howard, Marcin Gortat, Ryan Anderson, Brandon Bass, Daniel Orton, and Rashard Lewis.

    Along with Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, Earl Clark and Hedo Turkoglu, they still went on a roll-—playing their best basketball of the season after the big trade on Dec. 17-18.   

    Gortat, Lewis and Carter were traded away along with Mickael Pietrus, but the Magic are still an elite Eastern Conference squad. 

    Prediction: The Magic, if they defend, will sweep the Spurs, 2-0.

    Result: The Spurs beat them in San Antonio in November and in the second game of a back-to-back on Dec. 23.  The new Magic snapped the Spurs' 10-game winning streak 123-101 in Orlando and started their own nine-game winning streak after struggling.  San Antonio looked very much like a tired team after beating Denver a night earlier.  

Phoenix Suns: Will They Set Over San Antonio In the 2010-11 Campaign?

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The Suns swept the Spurs in the playoffs last season, but that was when they had a certain guy named Stoudamire.  The Spurs guys won a squeaker in Phoenix when Richard Jefferson went off in the fourth game this season.  

    Jason Richardson also went off.  He's now with Orlando, and Vince Carter replaced him.  PHX also got Mickael Pietrus and Marcin Gortat.   

    The Spurs beat the Suns in December—three days after the trade.  Coach Gentry only used eight players in that game on Dec. 21.  

    Gortat and Brooks give the Suns a height advantage if used as twin towers.  Maybe that's what Phoenix was thinking while letting Amare go.

    Prediction: The Spurs will set on the Suns, 3-1.

    Result: The Spurs are up, 2-0.  It remains to be seen if the new Suns will set over San Antonio in 2011.  The next two installments come April—including the last game of the season

Philadelphia 76ers: Can They

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Head coach Doug Collins has a talented roster, but it may not be better than most teams.  Philly is missing shot-blocking and size.  

    Their backcourt is all right, but below championship competition level.

    Prediction: The Spurs split the season series, 1-1. 

    Result: San Antonio won the first game.  The next one goes down in Philadelphia in February.

Portland Trail Blazers: Will Roy Make Them Western Conference Winners?

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Nate McMillan’s teams usually show up ready to play.  They're suffering with injuries and a sudden retirement.  In the Western Conference, the Blazers prospects look slim right now.

    Greg Oden and Brandon Roy can seem to stay healthy.  LaMarcus Aldridge is a solid scorer, and Marcus Camby is solid on defense.  Too many injuries, though, for the Blazers this year. 

    Prediction: The Spurs will split the series with the Trail Blazers.

    Result: The Spurs are winning the series against almost everybody.

Sacramento Kings: Was Shaq Right In Calling Them Queens?

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The Kings are lottery candidates once again this season—no kidding. 

    On the bright side, Tyreke Evans won last year’s NBA Rookie of the Year.  Rookie center DeMarcus Cousin is capable of being a bruiser of the highest order.

    Prediction: Last place in the West for the Kings is a possibility.  The Spurs will win the series, 3-0.

    Result: The Spurs have only lost six games.  Sac-Town isn't one of them.

Toronto Raptors: Wrapping Their Hands Around Last Place?

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    David Stern (l) and Ed Davis (r)Al Bello/Getty Images

    Losing Chris Bosh to the Miami Heat obviously hurt them.  Bosh's heir apparent, rookie Ed Davis, has promising talent.  December 1, 2010, Davis made his debut in the NBA with 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks.  He'd missed the first month following surgery. 

    Andrea Bargnani has been lukewarm, Linas Kleiza made the all FIBA team this summer in Turkey and  DeMar DeRozan should continue to improve in his sophomore season. 

    The addition of Leandro Barbosa could help them, but they will finish in the lower rung.

    Prediction: San Antonio will beat them in January and in February in Toronto.

    Result: This Wednesday, the teams play for the first time this season.

Utah Jazz: Are They Singing the San Antonio River Walk Blues?

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    Robin LopezChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    Like Orlando, this team matches up remarkably well with the Spurs.  Deron Williams is widely viewed as one of the best point guards in the NBA. 

    Al Jefferson, Mehmet Okur, Andrei Kirilenko and Paul Millsap could help make the Jazz elite contenders.  Okur had not played a single game this season in their first meeting with the Spurs. 

    Their next meeting is in Utah on January 26, and they play again in March.

    Prediction: Jerry Sloan will play the Spurs like trombones and win the series, 3-0.

    Results: The Spurs beat the Jazz in Utah in November. 

Washington Wizards: Where is Merlin When They Need Him?

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    In the aftermath of the Gilbert Arenas fiasco, John Wall gets the leadership position on Flip Saunders' squad.  

    John Wall started off setting the NBA on fire with his dancing ability during the game introductions.  He started dancing and dishing with the ball and hitting jumpers once the games started.

    He was being praised as top rookie performer until injuries kicked in.  He still has a bright future and the Wizards squad could as well.  For now—nothing happening.

    They got the Spurs the day after Christmas at the AT&T Center and in Washington in February get them again.

    Prediction: The Spurs will handle the Wizards, 2-0

    Results: As of MLK Day, this power prediction is on point.

Outro

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The city of San Antonio is passionate about MLK Day and it has one of the largest events in the nation every year.  The event also celebrates the legacy of Cesar Chavez. 

    On the day, a checkpoint in the season, the Spurs are getting set for yet another run for the NBA championship.  Will the writers, analysts, experts and prognosticators get behind them?  I'll let you know when and if it happens.  If it doesn't, I'll let you know that too.

    In my Reasoning on the Riverwalk series, I'll also let you know the outcome of the Spurs torrid 70-12 pace. 

    Peace out.

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