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NBA Playoffs 2011: Panic in San Antonio Over the No. 1 Seed-Seeking Lakers?

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NBA Playoffs 2011: Panic in San Antonio Over the No. 1 Seed-Seeking Lakers?
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
March 23, 2011: Popovich stares down an official in Denver. He is probably staring his team down now.

Will the San Antonio Spurs collapse into panic mode, or pull together and close out strong for the No. 1 seed?  It appears they’re on the verge of collapsing something serious. 

Duncan posted 20 and 13—and the Spurs still lost at the AT&T Center on Thursday night.  Stay tuned to see if absolute panic will ensue after the Houston Rockets game on Friday night. 

If the Spurs lose that one, then it could.  The Alamo City is on the verge of panic—judging by the reaction to the first game back for Tim Duncan last night against the Boston Celtics. 

According to national analysts and hosts from NBA TV to ESPN, the Spurs train is rolling off the tracks.  The Celtics showed their recent dominance over the Spurs. 

After another beat down from Boston on Thursday, the Spurs face the Rockets in H-town tonight.  Down I-10 East, the Alamo City’s representatives will try to avoid a repeat performance on par with the Celtics game.

It was Rondo in the lane—Rondo in the lane.  It happened so much it could become a rap song’s refrain.  He pushed the ball, penetrated and distributed it for wide open shots.  Garnett knocked them down and pointed a finger at Rondo, who was standing in the lane to rebound.

Tony Parker was effective in the lane during the first half.  After halftime, like I-410 in San Antonio at midnight on a Saturday—all lanes were closed.  Boston scored 14 in a row in the third quarter, and it was basically ball game. 

Even though they cut the lead down to six points with less than four minutes in the fourth, the Spurs never really challenged after the onslaught. 

Boston hasn’t lost in San Antonio in the last four seasons, Tim Price reports on NBA.com.  The Celtics have won five straight in the Alamo City according to the piece.  Kevin Garnett is starting to look like Santa Anna and Duncan like Davy Crockett. 

Some Spurs fans blame it on Duncan missing four games and the team lacking chemistry because of the player’s missing.  Are you kidding me—chemistry?  They’ve been together longer than the Jackson 5.

It was Popovich’s choice to rest Tito and Jermaine—Parker and Ginobili.  The Spurs, meanwhile, sat back on the bench and grinned in anticipation of Boston coming.  They could have used Paul Revere to warn them the Celtics were coming.

The Spurs geared up for Boston and when it went down, they let it slip away.

Some fans still expect the Spurs to go to the Western Conference Finals—unless they don’t clinch the No. 1 seed.  Other fans are vehemently criticizing Popovich’s use of Tiago Splitter—a player who already has local television commercials in town.

Whenever Pop gets criticism in the Alamo City, it’s a very sure sign things are heading south of the border for the team.  And I don’t mean Taco Bell.   

Matt Bonner is being labeled the only power forward in the league who shoots three-pointers and really doesn’t rebound.  In other words, he’s not answering the bell on the boards.  Making 47 percent of his bombs, though, Bonner is the No. 1 three-point shooter in the league. 

But it’s being said that he gives up more points on defense than he scores.  Pop should sit him in favor of Splitter—fans claim.  Ding!  Ring the alarm.

Compared to the Lakers, who powered down the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday, it’s growing alarmingly obvious the Spurs probably can’t do it.  DeJuan Blair is being talked down about being a dud in his role as a spark plug off the bench.

San Antonio has to rely on their jump-shooting from their starters and bench player because they can’t stop elite teams from scoring.  The reason they’re not as good defensively is because Duncan is getting longer in the tooth by the game. 

A poor offensive rebounding team, whether it’s Bonner, McDyess, Blair, Novak or Splitter, the Spurs are on a five-game losing streak.  It happened for the first time in the Tim Duncan era and at the worst possible time.

The Spurs defense is off-timing and far from being a shutdown unit.  They’ve turned the season from talk about breaking the Bulls record for wins in a season.  Now the discussion is all about what would be one of the biggest NBA chokes in history.

Choking off opposition offenses was once the Spurs way, now outscoring teams is their method of winning.  They can’t do what the Lakers did to Dallas after the Boston-San Antonio game on TNT—hold them to 31 points in the second half.  The Lakers are stifling on defense and otherwise.

There are plenty of other teams better than the Spurs defensively, including Boston, Chicago, Orlando and Dallas.  Virginia Commonwealth University is also staunch.  The Spurs seem to care less about defense than any time in the Duncan era. 

Even with a healthy Duncan this year, the Spurs are suspect world championship contenders to many national experts.  For a lot of Spurs fans, everything in proving the experts wrong hinges on getting the No. 1 seed in the NBA. 

Local opinions would change in a heartbeat should San Antonio lose the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.  It’s as much important for the emotional state of the team as it is for playoff positioning—so the thinking goes.  Many fans in San Antonio have this mindset.

Looking at it deeper, the No. 1 seed doesn’t matter for the Lakers at this point.  They’re so confident, their swagger could be their worst enemy soon.  If they should wrestle the No. 1 seed from the Spurs, however, the Lakers’ swag will soar.

The Spurs—including Tim Duncan—have stated publicly the No. 1 seed is important to them this season.  If they lose it in San Antonio, things could get out of hand for Lakers fans. 

I’ll leave you all with this anecdote.

As a fair and balanced writer, I was approached in line at a store in town by an unbalanced-walking and obviously inebriated Spurs fan last Sunday morning.  I was fresh back in town, sporting a purple-colored Lakers T-shirt.

The fan suggested I change shirts.  He was right, I advised him and his brother, who was with him in line ahead of me.  I told them I should switch to my gold Lakers T-shirt.

The cashier told me about an encounter her father experienced in Philadelphia.  He was wearing Dallas Cowboys gear in the City of Brotherly Love.  If you didn’t know—that is a no-no.  Eagles fans were so out of control, she said, her father took his Eagles gear off.

I guess it was her ways of showing me Spurs fans aren’t so bad.  Nice try.  The guy asked if I was from San Antonio.  Um, no.  No disrespect to the Alamo City.  Just—no.

“I heard Tim Duncan hurt his ankle,” I said. 

“You heard wrong,” he replied. 

What I hear is the sound of the hard-charging Bulls, Lakers and Celtics for the No. 1 seed.  I believe one of these teams will wind up with it.

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