2011 NBA Playoffs: Homecourt Will Be Vital for Tim Duncan's Fifth Championship

Chris Hawkins@@chrhawkinsContributor IIIApril 11, 2011

It has been a season of change for the San Antonio Spurs. Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan have had to adapt to routines they were previously unfamiliar with.

For Coach Pop, he took games in November and December much more seriously than ever in his 15 years as the Spurs’ head coach. He realized that he no longer had the personnel for the Spurs to lead the league in total defense.

He decided to utilize the speed of his backcourt by putting the ball in the hands of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili and attacking the opponent in transition. This San Antonio team now possesses the best offense in the Duncan Era.

For Tim Duncan, he had to realize that in order for his team to have a much more successful regular season, he had to take more of a backseat in the offense to preserve his health.

The Spurs can now reap the benefits of their new philosophy change. They have the clinched the best record in the Western Conference despite a recent six-game losing streak.

They also possess a one-game lead over the Eastern Conference leading Chicago Bulls for the best record in the league and home-court advantage throughout the NBA playoffs.

In years past, the Spurs never consciously pushed for home-court, however this Spurs team is different and their best chance for title number five will be that number one seed.

Gone are the days when the Spurs could go into any team's arena and hold them to 80 points and still win games despite shooting under 40-percent for the game.

The Spurs rely much more on their offense, particularly their three-point shooting, and their offense is so much better at home.

In the AT&T Center, San Antonio averages 105.8 points, 24 assists on 41.9 percent three point shooting. On the road, the Spurs average 101.6 points per game, 20.8 assists on 37.7 percent three point-shooting.

Production from role players also plays a deciding factor on how far a team advances in the postseason, and the Spurs’ role players play much better at home. Popovich will have to rely on much more youthful role players who love to play in front of the home crowd.

21-year-old DeJuan Blair is a grizzly rebounder and his hustle energizes the fans. 24-year-old George Hill is the lanky combo guard who is much more aggressive playing in the River City. Even Matt Bonner is much more capable of finding the bottom of the net when he is at home (though it might be the sandwiches).

The Spurs are not the undisputed favorites to win the NBA Title, however the number-one seed and home-court advantage will give them a fighting chance for Duncan’s fifth ring.

Drive for five.