NEW YORK – The San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich is the recipient of the Red Auerbach Trophy as the 2013-14 NBA Coach of the Year, the NBA announced today. Popovich’s Spurs posted the league’s best record at 62-20 (.756), which provides them with homecourt advantage throughout the postseason.
Well, we might as well start things by reminding everyone how the Spurs should be the team calling themselves the defending champions, except for the part where Gregg Popovich had his three best players on the bench at the end of Game 6 in Miami.
That’s when we stopped calling him “genius” and vowed to never do so again.
So this spring, we will laud Pop with congratulations for finishing with the league’s best record, for putting together a 19-game winning streak, for replacing a top reserve (Gary Neal) with an even better reserve (Marco Belinelli) and for having so much balance on his team that not one single player merited a mention on my postseason individual awards ballot.
“Everybody goes through this,” Spurs guard Tony Parker said last week after San Antonio manhandled Indiana, 103-77, on the Pacers’ home court. “I’m not worried about them. They’ll still make it to the Eastern Conference finals and they’ll still play Miami.”
Parker is somewhat right. From time to time, every championship contender has a stretch during a season where they look ordinary. Addled. Even awful at times.
Last month, the Miami Heat lost three in a row and seven of 11, including a home contest to Denver and a visit to New Orleans after which Chris Bosh plainly said, “We suck.”
The Oklahoma City Thunder welcomed back Russell Westbrook as they came out of the All-Star break and immediately lost three straight and five of eight, including a home loss to Cleveland and a road setback to the L.A. Lakers. The Houston Rockets were a pedestrian 8-8 in December, losing at home and on the road to Sacramento, at Utah and being blasted at Oklahoma City and Indiana.
Life can be tricky. Sometimes, you are judged by your successes. Other times, you are judged by your failures.
Which brings us to the San Antonio Spurs, who are sitting at 60 victories with a little over a week left in the 2013-14 regular season, practically assured of having homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs.
But when you play word association with the Spurs, what comes to mind first: Their 19-game winning streak that ended last week, or their 0-4 record this season vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder?
And if you look at them through an even broader prism, what exactly defines them?
We already published one column this week analyzing the Spurs’ winning streak and how they aren’t cruising, they are gliding. Since then, they have had a pair of quality victories over the Indiana Pacers and the Golden State Warriors, winning by large margins each time.
With the streak at 19 heading into Thursday night’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, we should expect another blowout, right? After all, only two games during the streak have been decided by 8 points or less, and San Antonio’s average margin of victory is 17 points during the 19-game win streak.
But you know what? The Thunder are 3-0 against the Spurs this season, and the oddsmakers have made them 3 1/2 point favorites over San Antonio for tonight’s tilt in OKC.
That just about tells you who the experts believe is the biggest threat to the Spurs, but we also should not discount the Clippers, whose 17-2 mark over the past month has been overlooked due to the Spurs run of success.
Which team — the Thunder or Clippers — is a bigger threat to keep the Spurs from a repeat trip to the NBA Finals.
My answer — along with a preview of the weekend’s best game — comes in this CineSport interview with Brian Clark.