Bernucca: Have Pacers Lost Belief in Themselves?

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Believe it or not, there’s someone out there who doesn’t think the Indiana Pacers are coming apart at the seams. Lance Stephenson

“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.

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VIDEO: What Defines the San Antonio Spurs? Getting Swept by Thunder? Last Year’s Finals?

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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?

VIDEO: Spurs Winning Streak Boggles the Mind; but Thunder are Favored Tonight

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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.




Tweet of the Night: Tony Parker gets modest about franchise-record 18 straight wins

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The San Antonio Spurs are known for going on ridiculous tears when the season starts to wind down, and this season has been no different. With everything clicking on all cylinders once again, Gregg Popovich and his team have won a franchise record 18 consecutive games on Monday after dispatching the struggling Indiana Pacers 103-77.

The biggest contributing factor may be the play of Kawhi Leonard. When the forward was lost in late January due to a broken hand, he missed 13 games – a stretch in which the Spurs went just 7-6. Leonard came back on February 26, and San Antonio has yet to lose a game since.

The team is now a league-best 58-16, but they are far from done:

The Spurs always go on huge runs to convince everyone that no one can beat them seemingly year after year, only to come up short time after time (at least in recent years), so Parker’s modest observation is certainly understandable. Still, they were one ridiculous Ray Allen 3-pointer away from winning the championship last year, and somehow look even stronger this year despite another year added to Tim Duncan and company. Truly, there is not a scarier looking team in the league right now.

Tweet of the Day: DeMarcus Cousins R&B CD Better Than Previous NBA Music?

Tweet of the Night: Kentucky is off to the Final Four

James Park is the chief blogger of Sheridan Hoops. Follow him on twitter @SheridanBlog

Duncan tops Durant for Western Conference Player of the Week Honors

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Tim_Duncan_SpursNEW YORK – The Spurs’ 17-game winning streak brought an added bonus Monday. Tim Duncan was named Player of the Week — this coming despite Kevin Durant averaging 32.5 points on .597 shooting.

It was the 22nd time Duncan has won the award.

The Orlando Magic’s Nikola Vucevic and the San Antonio Spurs’ Duncan were named NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Monday, March 24, through Sunday, March 30.

Vucevic led the Magic to a 2-1 week, which included wins over the Portland Trail Blazers and Charlotte Bobcats, behind averages of 22.7 points (sixth in the conference) and a league-leading 14.3 rebounds. He posted a point-rebound double-double in all three contests, including a 24-point, 23-rebound effort on March 28, during Orlando’s 110-105 win over Charlotte.

Duncan led the Spurs to the NBA’s lone unbeaten record on the week at 4-0. He averaged 20.0 points (tied-eighth in the conference) on .625 shooting from the field (eighth in the conference), 8.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.0 steals. On March 26, Duncan’s versatility was on display as he posted 29 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals during a 108-103 win over the Denver Nuggets.

Here is a recap of the week for Vucevic and Duncan:

Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic

March 25 vs. Portland: Collected 22 points and 10 rebounds during a 95-85 win over the Trail Blazers.
March 28 vs. Charlotte: Scored 24 points and pulled down 23 rebounds in a 110-105 win over the Bobcats.
March 30 @ Toronto: Posted 22 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and two blocks in a 98-93 loss to the Raptors.

Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
March 26 vs. Denver: Notched 29 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals in a 108-103 win over the Nuggets.
March 28 @ Denver: Posted 20 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two blocks during a 133-102 win as the Spurs swept a home-and-home with the Nuggets.
March 29 vs. New Orleans: Scored 12 points and added eight rebounds, six assists and four blocks during a 96-80 win over the Pelicans.

Other nominees for the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week were Brooklyn’s Paul Pierce, Charlotte’s Al Jefferson, Cleveland’s Dion Waiters, Miami’s LeBron James, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, Phoenix’s Goran Dragic, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan and Washington’s John Wall.