Spurs in a new spot: Fighting for their playoff livesThe Associated Press — By TIM REYNOLDS - AP Basketball Writer
This is the worst season for the San Antonio Spurs in the last 21 years.
They're on pace for only 46 wins.
ONLY 46 wins.
That's a season fans in other many cities would celebrate wildly. Philadelphia hasn't won 46 games since 2002-03, Minnesota not since 2003-04, Sacramento not since 2004-05. Detroit hasn't had a 46-win season in the last decade. The Knicks have one in the last 17 seasons. Milwaukee reached it once in the last 16 seasons entering this year. Charlotte, once in the last 15 seasons. The Nets, once in the last 12 seasons.
But this is San Antonio, the silver-and-black standard for the league, where winning 55 or 60 games and making a deep playoff run is considered as much of an annual rite as the rodeo and the Texas Folklife Festival. And even after a blowout win over Orlando on Tuesday night, the Spurs (38-30) are still on the outside of the playoff picture in the Western Conference.
No need to panic just yet. The Spurs are a mere one game in the loss column behind Oklahoma City, which is holding the No. 4 seed right now. Still, this is a most unusual situation for San Antonio.
"Everybody tries to be the best they can by playoff time," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "That'll be our goal too, to be in the playoffs and be as good as we can possibly be."
Here's how good the Spurs have been for so long: This will be the first season since 1996-97 where San Antonio won't finish with a winning percentage of at least .600.
This has been such a strange year for the Spurs. Kawhi Leonard has barely played because of a leg injury, and the Spurs still aren't sure when he will return to the court — though there are indications it could be very soon. San Antonio has used 23 different starting lineups, none for more than 12 games, most being used for three or fewer.
It'll be an interesting finish.
"It might look a little odd," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "But we know the Spurs well enough that in these exact type of situations is when they respond the most. When there's the most adversity, when people count them out and it looks bleak their culture, the coaching, the leadership, the veteran experience they have on that team tends to respond in a way that most organizations don't respond in these type of circumstances."
GOING FOR HISTORY
Portland's win over Miami on Monday night was the Trail Blazers' 10th in a row. That makes Portland the seventh team to have a streak of at least 10 games this season — joining Boston, Cleveland, Houston, Golden State, Utah and New Orleans.
Toronto will look for history on Thursday.
The Raptors will carry a nine-game winning streak into their game with Indiana. The NBA record for teams with a 10-game winning streak in a season is eight, done during the 1993-94 and 1997-98 campaigns.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Some of the games to watch over the coming week:
—Washington at Boston, Wednesday: No Kyrie Irving, no John Wall, no Marcus Smart, no shortage of implications on the East playoff race.
—Cleveland at Portland, Thursday: The Blazers are looking for an 11th consecutive win. The Cavs are trying to remain in the East's top four.
—L.A. Clippers at Oklahoma City, Friday: Remember when many thought Doc Rivers and the Clippers gave up on this season? No one told them.
—Denver at Memphis, Saturday: The start of a seven-game, 14-day road trip that may decide if the Nuggets are going to the playoffs or not.
—Houston at Minnesota, Sunday: The teams have met three times already this season, with the Rockets winning by exactly 18 points in each.
—Chicago at New York, Monday: Here's the question — will the Bulls, playing one mile away from NBA headquarters, dare to rest top players?
—Houston at Portland, Tuesday: If the Warriors falter for some unlikely and unforeseen reason, this may be a preview of the Western finals.
STEPH AT 30
Stephen Curry turns 30 on Wednesday, and if Ray Allen's career is any indication, then the Golden State star is only halfway to what will eventually be his career total for 3-pointers made.
Allen made 1,486 3-pointers before turning 30, and 1,487 more after that birthday on his way to the NBA record.
Curry is already at 2,126 3-pointers, which — not surprisingly — is by far the most for anyone before turning 30. He's already No. 7 on the NBA list for 3s made, and should pass both Jamal Crawford and Paul Pierce to get into the top five before this season ends.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City: 100 triple-doubles, the one that put him into triple-digits coming Tuesday night. Only four of the other 29 NBA franchises have had more than Westbrook has gotten by himself, and the Thunder are 82-18 when he puts together one of those epic efforts.