NBA Handicapping for the San Antonio Spurs and their Road to the NBA Title
by George Monroy - 4/9/2014
The San Antonio Spurs have all but locked up another top seed in the Western Conference and continue to chug along like a well-oiled machine through Year 17 of the Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan era. The Spurs just hit the 60-win mark yet again and have reached that number twice in the last four years. It would probably take an entire book to explain all the reasons why San Antonio has been the model of consistency over the last two decades-the organization has missed the playoffs only once since 1990.
However, the 2013-2014 season may be the team's most impressive year-long performance to date. After last season's brutal NBA Finals loss to the Miami Heat-remember, the Spurs were one rebound away from a title-most experts predicted the ended of the Duncan-Popovich era. However, the team is still sitting at the top of the Western Conference and is one of the favorites to win a championship once again.
The playoffs are set to begin in about a little more than a week, and while all the matchups are not complete, let's take a look at San Antonio's potential road to an NBA title, with predictions and analysis.
First-Round Opponents: Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns or Dallas Mavericks
San Antonio's most likely first-round matchup is against Memphis, Phoenix or Dallas. All three teams are within a game of each other and could easily end up in the eighth spot before the season is done. The Spurs are currently 9-1 against all three squads this season with one matchup left against both Dallas and Phoenix.
Since the NBA moved to a 16-team playoff format, the No. 1 seed has been upset by the No. 8 seed a total of five times. However, the Spurs were the recipients of one of those upsets back in 2011 when the Grizzlies eliminated them in six games. Since 1984 there have been 60 No. 1 versus No. 8 first-round series, and an upset has happed only 12 percent of the time. San Antonio is a better than the average No. 1 seed, so expect that number to be even lower.
Odds of Advancing : 95 percent
Second-Round Opponents: Houston Rockets or Portland Trail Blazers
Houston and Portland are nearly locked in the fourth and fifth spots in the West and would need to lose the rest of their remaining games to change anything. The winner of the No. 4 versus No. 5 battle would then move on to face San Antonio in the second round.
This season San Antonio hasn't fared so well against either squad and lost five of the first seven matchups of the season. The Spurs split the season series against Portland after losing the first two matchups of the year, but they dropped three straight games to the Rockets with one more meeting left in the season. The second round may provide a difficult stylistic matchup for the team.
Odds of Advancing : 40 percent
Conference Finals Opponents: Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers or Golden State Warriors
The Clippers and Warriors are likely to face each other in the first round, with the winner them moving on to face the Thunder. San Antonio went 0-4 against Oklahoma City this season while losing by an average of eight points. The team, however, swept the season series with the Warriors and went 2-1 against the Clippers.
The only troubling matchup for San Antonio is a possible series with the Thunder. The good news, however, is that this year's playoffs are like a matchup of rock, paper, scissors, with each team having a bad stylistic matchup against another squad. The Warriors struggle against the Thunder, who struggle against the Clippers, who struggle against the Spurs, who struggle against the Rockets.
Odds of Advancing : 50 percent
NBA Finals Opponents: Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Brooklyn Nets
Title Odds: +300 (Sportsbook.ag)
The Heat or Pacers are the heavy favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference, but with both teams struggling and the Nets playing their best basketball of the season, there is a chance that Brooklyn can sneak into the NBA Finals.
San Antonio split games with all three teams, and it seems to have improved this season, while its biggest threat in the East, Miami, regressed quite a bit. The Spurs trail only Miami in the title odds picture but would have home-court advantage in a potential rematch.
Odds of Winning : 60 percent.
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Read more articles by George Monroy
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