Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
What did the Spurs’ win over OKC on Monday tell you?
Steve Aschburner: The Spurs’ victory told me that the team that needs homecourt advantage less than anyone in the league probably is going to get it, at least through the West bracket. San Antonio is 23-12 on the road, better than 17 teams’ home records. It also plays only six more times, of 17 remaining, away from home. Sitting out games against the likes of Minnesota on Tuesday won’t help, but slim as their lead is, they also hold the tiebreaker over the Thunder. The Spurs’ April 4 game at OKC might tighten things but it won’t swing this race.
Fran Blinebury: That the injury to Tony Parker did not mean the Spurs were going to roll over and simply concede the No. 1 seed to the Thunder. But I think most with even a passing acquaintance with Gregg Popovich already knew that. However, the loss Tuesday night at Minnesota — played without Parker, Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard — showed that there is no margin for error. It is going to be a very difficult task for San Antonio if Parker doesn’t beat the projection of 4-6 weeks on the sideline. Because starting on March 24, the Spurs will play seven games in 12 nights while running a cruel gantlet that goes: at Houston, vs. Nuggets, vs. Clippers, vs. Miami, at Memphis, vs. Orlando, at OKC. If they’re still sitting on top of the West after that, the city fathers might start making preliminary parade plans.
Jeff Caplan: It tells me the West is the Spurs’ to lose, even with Tony Parker sitting out a month. Their resiliency is amazing and their precision is inspiring. The schedule favors San Antonio to hold onto the No. 1 seed, a lead that increased to two full games after Monday’s mauling of OKC. The Spurs are 26-4 at home and have 11 of their remaining 17 games at the AT&T Center where they have won 18 in a row this season. The Thunder have nine home and nine road games remaining. They have not been a stellar road team this season (19-13) and there’s some tough road ground to cover at Memphis, Milwaukee, Indiana, Utah, Golden State and Portland.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Not much. San Antonio took a 2-1 lead in the season series, which could become important as a tiebreaker, but there is one more meeting. The Spurs and Thunder were 1 and 1A before Monday, in some order, and remain that way. The standings change, obviously. That’s the only adjustment.
John Schuhmann: Not much. OKC was playing its fourth game in five nights and fifth in seven. Between March 1 and March 11, they went from Denver to L.A. to Oklahoma City to New York to Charlotte to Oklahoma City (again), and then to San Antonio. That’s a pretty brutal stretch, so I’m not going to make any judgments regarding the way they played on the final night of it. Still, I’ve thought for a while now that the Spurs are the best team in the Western Conference. With their improved defense and with OKC’s lack of James Harden, the Spurs are my (current) pick to face Miami in The Finals … as long as they’re healthy come May. So a Parker-less win over the next best team in the conference somewhat reinforces my existing beliefs.
Sekou Smith: That Spurs’ win tells me that the numbers on these two teams don’t lie. The Spurs are the better team this season and will hold that distinction heading into the playoffs. In the past you always felt like the Thunder had a ceiling they hadn’t reached because of the James Harden factor. Harden coming off that bench was always the Thunder’s wild card. And without him there now, the Thunder don’t have nearly as dynamic an arsenal to throw at the other elite teams. They’re still one of the best. But they are exactly who and what we thought they would be without that X-factor coming off the bench.