Ginobili Loss Could Cost Spurs No. 1 Seed

 

HANG TIME, Texas — Losing at home to the Heat understudies was a sting to the Spurs’ ego. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s no worse than coughing up that hairball in Minnesota three weeks ago.

It’s losing Manu Ginobili for three to four weeks to a strained hamstring that could hurt deeply, perhaps cost the Spurs the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and even leave them vulnerable in the opening round of the playoffs.

“It’s a huge blow for us because he’s the guy that allows our second team to do what they’ve been doing all year long,” said coach Gregg Popovich. “It’s a huge loss for that group and in game situations it’s a tough one because he’s one of two guys — he and Tony (Parker) — that are the creators who make everything happen for everybody else on the court. It’s an unfortunate loss at this point of the season.”

Even after Ginobili hobbled off the court in the first quarter Friday night against the Clippers, things were looking so bright for the Spurs that you thought they might have needed sunglasses. They had a three-game advantage on the Thunder for the best record in the West and hoped to pad that lead with a win over Miami.

However, the stunning loss to the Heat, who were playing without starters LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers, combined with the medical diagnosis on Ginobili in fewer than 18 hours, puts the squeeze right back on the Spurs with a difficult stretch of schedule ahead.

After heading home Wednesday against the Magic, they will be at Oklahoma City to close another back-to-back on a night when you know the Thunder will ready to pounce. Then, they’ll play at home Saturday against Atlanta and at Denver on April 10.

That means the next three road games are against the No. 2, 4 and 5 seeds in the West playoffs that have a combined 94-16 record on their home courts. By the end of that stretch, playing without the fuse that lights their second unit and makes it go, the Spurs could have given up the conference lead to the Thunder.

Even if they hang onto the No. 1 position, the early timetable that’s been set for Ginobili’s return extends into the start of the playoffs. If the Lakers manage to squeeze into the eighth spot, that’s a first-round matchup that would be far more dangerous without their sixth man.

An assortment of injuries has already forced Ginobili to miss 14 games this season and even though, at 35, he’s lost the cutting edge, the Spurs need him to keep constant defensive pressure off Parker. The Heat aggressively attacked Parker with a double-team virtually every time he tried to run a pick-and-roll.

“Without Manu, Tony is a guy who has to generate things for us,” Popovich said, “and they pretty much took him out with all their double-teams and hard hedges.”

It will be a look that the Spurs will see from defenses constantly in a first-round playoff series, regardless of the opponent, as long as Ginobili is out. That’s the real hurt that could linger.

15 Comments

  1. MJfromOKC says:

    Losing your sixth man really hurts. Just ask anyone from OKC, like me. However you can try your Hardenist to replicate what he did, it may get you by, then again it may not…

    The thing with that type of injury is that as soon as they active him, he isn’t super Ginobili right then. He’s gonna lose strength and that leg can be weak and prone to re-injury.

    I’m disappointed because I root on the Spurs when they aren’t playing OKC. Pop rightly makes such a big deal out of resting those guys and then it happens anyway. I wonder if its possible to stay healthy for the whole season with two 35+ year old athletes on your roster. Obviously not.

  2. Mega Freak says:

    This is an excellent opportunity for OKC to pounce on that long sought #1 seed, but they’ll only do it if they can get a consistent bench production. KD and Westbrook produce on high levels night in and night out, but the Thunder still lose games if the bench can’t produce. Kevin Martin in particular will need to step up and prove that he’s still the scorer we all remember from his days in Sacramento and Houston. When he scores less than ten points, the Thunder lose. His performances are the real barometer for OKC. If he can’t keep pace under pressure, the Spurs will keep their number 1 seed.

  3. bambamsimons says:

    Ginobli has been hurt before this season and the Spurs havent missed a beat. The crunch is going to fall heavily on Danny Green, it’ll be interesting to see how he reacts come playoff time

  4. Danny says:

    If spurs lose their spot to OKC, and lakers make the 8th spot, the lakers are screwed, I would rather play the spurs then OKC in he first round

  5. Phil says:

    It is beyond me how Mills hasn’t been playing…we will need his offense without Manu

  6. Marco29 says:

    Those games @OKC and @DEN will be crucial.But they are also playing, ATL, @GSW and @LAL who are still chasing a playoff ticket. It will be though times. Hope Patty Mills and De Colo can step up and carry the 2nd unit. Jax will also be needed from downtown.
    But, in the end, if they loose #1 and face the young Rockets, they might be better off than struggling against the Lakers in the first round (if they qualify).
    GO Spurs GO!!

  7. Skimba says:

    Patty Mills has been waiting to show his skills and commitment; he will not disappoint, he’s a gun Aussie !!!!!

  8. tomunger says:

    Actually its worse because the Nuggets are the 3 seed…

  9. jake s says:

    thunder and rockets are the future of the western conference. mark. my. words.

  10. JT says:

    They should have rested their starters when they played in Miami, wait a minute they did didn’t they? They are screwed.

  11. Uhr-Pacers Bad Boys says:

    Injures are bad for teams , i see it. but now i anticipate a Texas derby 1st round match-up against youngster Rockets i would like to see it any other than great to watch and maybe give some trouble to spurs. Türkiye peace. out

  12. Jeff says:

    time for patty mills to be activated. Has stacked up a lot DNP cards lately, hes better than that. DeColo and Gary Neal are average

  13. Kimmy says:

    Even so, the Spurs are still gonna finish first in the West for regular season. These guys are very good. In the playoffs, they are going to make it all the way up until they meet my team, the OKC. OKC will win and beat the Spurs. But guess what? Nobody, even my team, can beat the Heat this year. Sorry guys, maybe next year

  14. MJfromOKC says:

    So the middle aged Spurs suffered an injury just before the playoffs. Pathetic.

    Poppovich, rest your guys better.

  15. Chris says:

    The same thing was sai wen TP went down. If money could be printed with “In Pop we Trust” I wouldn’t blink an eye.