Southwest Division is All About the SpursBy Marc U.
The Southwest Division of the NBA is all but over in my opinion with San Antonio ahead of Memphis by 7.5 games as the second half of the season gets underway. The third place team, the Houston Rockets are a ‘mere’ 13.5 games out of first. As former Arizona Cardinals’ coach Denny Green once said, “Crown their asses!”
The Spurs have obviously been red-hot over the last month losing just two times since January 11th. A 9-1 clip over their last ten games has helped them solidify that lead over Memphis. More amazing is that they’ve done it far less than 100%.
Both Tony Parker and Tim Duncan have missed time over the month-long domination tour but both also played sparingly in the All-Star Game which was a good thing. It means first that both were healthy enough to play and could also mean they are getting healthy enough to close the final 30 or so games with a good push.
What the Spurs have to be most careful of is complacency. With Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Clippers two and 4.5 games behind respectively, San Antonio cannot automatically assume they have the number one seed locked up.
I expect the Clips to make a deal before the deadline and I also expect both the Clippers and the Thunder to get hot at some point as well. They are both too talented not to get on decent runs. Regardless, this could be the final run for the Spurs as we know them and I expect Gregg Popovich to be very cautious with his veterans down the stretch.
The Memphis Grizzlies are 4-2 since acquiring Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye and last night those two men faced off with their former team, the Detroit Pistons. It has to be hard for a team like Memphis who has won three straight to look up in the standings and see the team they are chasing actually pulling away.
The brighter spot for the Griz is the way the team plays. They are the second best defensive team in the league and rebound very well as well. The addition of Prince has already paid some dividends, but let’s be honest, he isn’t the offensive threat that Rudy Gay was before the trade.
If any team other than the big three in the West has a chance to get to the NBA Finals I would say it’s the Grizzlies. I like their mix of youth and veterans as well as their ability to defend and still score when they need to do so.
Playoff Thoughts… The Spurs and Rockets would be an entertaining 1-8 match-up if the playoffs started today… Memphis and Denver would be a great 4-5 duo that would at least go 6 games in my opinion.
Games in the Southwest this week
Oklahoma City at Houston – The Thunder did not exactly end the first half well losing two-straight. The Rockets are 18-8 at home and have a three-game lead over ninth place Portland. One thing’s for sure, both teams will be in triple digits. I like the Rockets to hold serve at home.
San Antonio at LA Clippers – The Spurs opened the second half at Sacramento last night and now go to LA where the Clips are 21-5 at home. The veteran Spurs shouldn’t miss a beat after the break, but I like the Clippers in this one.
Orlando at Memphis – The Magic are 6-19 on the road and Memphis is 21-8 at home. Both teams play pretty solid defense, but the Grizzlies have no business losing this one.
Dallas at New Orleans – The bottom-dwellers of the Southwest tangle in the Big Easy. They might be bad, but they still offer wagering opportunities. The Mavs can score, but struggle to defend. The Hornets do a little of both so I’ll take them at home.