Spurs Must Continue to Win Without Tim Duncan

By James F.

The San Antonio Spurs have rather quietly ascended to the top spot in the NBA standings. They have won 10 in a row to run their record to 38-11, two games up on the defending Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder and four games ahead of the free-falling Los Angeles Clippers. They got a scare in their last game when their star forward, future NBA Hall of Famer Tim Duncan went down with a knee injury in the second quarter. He is listed as day-to-day with a sprained left knee and also a sprained right ankle.

The Spurs will be just fine without Duncan for a game or two, but if this drags on like Chris Paul‘s bruised knee or Kevin Love‘s broken hand and he misses significant time, it will be interesting to see if the Spurs can keep this pace up. The Clippers and Minnesota Timberwolves have suffered with their starts out injured, as have the Orlando Magic without Arron Afflalo, Jameer Nelson and Glen Davis for significant stretches, the Los Angeles Lakers without Dwight Howard and Steve Nash at times, the Washington Wizards without John Wall for most of the season so far, and the Chicago Bulls without Derrick Rose and now Joakim Noah.

The New York Knicks (Amare Stoudamire) and Cleveland Cavaliers (Kyrie Irving) have battled through stretches without star players. As have the Golden State Warriors (Andrew Bogut and Steph Curry). While the Knicks and Warriors are doing quite well, all those teams would probably agree they would be even better if they were healthy all season. Now the Spurs may be in the same boat.

But up until now, this team of old stars has been amazing. Led by Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, Duncan, Tiago Splitter and Stephen Jackson, the Spurs have not lost more than two in a row all season. They did that twice in a five game span in December. Take those five games out and the Spurs are an astonishing 37-7 without consecutive losses all season.

Despite all of this, it is still widely speculated that they will not be able to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in the playoffs. Many doubt whether the Spurs will even advance far enough to play the Thunder. This may be true. The Spurs were the #1 seed going into the last two Western Conference Playoffs and failed to advance past the first round in 2011. But they did get to the Western Conference Finals in 2012. But, now they are even a year older. Should they keep the #1 seed, there is a chance they could wind up with a very talented and dangerous Los Angeles Lakers in the opening round. The Lakers appear to be getting things together. If they do mange to get into the playoffs, it will have to be because they are on a hot streak. They dug themselves into a deep hole at 20-26.

Should they get past that round, they would be looking at a possible Memphis Grizzlies or Denver Nuggets second round. The Grizzlies knocked the Spurs out two years ago as an eighth seed. Both of them have some young legs. Should they get past them, then it is likely they would meet the Thunder, who quickly dispatched them a year ago in the Western Conference Finals in six games after the Spurs got out to a 2-0 lead.

But regardless of what happens in the playoffs, fans have to be impressed with the way this team keeps racking up wins despite getting little press for it. They are not flashy. They are not boastful. They let their play on the court do their talking. You have to admire that.

Hopefully, Duncan will not be out that long. You like seeing guys like him and teams like this succeed.