The San Antonio Spurs are in danger of missing out on a playoff spot for the first time since the 1996/97 season. Gregg Popovich’s team is currently experiencing a major injury crisis, and following last night’s 110 – 107 defeat to the Golden State Warriors, have now lost seven of their last nine games.
The prospect of watching the playoffs without the San Antonio Spurs is something of an alien concept to modern basketball fans. The Spurs have been all but guaranteed to win 50 games since way back in 1998/99 when they went 37-13 due to the regular season lockout. This season however, things have not gone to plan, and with Kawhi Leonard sidelined with a severe quadriceps injury, the future is looking bleak for the once dominant Western Conference franchise.
At a glance, yesterday’s result against the Golden State Warriors tells the tale of a team that is still truly in the mix – and to give credit to the Spurs, they did lead for much of the game. But on closer inspection, many of the problems that have plagued Gregg Popovich’s team this season remained evident – defensive fragility, not picking players up, missing rotations. Considering Stephen Curry was forced to retire in the first quarter, the Spurs could have made a huge statement, in stead they let the Warriors back into the game.
Popovich revealed earlier this week that he is well aware of the challenges that his team face over the next month, and that his players have been injected with the reality of their current situation.
“Quit your crying and just play,” said Popovich. “That’s what we’ve done. Nobody’s crying, nobody’s making excuses. Everybody has problems they have to overcome with their teams. With us, it’s been the injuries. And [we’re] very disappointed because we wanted to pick up where we left off last year after 61 wins and going to the conference finals. For a large portion of the season we were first or second in defensive efficiency. Our last 10 games, we’ve been 22nd. That tells the whole tale right there.
“How does that happen? Well, it’s the same guys, they care just as much. So they must be getting a little low on fuel as we move along.”