Spurs, Warriors main event on tap

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Golden State is still the favorite to win the NBA championship, currently -140 chalk at most books, but this week all eyeballs should be on San Antonio.

Running No. 2 in the NBA record-wise and returning +300 on an investment, the Spurs are about to put their ability to claim another championship on display.

With a 41-game home winning streak to protect, the Spurs will welcome the Clippers, Trail Blazers and Warriors to the AT&T Center. Coming off Saturday night’s 93-85 win over Oklahoma City, San Antonio takes a three-game winning streak into a challenging week, owning a 17-2 mark since Feb. 1 that’s actually superior to the Warriors.

Most important, Gregg Popovich has a healthy team on his hands. Everyone was available to him for Saturday’s win over the Thunder, including the recently acquired Kevin Martin, a veteran shooter who should really be a weapon going forward.

Manu Ginobili returned from his testicular injury, Tim Duncan’s back and knees are feeling fine and Tony Parker, playing a career-low 27.4 minutes put together a 20-point, 12-assist night against the Bulls last Thursday, only his second double-double of the season.

San Antonio could tie Chicago for the second-longest home winning streak in NBA history – the one just recently broken by Golden State – if they’re able to sweep through this week’s opponents. The Warriors have extended the streak to 48 games entering action this week.

Despite the fact they’ve been sharing the load collectively and Pop has rested guys liberally, imposing minutes limits, the Spurs have quietly been a well-oiled machine. While the Warriors have been out there dominating teams to where starters regularly rest fourth quarters, Steph Curry did push to make it back from an ankle injury that would’ve landed him at least a week off if he wore the black-and-silver of San Antonio.

Back in 2013, the Heat reflected they definitely felt the strain of having played through a 27-game winning streak, the third-longest in NBA history, which nearly derailed their championship hopes. Although Miami won 66 regular-season games, the grind nearly caught up to them as bodies ran out of of juice in grueling series against Indiana and San Antonio, both won in seven games.

Remember, there were stretches in those series where it looked like the Heat were cooked, including the area surrounding the American Airlines Arena floor being taped off in anticipation of the Spurs championship ceremony. Ray Allen altered history that night, but the lesson that collective mileage that’s piled up over the course of the season inevitably catches up to you in June is a sound one. It’s inevitable.

The Spurs, fielding a more veteran roster than most, believe conservation is the key, and adding LaMarcus Aldridge to help anchor the team alongside Kawhi Leonard has been a winning formula that has flown completely under the radar to the exploits of the Warriors. The narrative might be different if San Antonio hadn’t gotten its doors blown off at Golden State in the only meeting between the teams this season.

The Warriors treated the Duncan-less Spurs like any other victim, obliterating them 120-90 on Jan. 25 in a game where Curry did things to Leonard, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, that we really hadn’t seen anyone do.

Anomaly? We’ll find out Saturday night.

Before then, the Spurs must answer the challenge of facing the always difficult Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan combination. Blake Griffin remains out, but the team that ended San Antonio’s reign as champions in last year’s first round remains a tough challenge for the Spurs.

The Blazers, led by the dynamic backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, are a different-looking, more confident team than the one they dispatched twice in November.

There remains a pair of games against Golden State and Oklahoma City, but it’s during this stretch a determination must be made regarding whether it’s worth it to climb aboard the Spurs bandwagon once again, something I’ve done for the last five years. They’ve won it all only once in that span, but have been relatively brilliant.

The additions of Aldridge and Martin, as well as the continued emergence of Leonard – now playing at an MVP level – will be hard to ignore if they get through this week unscathed.

News flash: Despite taxing their players far less to this point, at 56-10, the Spurs are just 3.5 games behind the Warriors and could really make things interesting over the final month if they’re able to handle business at home.

It doesn’t appear Popovich is going to play games and sit guys out, so it appears the Spurs will actually show their hand for a change. Don’t be surprised if it’s all suited up and looking fierce.

Tony Mejia is a national sports writer and senior contributor at VegasInsider.com. He’s also the owner and operator of Antony Dinero, the most successful documented volume handicapper in the industry. View his analysis daily at VegasInsider.com. Email: [email protected].

About the Author
Tony Mejia

Tony Mejia

Tony Mejia has been a national writer for nearly two decades and has covered NBA and college basketball as a columnist, analyst, handicapper, and bracketologist for CBS Sports, Pro Basketball News, and numerous other sites.

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