Are the Spurs Fading Down the Stretch?

When you lose close to 25 percent of your games (in this case 4 of 17) in a row there is no need for a team to panic.

When those four losses are consecutive and come with less than ten games to play and largely because your line-up has almost none of your starters in it then you might at least want to start worrying.

In Monday night’s loss to the Portland Trail Blazers the starting line-up for San Antonio consisted of George Hill, James Anderson, Tiago Splitter, Richard Jefferson, and Matt Bonner. If you are not sure who most of them are you are not alone. Jefferson is the only starter and the other four have just 11 seasons of experience between them (Jefferson has eight).

With Monday’s loss the Spurs are still a league best 57-17 and are going through the best season in franchise history. The only thing that appeared capable of beating it is the very thing that has held them back the last few seasons, injuries.

For the duration of the season the team had managed to stay relatively healthy, but now with the playoffs right around the corner. The problem for the Spurs is that they are not sure when or if they will get some of the players back on the court in time.

On Monday Tony Parker was a late scratch from the line-up with a left knee contusion. Antonio McDyess was held out with a sore back; Coach Popovich wanted to give the 36-year old veteran some rest with the playoffs right around the corner.

“If it was a playoff game, Antonio would probably go, and he wants to,” Popovich said before tipoff. “I’m forcing him to sit because it’s a back-to-back, and he’s too important for us to be short-sighted.”

Manu Ginobili was held out of the game with a left quad contusion suffered against Memphis March 27. A timetable for his return has not been established yet. Whatever it is, it will be better than the timetable for the return of Tim Duncan (whom the Spurs have no timetable for).

“A lot of things aren’t going our way,” Parker said. “We just have to keep pounding on that rock and keep playing.”

As disappointing as the losses are there is a silver lining to them. Even though the Spurs have been without multiple starters during their four game losing streak they have only lost by three (Denver), two (Portland), seven (Memphis), and eight (Portland).

"It's life. You have to deal with it and figure out how to get better," George Hill said. "No one's hanging their head or thinking we're not as good as we've been all year."

The Spurs could get Parker back for their game on Thursday with the Boston Celtics; no word on whether Popovich wants to give McDyess’s back a little more rest.
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