The Other Side: San Antonio Spurs
Believe it or not, but this season is the 30th anniversary of the last time Washington advanced to the NBA Finals. The Washington Bullets lost to the Seattle SuperSonics back in 1979 -- before every Wizard except Mike James, Antawn Jamison, Juan Dixon, Darius Songaila and Juan Dixon were born -- but they beat the San Antonio Spurs in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals that year. Ah, the glory days. So far, far away.
At least one of those franchises has a shot at advancing to the conference finals this year, albeit in the West. The San Antonio Spurs own the second-best record in the Western Conference -- and have no chance at catching the conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers. But now they have to be concerned about the sardine can of teams seeded between No. 2 and No. 8. Winning the Southwest Division is no longer a foregone conclusion with the New Orleans Hornets catching steam, the Houston Rockets continuing to find Tracy McGrady-less success and Manu Ginobili still sidelined with a stress reaction in his right ankle.
The Spurs (40-20) have just a two-game lead over Hornets and Rockets, and have gone only 5-4 since the all-star break. They have lost three of their past four games, including a 107-102 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday. Feeling the need to bolster its roster for the postseason, the Spurs signed Drew Gooden, who was waived by the Sacramento Kings on Sunday.
The Spurs are looking to win their seventh straight game against the Wizards. They hammered the Wizards, 98-67 on Feb. 21, as Roger Mason Jr. scored 25 points. It was the Wizards worst loss this season to a Western Conference opponent. Here's what else you should know about the Spurs as they prepare to host the Washington Wizards tonight at AT&T Center:
1. Tony Parker Is Putting Up Big Numbers
With Manu Ginobili out since the all-star break, Tony Parker has had some of his most explosive scoring performances of the season. In the past nine games, Parker is averaging 23 points, has scored in double figures eight times and has scored more than 30 points four times. (He had five games with at least 30 points in his first 41 games.) The one time Parker failed to reach double-digits? Against the Wizards -- when he scored nine points. His speed and aggression creates some serious matchup problems. Parker scored 37 points in a losing effort against Dallas on Wednesday, but he was especially huge when Tim Duncan missed three games late last month with a knee injury. In back-to-back victories against Dallas and Portland on Feb. 24-25, Parker averaged 38 points and 11 assists.
2. Drew Gooden Might Be the Right Piece
Gooden makes sense for the Spurs for a number of reasons. He's big. He can score. He's physical. And, after spending several seasons under Mike Brown in Cleveland, he already knows the Spurs' defensive schemes. Matt Bonner has been a pleasant surprise for the Spurs this season, but the Gooden signing gives San Antonio its first viable low post option to team with Tim Duncan since, possibly, David Robinson. It could work. But it might not.
3. The Spurs Don't Need Big Names to Have Success
The success that Roger Mason Jr. has enjoyed since leaving Washington last summer is well-known around these parts. But the performances of Mason and Matt Bonner should not come as a surprise given the Spurs' way, which is summed up by a motto that hangs on the wall of the team's locker room. As it was pointed out in both the New York Times and Sports Illustrated, the Spurs rely on 19th-century social reformer Jacob Riis, who came up with the Stonecutter Credo, which states: "When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before."
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