The Spurs end the first week of the season at a very nice 3-1. Three easy home wins and one bad road loss. It’s hard to say what we learned in this week. The team is good when making their shots. We knew this, of course. It was true last year.
I do believe, though, that the Houston loss was the significant game of the week. We looked absolutely terrible in the third game in four nights and on the segababa. Mr. Tim Varner from 48MoH had this post about the loss. I think his points are all good. I’ll tell you what I told him. I also told him he missed one. Here it is:
The Spurs’ starters came into the Rockets’ game having played very few minutes. Yes, we may have been on a third game in four night, but the starters were coming off a couple blowouts where they barely hit 25 minutes (if that) in two games. What will we look like when we come off a down to the wire, the big three playing 33-35 minutes — or, heaven forbid, an over time game — and we are playing a back-to-back that actually involves some heavy travel and a good team? Ugly, that’s what will happen.
Here it now. Expect Pop to start resting the big three for entire games. He will pick games that are difficult to win, like at Oklahoma City, and toss them out the window. Take a few losses, losses you’ll most likely get anyway, and fatten up the record against the weaker teams.
History has shown as that Pop doesn’t give a rats ass about two things. One, how he stacks up against the better teams early in the season. Two, feeling that the fans in other towns have the “right” to see his stars play. Pop cares about one thing. Getting the team to the playoffs healthy. Ok, two things. He also cares that they are playing well when they get there.
The Spurs have a particularly gnarly stretch of games coming up. On Wednesday, they start a series of three back-to-backs. It ends the following Wednesday with a home game against the Rockets. That home game follows a game in Milwaukee on Tuesday. You think we looked like tired dogs in Houston? Wait til you see Tim dragging that leg up the court for the sixth time in eight nights. And keep waiting. It isn’t going to happen.
I predict that Pop will not play Tim, Manu, and Tony in the game in Oklahoma City. It’s the fourth game in five nights and, let’s face it, is unwinnable. We aren’t going into OKC and beating the best young team in the league on a segababa after playing a very tough Denver team. We damn sure aren’t doing it on second straight back-to-back. I expect Pop to have his starters on a short leash for the Dallas game, which is the first segababa, in hopes of having the guys with something for the Denver game.
By tanking that OKC game, it makes the Milwaukee game a chance at a win. Houston will be coming off a game in Charlotte the previous night as well, so that puts the Houston game in play.
In mid-January, after playing every other day for a couple games, we have another four games in five nights. The first two are at Miami and at Orlando. Then home for Sacramento and at Houston. (Yay, we get Houston on another tired stretch) Look for Pop to tank that Miami game.
At the end of January, is a three game road trip in four nights. Minny, day off, Mavs, Grizz. Again, I’d expect Pop to sit the big three against the Grizz. They are a very physical team and guys are more likely to get hurt against them, especially tired, than just about any other team in the league.
To sum up, I expect Pop to tank a game about every ten days in order to save a lot of wear and tear. He’s going to do it in games that are exceptionally difficult to win. It won’t be Sacto at home, I can tell you that.
Remember that game against Denver a couple years ago. The Spurs, coming off a game the previous night against Golden State, sat the big three. There was much gnashing of teeth around the blogosphere about it. Well, get ready for more of it. We are going to see about 10 games this season where it happens. It’s going to happen so often that it will no longer be a story and the lines in Vegas will be unpredictable at best, they’ll call them off at worst.
As long as it looks like we’ll be in the playoffs, I don’t think Pop is going to put much focus on the wins. Health. Health. Health. In this shortened, compressed season the team that hits the playoffs healthy will be one of the few to do it (I’m saying lots of teams will have injuries, more so than normal). A healthy team will have a great chance of making it deep in the playoffs.