Originally written on Project Spurs  |  Last updated 10/28/14
Following their 90-92 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, the San Antonio Spurs are now granted a temporary reprieve from their gauntlet of upper echelon playoff opponents.  If the brutal span of games stretching from last Wednesday through this Thursday--with a quick break against the Orlando Magic at home tomorrow night--serve as a final exam of sorts before the playoffs, as Spurs coach Gregg Popovich put it, the team is on the verge of a "C", with a mediocre 2-2 record so far.  Thursday night's nationally televised game against the Oklahoma City Thunder could have as much to say about the Western Conference's top overall seed as the Spurs loss to the Heat had in possible NBA Finals seeding ramifications. But the Spurs have always been more concerned about how the team is playing headed into the playoffs than where they were seeded, and in that there are certainly questions.  The Spurs two-game losing streak holds no more negative bearings on the their playoff chances than their previous two-game winning streak brought positive projections, though the different outcomes certainly provoke different responses. There is a reason that statisticians measure strength by point differential rather than overall record at times--games that come down to the last few possessions are often a coin flip proposition.  The results of those final plays are often a product of chance. A fortunate bounce, a lucky shot, or even the whims of a referee's whistle (the Tim Duncan travel no-call versus the Clippers against the Norris Cole phantom foul in Miami) can change the outcome of such games when left to chance.  Remove results, however, and what can be evaluated is execution. In that the Spurs have some matters to clean up before the playoffs begin.  There is enough that goes into winning an NBA championship that is out of a team's hands that it's safe to say that a certain amount of luck goes into every NBA title. Extended playoff runs are often defined by unlikely moments, like the top of the key three-pointer the Heat's Chris Bosh hit to win the game.  Losing an NBA title can be as simple as affording an opponent an opportunity for chance to wreak havoc. Something the Spurs have dangerously allowed with defensive breakdowns in the waning moments of the last few games.  Had Duncan been available for the Memphis game (he was out with a sore left knee) it's unlikely he would've allowed himself to be taken out of the last defensive possession as Matt Bonner did in following Zach Randolph all the way out to the three-point line where he's hardly a threat while Mike Conley drove for the game-winning layup with no deterring big in the lane to help.  That play might not have been relevant if not for a Gary Neal breakdown with 35 seconds remaining in the game. With the Spurs up three, the Grizzlies' Jared Bayless ran a pick-and-roll with Mike Conley spotting up on the weak side. As Gasol dives, Neal steps into the lane too far, leaving Conley open to hit a game-tying three-pointer. Even if the Spurs base defense dictates that guards on the weak side dig and recover, in that situation Neal needs to know time and place in that scenario and realize that only a three-pointer ties the game.  In Miami, Splitter leaves Haslem to double an already well-defended Ray Allen, leaving Duncan to hopelessly choose between a diving Haslem and an open Bosh at the top of the key.  Against the Clippers, a breakdown in communication between Parker and Leonard leaves Jamal Crawford to hit a wide open corner three-pointer. Up three, Spurs guard Manu Ginobili leaves a three-point shooter to contest what would've been an Al Jefferson elbow jumper, eventually leading to a Marvin Williams open corner three-pointer to send the game into overtime.  When coaches talk process over results, these are the small details that matter. When looking back on the this stretch run, these games could have easily been all won, or all lost. But the execution would still be the same. 
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Roger Goodell grilled on Deflategate during presser

Rex Ryan: Seahawks need to ‘take the air out of the football’

J.J. Watt buys cabin in the middle of nowhere to train

Six teams have done background work on Adrian Peterson

NBA set to earn $700M through streaming deal in China

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Wade Phillips is the best coordinator hire this offseason

Bill Belichick gives understated scouting report of Tom Brady

Five teams that failed to improve this offseason

Steelers fans were more profane on social media

Seahawks praise Tom Brady's trash-talking ability

Richard Sherman's girlfriend talks possible Super Bowl baby

Could Katy Perry and Russell Wilson be dating?

The Media isn't the villain we deserve, but it's the one we need

Are LeBron and the Cavs ready to make a run?

The Super Bowl and the things that can't be controlled

DeMarcus Cousins calls out writer for five-year-old tweet

What if Drew Bledsoe didn't get injured in 2001?

Who should make up the 2015 Hall of Fame class

WATCH: Porn sounds played during Predators broadcast

Five worst teams to win a Super Bowl

Matt Damon, Ben Affleck defend Patriots on Kimmel

Watch: John Oliver tackles the Super Bowl

The Washington Redskins and their forgotten dynasty

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Roger Goodell grilled on Deflategate

Katy Perry, Russell Wilson dating?

Rex Ryan has advice for Seahawks

Super Bowl: Things you can't control

LeBron and the Cavs are ready to make a run

Cousins calls out writer's old tweet

Seahawks praise Brady's trash-talk

Who should be in 2015 HOF class

Five potential Super Bowl XLIX heroes

Rex Ryan downplays Deflategate

Brady hopes Manning comes back

The worst Super Bowl commercials of all-time

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.