Originally posted on Project Spurs  |  Last updated 4/2/13
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

Alleged Manning sexual assault cited in Tennessee lawsuit

Arian Foster: It's hard for me to watch football

Isaiah Thomas recruiting players at All-Star weekend

Report: Charles Woodson joining ESPN's Sunday NFL crew

Best and worst from NBA All-Star Saturday night

WATCH: Klay Thompson can't go home unless he beats Steph Curry in 3-Point contest

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Star players are hurting Houston Rockets

Emmitt Smith: Adrian Peterson only current player who could break rushing record

Coach K gets buzzer-beater win over Virginia for his birthday

Baylor approves new measures to deal with sexual assault

Joe Mauer: Concussions blurred vision, affected hitting

LeBron James says Kevin Love-Celtics trade rumor is false

Tennessee shares Valentines-themed photo of packed stadium

NY Post writer takes harsh shot at Jason Pierre-Paul

LaVine, Gordon put on best NBA dunk contest in years

WATCH: Thompson beats teammate Curry in 3-point contest

NFL teams, players hand out awesome Valentines

Earl Campbell ‘disappointed’ in Johnny Manziel, wants to help

Big man Karl-Anthony Towns wins NBA skills challenge

MLB commish: Cubs will host All-Star Game in near future

WATCH: Memphis forward recreates Vince Carter's elbow dunk in game

Bruins forward is goal scoring machine after suspension

Michael Jordan gives Kobe Bryant complete set of Air Jordans

Drake has Kentucky edition of custom ‘OVO’ Air Jordan 8s

QUIZ: Name every NBA All-Star Game MVP

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

Ranking the ten best free agent pitcher signings

Who had the best NBA All-Star Game of the last 40 years?

The winners and losers of the 2016 MLB offseason

On Kobe Bryant and taking greatness for granted

Bucks need to choose between wins, development

Fantasy booking WrestleMania 32

Unrestricted free agents each team must consider re-signing

QUIZ: Name the winners of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest

Thank you Daniel Bryan

The timeless greatness of Jaromir Jagr

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker