End of historic era in San Antonio?
NBA.com Global on Mar 14, 2018 07:21 AM
SAN ANTONIO, TX - DECEMBER 18: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white.) Manu Ginobili #20 and Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs warm up before the game against the LA Clippers on December 18, 2017 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
NBA.com staff report
A remarkable streak came to an end on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time), with the San Antonio Spurs' 104-94 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder clinching their first losing road record since 1996-97.
To put that into perspective, starting point guard Dejounte Murray was not yet a year old when that disastrous season ended, while the man he replaced, Tony Parker, was a precocious teenager just finishing his first year at France's prestigious National Institute of Sport.
But as has been well-chronicled over the years, it came with the silver lining of all silver linings: An unexpected victory in the ensuing Draft lottery, and the right to draft Tim Duncan.
The rest is, quite literally, history: A run of consistent success never before seen in the NBA featuring five championships, 20 straight playoff appearances and 18 straight campaigns with at least 50 victories. (That run would stand at 20 as well were it not for the strike-shortened season in 1998-99, when the Spurs finished 37-13 -- a 61-win pace over 82 games -- en route to their first title.)
Reports of the Spurs' imminent demise have been plentiful over the years, and invariably wrong.
When '99 mainstays like David Robinson, Avery Johnson and Sean Elliott succumbed to age, they promptly reloaded with Parker and Manu Ginobili. And as that crew began to wear down, they made a shrewd draft-day trade for Kawhi Leonard and squeezed out another title in 2015. When Duncan finally retired after 19 illustrious seasons in 2016? The Spurs won 61 games without him, and were well on their way to victory over the Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals before Leonard went down with a series-ending sprained ankle.
But now, with only 15 games remaining in the 2017-18 campaign, even more streaks are in jeopardy.
At 37-30, with 14 losses in their past 21 games, the Spurs must finish 13-2 to keep their string of 50-win seasons alive.
With Leonard reportedly set to return from his lengthy battle with right quadriceps tendinopathy as early as Thursday (Friday, PHL time), it's certainly possible. And 10 of those remaining games are at home, where the Spurs are a formidable 23-8.
But those are about the lone positives. Otherwise, 13 of those games coming against winning teams, including one apiece with Western Conference leaders the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors.
The Spurs' situation is even more dire given that they have zero margin for error, sitting in 10th place in the West and just one game away from missing the playoffs entirely, something an entire generation of NBA fans has never experienced.
But with one streak snapped and several more on life support, could the long-prophesied end of the Spurs' historic dynasty be here?