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Conference Race Tightens as Spurs Gain Steam

What began as an otherwise unimpressive season is rapidly becoming a Cinderella story of epic proportions. The Spurs, whose slow start to a tight season shook the faith of many fans, now seem to have found their X-Factor. Lord only knows what got them started, but game after game the Spurs are starting to look more and more like their old selves. Richard Jefferson, the oft maligned preseason trade acquisition, seems to have rediscovered his scoring mojo, making his way back to the basket with the old flare he showed as a teammate of Jason Kidd. Antonio McDyess is showing a more reliable touch from midrange. Even newcomers like Garrett Temple are starting to show flashes of brilliance on the court, and slowly but surely the Spurs have begun their ascent back to their rightful place atop the standings.

Naturally, there are still a few obstacles standing in the way of a drastic climb up the conference rankings, but with only a handful of games left and the Spurs playing their best basketball of the season, who is to say they couldn’t pull off a few marquee upsets and land themselves in a real spot of honor? This year has, after all, already been fraught with upsets and unlikely sporting occurrences (I’m looking at you Butler University), and much as I am sure the sports analysts will disagree, I just don’t see Cleveland as having the juice to go all the way. They are a talented club, don’t get me wrong, but for all of his high flying antics and widely publicized talents, King James still can’t seem to pull it together when it really counts, and to be honest, I think it is more likely Orlando will repeat in the finals because they are, in my not entirely expert opinion, a better overall ball club. The same can easily be said about the constantly touted Lakers. True, they are a good ball club, but they lack an effective point guard, an area of the game where the Spurs hold a clear advantage, and their cocky, self-entitled persona isn’t at all the kind of attitude I would expect of a championship favorite. They forget, I trust, that last year, a wounded and supposedly outclassed Rockets squad dragged them into a seven game series. They forget, perhaps encouraged by the end results of the finals series, that the Orlando Magic, a team that had not been to the finals in a decade, was one unlucky bounce and one tremendously lucky three point field goal away from stealing two games and extending the series to seven. They forget that they have one of the worst benches in the NBA.

None of this is to say that the Spurs are a sure thing to make it deep into the playoffs. It would probably be naïve to assume that just because the Spurs have shown some recent glimmers of their championship selves that they are capable of simply willing opponents out of the way and claiming center stage, but if this level of play continues, it is not inconceivable for the Spurs to end their regular season run with the division title and home court advantage. So who knows, maybe the slow start, the inconsistent play, the painful losses to horrible teams, maybe these challenges were all just what the Spurs needed to get themselves in playoff form. Maybe the blood, sweat, and tears of our worn out veterans have made this team exactly what we the fans hoped it would be - spry, hungry, and ready to strike.

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