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Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - We take things for granted, and not necessarily in a bad way. One of the things we as an NBA world have taken for granted is the greatness of the San Antonio Spurs, though is it actually taking it for granted when this group has been so successful for so long? Theyve earned so much of our respect that no matter what, we universally agree theyll always be fine. Though that concession comes with an important caveat - so long as Pop patrols the sideline, Timmy patrols the paint, Tony patrols the point and Manu patrols the bench. All pegs are in place for San Antonio, yet is it fair to question the Spurs now as theyve lost five of their last six, including three of those at home? They are 18-12, which is respectable, but thats seventh in the Western Conference. They are two games out of the eighth spot in the conference and three from being lottery-bound. Can you believe that? Are the Spurs really in danger of missing the playoffs? At this stage of the game, its too early to make any judgments, but the reality is, yes, they could miss the postseason in the ultra-loaded Western Conference. Nothing is a guarantee in the west. One minute, the Phoenix Suns look dreadful and destined for a return to the lottery. Now, theyve won four straight and are semi-comfortably a game ahead in the race for the eighth seed. The Oklahoma City Thunder made up a 5 1/2-game deficit for the final spot in less than two weeks when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook finally played together. At the heart of the problem is that the Spurs arent built to battle for a postseason berth - they are built to contend for titles. Theres a huge difference. Head coach Gregg Popovich has been able to maximize his players performances in the postseason so brilliantly because hes been able to rest his aging guys during the regular season. The Spurs are older than the Golden Girls cast, so thats both wise and necessary. Tim Duncan (38), Manu Ginobili (37), Matt Bonner (34), Boris Diaw (32) and Tony Parker (32) are not children. On top of counting the inner rings, or drivers license showing their age, this group has a lot of tread on the tires from prolonged runs in the playoffs. Pop has strategically benched them throughout recent seasons. The players need it and Popovich could afford to do it considering the Spurs were always near the top of the standings. If the Spurs remain in a three- or four-team hodgepodge for the final two spots out West for the remainder of the season, one game makes the difference. Can Popovich sit Duncan, et al considering the value of each contest? Hard to say. Pops a mad genius -- equal parts mad, equal parts genius. I still think hell sit his guys, but theres nothing guaranteed to these Spurs. Thats possibly another major issue facing San Antonio and Popovich brought it up after a disappointing Christmas Day loss at home to the Thunder, who were without Durant. I think we floated around like were entitled, so that was disappointing, he said. Thats a new dilemma for the Spurs. Never during this epic run of titles would anyone believe the Spurs felt entitled to anything. Their professionalism is the thing of legend. Maybe its not whats going on with the Spurs, but there is something missing from this group. Perhaps its a hunger issue, or it could be injuries. Parker has missed time and Patty Mills, who was huge in the championship run, hasnt played yet, although hes clear for 5-on-5 work. The big setback is Kawhi Leonard. His hand is in bad shape and theres no timetable for return. Of course Kawhi is huge for us. He was the MVP of last seasons Finals. We need him, Ginobili said after the Thunder loss. But they were missing Durant. No excuses. There are no excuses for the Spurs, but theres reality. Age could be catching up. That seemed like a far-fetched problem entering the season after they steam-rolled the Miami Heat in the Finals. Watching them dissect the Heat like terminal Kermits was breathtaking. We didnt want to see it end, nor would a loss to Father Time be expected. But, Father Time is undefeated as they say. No one wanted to believe it after the precision we watched in June. Injuries arent excuses, theyre explanations. The core group of Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, Leonard, Diaw and Danny Green havent spent much time together on the floor. Duncans play has been tremendous, but his minutes have been high during December. He has sat out four times since the start of the month, but of the 10 games hes played in December, hes logged over 32 minutes eight times and over 39 minutes three times. To be fair, there were two triple-overtime marathons in there, but thats still a heavy workload for a 38-year-old. The sad part is, Tim Duncan comes out and plays every night. We cant find a group around him that can consistently compete and execute, Pop said on Thursday. Its got nothing to do with schedule and injuries. Every schedule for a Western Conference team is brutal. Almost every team is already hampered by injuries. The Spurs just arent themselves right now. Theres plenty of time to remedy it, but their current plight is something to keep an eye on. Nagging injuries dont get any better for guys in their 30s. Trust me, I cant sit up straight anymore. If Popovich cant get these guys some rest throughout the season, the Spurs chances at a first-ever repeat could be in jeopardy. Fighting for a playoff berth is no way for this team to prepare for a title defense. Theyll have nothing in the postseason. Pop and company have earned our faith. I believe theyll get it all together, but theres no reason to take anything for granted when it comes to the Spurs and the Western Conference. RANDOM THOUGHTS - Resting Kobe Bryant wasnt a masterful stroke of genius, it was common sense. Not only is Bryant 36 years of age, and coming off two major leg injuries a year ago, but over his last seven games, hes shooting a roasting- hot 31.6 percent from the field. Plus, Bryants shooting percentage has declined over the last four games from 35 percent to 26.7 percent. The problem is, sitting Kobe frequently isnt a great plan since theres no long-term youngsters to take a look at and build for the future. - Anderson Varejaos absence isnt quite crippling for the Cavaliers. They can go small with Kevin Love or Tristan Thompson in the middle, but theyll need a more stable, true big man at some point. - Maybe Jermaine ONeal will have a bidding war for his service. Most assume hell go to the Dallas Mavericks, who also need a true pivot man, but the Cavs should inquire. I imagine Kosta Koufos will be on Clevelands list as well. - Im very happy to see that John Wall is ahead of Kyrie Irving in All-Star voting. Same goes for Marc Gasol in the Western Conference. Its early returns, but this is an encouraging start. - Josh Smith made the easy choice. More money, starting role, playing with his best friend and playing for a title made the Houston Rockets the obvious landing spot. - Movie moment - I loved sitting around the dinner table with my family on Christmas Eve talking about their favorite movies of the year. Sure, I saw one movie in the theater - Planes: Fire & Rescue 2, but it was comforting knowing my father saw, and liked, Gone Girl and St. Vincent. Hes the same man who didnt see a movie in the theater from Dragnet to Charlie Wilsons War, a span of 20 years, and now hes the family Ebert. - TV moment - New record - SIX viewings of A Christmas Story this year. You used all the glue on purpose! Custom Carolina Hurricanes Jerseys . Dalton completed his only pass and led the Bengals to a touchdown in his only drive -- one that took four minutes to finish -- and the Cincinnati Bengals ended the preseason with a 27-10 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday night. Jiri Tlusty Jersey . -- The Denver Broncos are shuffling their offensive line this off-season and Orlando Franklin provided some insight into their plans Monday by tweeting that hes moving from right tackle to left guard. http://www.hockeyhurricanes.com/lee-ste ... ey-jersey/. The victory strengthened Liverpools position in the top four after Tottenham lost 1-0 at Norwich in the days late kickoff, cutting the north London club six points adrift of fourth place and the final Champions League slot for next season. Justin Faulk Jersey . Not that he was complaining. Davis had 13 points, nine rebounds and a career-high eight blocks, and the New Orleans Pelicans emphatically snapped a three-game skid with a 135-98 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night. Jeff Skinner Jersey . TSN Hockey Insiders Pierre LeBrun and Bob McKenzie both reported Thursday that there have been ongoing trade discussions between the Oilers and Los Angeles Kings over forward Sam Gagner.NEW YORK -- Not much has gone right for the Edmonton Oilers and Nail Yakupov in a season where much was expected. The first pick in the 2012 draft showed a glimpse Thursday night of why there was optimism in Edmonton before the season. Yakupov scored with 1:38 left in regulation to give the Oilers to a 2-1 win over the New York Rangers. Ryan Smyth also scored for Edmonton, which is 5-5 in its last 10. Ben Scrivens made 35 saves. "Finally we get rewarded," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. New Yorks season-high four-game winning streak came to an end. Derick Brassard scored and Cam Talbot made 29 saves. "I dont think it was consistent enough," Rangers right wing Ryan Callahan said of his teams play. "We need to have more of a consistent 60 minutes to get the win. "I dont think we were getting pucks deep quite enough. Theyre a good transition team with a lot of speed. We were a little sloppy through the neutral zone and when you do that against a team like that it will cost you." New Yorks sloppiness came at a most opportune time for the Oilers. Yakupov one-timed a feed from Sam Gagner past Talbot for the game-winning goal. "It was a good play by our guys down low to protect the puck," Yakupov said. "A great change by (Jordan Eberle). All I had to do was find space in the middle because I saw the two guys behind. I just had to find a spot. I think that was our top game this season. We need to do it to have a good time before the break." Yakupovs goal, his 11th of the season, broke a tie that carried over from the second period. After Smyth opened the scoring 2:56 into the game by shoving a rebound of David Perrrons shot past Talbot, Brassard drew the Rangers even at 1-1 with a slap shot that beat Scrivens 22 seconds into the second periood.dddddddddddd Brassards goal was his 11th of the season, and it was created by Benoit Pouliot intercepting Eberles pass in the Edmonton defensive zone. Pouliot whipped a pass from alongside the left wing boards to Mats Zuccarello, who found Brassard in the right faceoff circle. "All three of us try to work hard (and) play a simple game," Zuccarello said. "It doesnt matter when you lose. Its really disappointing because I thought we had a lot of chances to close out the game." But the Rangers, who finished with more shots on goal (36-31) and more shot attempts (65-51), could not find a way to solve Scrivens. "He was good," Rangers defenceman Marc Staal said. "We didnt have a lot of secondary chances, missed some good shots. I think you (have) to get in front of a guy like that. Hes playing well and I dont think we had enough traffic, causing rebounds and scrambles." Edmonton appeared to take a 2-1 lead on a power play midway through the second, but what would have been a goal by Gagner was waived off by the officiating crew of Dan OHalloran and Chris Lee. Their ruling was upheld by replay review. "(A shot) hit me right in the collarbone and ended up under my jersey," Talbot said. "It just fell down my back and the whistle had already blown." NOTES: Thursday nights game was the 6,000th regular season game in New York Rangers franchise history. ...Before the game, the Oilers announced they would play the Chicago Blackhawks in a preseason game in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, on Sept. 28, 2014. The preseason game will be the third the Oilers will have played in Saskatoon. "Its always nice to get to Saskatoon and see the tremendous support the Oilers have throughout Saskatchewan," Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish said in a statement. Jerseys From China Cheap NFL Jerseys Wholesale Wholesale Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys 2018 Jerseys Wholesale NFL Jerseys Cheap NFL Jerseys Wholesale ' ' '
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