The by-week preview of the No Football Era of American sports got off to a promising start with a thrilling Spurs-Lakers Sunday afternoon game on ABC. I realized that I don’t think I’ve actually seen a full Spurs game so far this season (they start late, you know) and that San Antonio has weirdly dropped off the map as a championship contender according to most commentators. The case for the Spurs, however, seems very strong.
For one thing, the balance of curmudgeonly clichés overwhelmingly favors the Spurs. They trounce the competition in terms of players who Know How to Win the Big Games. They’ve got Popovich. They’ve played 30 games against the Wester Conference and Phoenix has only played 23. Defense wins championships. Tim Duncan’s a lock for the hall of fame. I’m not a big believer in these kind of sportswriter perennials, but it’s unnerving to never hear them. And I do believe in them at least a little; when you have a veteran team that’s won championships before, you don’t necessarily ask them to put the league-best regular season together. They’re confident, maybe coasting a little, maybe making sure there’s gas in the tank for the playoffs. But besides that, the Spurs also have quantitative factors going for them — Dallas has the better record, but the Spurs have the better point differential. Phoenix is amazing, and, obviously, they’re aesthetically brilliant as well as good at winning games, but I do think their act won’t work nearly as well in the playoffs. So it still looks like San Antonio to me.