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Spurs coach Popovich says he wouldn’t want his team to go through another 20-game win streak

Mar 16, 2013, 8:30 PM EDT

Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, DeJuan Blair, Gregg Popovich AP

The Spurs went on an absolute tear to finish the 2011-12 season, and rode a 10-game winning streak into the postseason.

After sweeping the Jazz and then the Clippers in the first two rounds of the playoffs, the streak reached 18 straight, and two games into the Western Conference finals against the Thunder, it was up to 20, with the Spurs needing just two more wins to reach the NBA Finals.

Once the streak came to an end following a 20-point loss in Oklahoma City, so did San Antonio’s season. The Spurs never recovered, and lost four straight games to be eliminated from contention.

Gregg Popovich remembers the strain the streak put on his team during the most critical time of the year, which is why he said he wouldn’t want to be a part of another streak like that in the future.

From Marc Stein of ESPN.com:

“I don’t want to win 20 games in a row [again]. Now that might sound … ‘Well, who wouldn’t want to do that?’ [But] it’s too much of a grind. I was hoping for a loss [in last season's playoffs]. I thought about doing things to make sure we get a loss here and there, but you can’t do that to your team.”

Pop, though, was careful to explain that a 20-game win streak for the Spurs — in comparison to the 20 consecutive victories that Miami lugged Friday night into Milwaukee — created such a weight because of when it was happening, with half of those W’s coming during the playoffs.

Reason being: “When you win that many games in a row,” Pop contends, “… you’re very likely going to lose [up] to three games when that thing is done. It’s just such a letdown. And in the playoffs you can’t afford that. Not against a team that is as young and talented as Oklahoma City.”

It’s an interesting way of looking at it, because one would think that by putting together a streak like that to end the season and then continuing it into the third round of the playoffs, a team would be peaking at just the right time.

Popovich knows the ins and outs of the game and the mental ways different things can affect his players better than anyone, however, so we’ll just have to take his word for it that a winning streak of that length entering the postseason isn’t the best way to navigate the path to a title.

  1. kb2408 - Mar 16, 2013 at 9:24 PM

    Not a Spurs fan but that team can win it all this season. Miami is not as unbeatable as they seem. The Spurs have the squad and the coaching to beat them. That’s if Indy doesn’t knock the Heat out first.

  2. patfic15 - Mar 16, 2013 at 11:33 PM

    As a huge OKC fan who watched the Heat destroy them last year, I’ll say this: Miami can run like OKC and defend like SA. Though not an all time great, they are the perfect team for this NBA. There is no stopping them….especially not at the hands of the Pacers.

  3. kavika6 - Mar 17, 2013 at 1:16 AM

    The competition the Spurs beat during that streak wasn’t the greatest, but it was much better than the bottom dwellers the Heat have been playing.

  4. eventhorizon04 - Mar 17, 2013 at 1:32 AM

    “When you win that many games in a row,” Pop contends, “… you’re very likely going to lose [up] to three games when that thing is done. It’s just such a letdown. And in the playoffs you can’t afford that.”

    ….So winning a lot of games makes it likely you can lose 3+ in a row?

    I hugely respect Pop, but that honestly makes no sense.
    He’s basically arguing tat it was a disadvantage for the 2011-2012 Spurs team that had older veterans like Duncan and Ginobli to *sweep* their competition in the playoffs since that made it harder to win in the Western Conference Finals?

    I don’t buy it at all.

    You want your team to win games, ESPECIALLY in the playoffs, since your reward is additional days of rest as well as fewer chances of injury. Every time they swept an opponent, they gave Duncan a breather and decreased the odds of sustaining an injury. Their loss to OKC had nothing to do with their win streak and everything to do with OKC moving the ball better and getting key contributions from Ibaka and yes, even Perkins, on offense.

    • eventhorizon04 - Mar 17, 2013 at 1:43 AM

      I honestly thought Pop was above this nonsense.

      Really – winning too much “put too much pressure”/”set us up for a letdown?”

      And what if instead of sweeping everybody, the Spurs had limped through their playoff series in 7 games each against the Clippers and Utah before losing in 7 games to OKC?

      Would Popp have said that the Spurs were too beat up from consecutive full-7 game series each round before, and he wished they had managed to sweep those teams so Duncan and Ginboli would have been better rested against a very talented OKC squad?

      See what I mean – whether the Spurs win a lot before losing to OKC (which happened) or lose a lot before losing to OKC (which could have happened), I can make vaguely credible arguments blaming the loss in part on outside factors, when it was really simple.

      OKC figured out the Spurs’ offense, and the young Thunder made a couple of key plays when they needed to near the end of games. That’s all it takes for one very talented team to beat another very talented team – just a couple of plays here and there.

      • andrewproughcfe - Mar 17, 2013 at 2:04 AM

        You are both wrong. The Spurs were getting more than half their minutes from very young players in the playoffs last year – Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Patty Mills, Gary Neal, Splitter, and Dejuan Blair were all averaging about 20+ minutes a game, and were providing about half the scoring. Once they lost the first game in OKC, those were the guys who disappeared, their confidence shaken. They were all so young, and had almost no playoff experience before – they weren’t prepared for what the Thunder was willing to throw at them.

        This year could be different, because of the experience of the younger guys. They’ve all increased their production and minutes so far this season, and all of them have gotten to be the game MVP at various times so far this season.

      • icewalker946 - Mar 17, 2013 at 8:22 AM

        Remember when Rocky went up against the Russian Ivan Drago in Rocky IV? Rocky was getting the snot beat out of him by this machine of a man….

        Then Rock hit him, and cut him.

        Momentum had started to swing. Drago was not the invincible force anymore. Yeah, he might have killed Apollo Creed (spoiler alert!) and destroyed all opponents leading up to the Rocky fight but Drago was not to be feared after that punch. He was beatable. Even Rocky started seeing only one Ivan again and he got the fire in him to understand that, hey, I can win!

        What Popovich is getting at (I think) is if the Spurs had lost before the playoffs started or even in an earlier round then when they got into a tough match-up with Oklahoma City, a loss to the Thunder wouldn’t be as much. When the mighty 20-in-a-row team lost (got cut) it gave confidence to the young Thunder team that, hey, we can win!

        OK, that’s fiction. Let’s go real life. Mike Tyson. Buster Douglas beat Iron Mike and Tyson was never ‘feared’ again like before. True, he could hit me with an upper cut and make my neck look (and sound) like a Rock-em Sock-em Robot, but he was never the same after that fight.

        Half of winning in sports is 90% mental. Sorry, Yogi.

      • miamatt - Mar 17, 2013 at 3:42 PM

        I just want to say that a lot of good points were made in every post of this thread.

        icewalker was particularly awesome.

  5. dmaq1 - Mar 17, 2013 at 2:10 AM

    Pop is a true coach.. plays chess with his players and his team and I admire him for that.

    Top 5 Coach of All-Time IMO.

    • fanofevilempire - Mar 17, 2013 at 7:26 AM

      Pop is a good coach because he holds Timmy, Tony and Manu just as accountable
      and can get in their face too, Pop knows how to coach great players.

    • polonelmeagrejr - Mar 17, 2013 at 8:47 AM

      icewalker. Rocky was a movie. ALl of them. WHen Rocky IV came out my quesion wqas “What’s Rocky for?

      • icewalker946 - Mar 17, 2013 at 2:47 PM

        I know Rocky is a movie. I just wanted to explain it differently than ‘Pop just wants to have his team on edge’. A little Sunday morning humor. Liven things up.

        I failed yet again. What else is new.

  6. cantonbound13 - Mar 17, 2013 at 9:56 AM

    Pop is the best coach in the NBA right now, by far. I wouldn’t doubt anything he says or does.

  7. lilrock9 - Mar 17, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    So POP that’s ur excuse for OKC wippin dat a••. What about the year before when Memphis got in those cheeks.
    I’m surprised that he’s put his snout in miami’s business & he’s making excuses for their failures in the playoffs recently. What will be the excuse this year b/c their going home again.

  8. mungman69 - Mar 17, 2013 at 11:17 AM

    If Miami doesn’t win it all it will be a
    ” BIG SURPRISE “

  9. lemfaxx - Mar 17, 2013 at 11:26 AM

    Spurs vs Heat! I keep shouting this since 2011-12 season…

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