Pump Up Music: Sponge -- "Plowed"
The Big Picture: What happened to the San Antonio Spurs? If the season ended today, they'd be a half game out of the playoffs. Part of it is probably injury. Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker have both missed time already, and Manu, especially, just hasn't been himself, his field goal percentage falling through the floor. But even that doesn't explain the Spurs' shakiness, seeing as Tim Duncan is as steady as ever.
It's probably the defense. They don't have a perimeter stopper, and that has a cascade effect on everyone else. Sure, Richard Jefferson is far from embarrassing on D. Same goes for Roger Mason, Jr. and Keith Bogans. But the formula kind of breaks down without that perimeter defender. Yes, Duncan is still an anchor in the paint, but when the opponent's go-to guy -- usually a wing player that Duncan can't guard one on one -- doesn't have to deal with Bruce Bowen harassing him all night (in ways both legal and gray area), it magnifies the others' defensive weaknesses, and suddenly Matt Bonner's ability to stretch the D on the offensive end of the floor doesn't seem like such a great advantage when he has to help more on slashers. It's not too late to correct this. Someone like Rasual Butler might be a great acquisition for them down the line.
Key to Victory: Tyson Chandler has to stay in the game. If he can avoid foul trouble and make life difficult for Timmy, the Spurs will have a really difficult time scoring on the Bobcats' defense. Secondarily, here's hoping Boris Diaw can punish San Antonio for playing either Matt Bonner or DeJuan Blair (a.k.a. Thabeet Killer) with his inside-outside game.
Detail That May Interest .08% of You: Larry Brown lasted 3 1/2 years as Spurs coach in the late 80s and early 90s. He was replaced by Bob Bass, apparently on an interim basis, for the rest of the 1991-92 season. But then, to start the 1992-93 season, somehow Jerry Tarkanian(!) lasted only twenty games before getting canned.