Slumping Spurs tighten up West

For months now it’s been a foregone conclusion that the San Antonio Spurs would earn the 1-seed in the Western Conference playoffs. The Spurs have held at least a share of the top spot in the West every day since November 16 and built a seemingly insurmountable lead over the rest of the Western Conference during January and February.

But San Antonio’s unprecedented five-game losing streak, combined with the Los Angeles Lakers' 16-1 record since the All-Star break, has turned the race for the top seed in the West into a photo finish.

Fewest 5-Game Losing Streaks
Since 1997-98

If you can’t remember the last time the Spurs lost five games in a row, you’re forgiven. Prior to Thursday, it was 1996-97, when San Antonio dropped its final six games of the season.

The team’s leading scorer was Dominique Wilkins, current NBA head coaches Avery Johnson and Vinny Del Negro started opposite each other in the backcourt and Tim Duncan was a senior at Wake Forest.

The Spurs are allowing 101.6 points per game after the All-Star Game, a sharp increase from before the All-Star break when they ranked 10th in the league with 96.3 points per game allowed. San Antonio has allowed at least 95 points in its past eight home games, its longest single-season streak since 1994-95.

Rajon Rondo

RondoThe Boston Celtics scored 107 points in San Antonio on Thursday behind a team-high 22 points from Rajon Rondo, the first time he’s led the team in scoring since February 6. Rondo also added 14 assists and did not commit a turnover, joining Antoine Walker as the only Celtics players to have 22 points, 14 assists and no turnovers in a game over the last 25 years (Walker did it against the Denver Nuggets on February 12, 2002).

In Thursday’s other game, the Lakers beat the Dallas Mavericks 110-82 to improve to a league-best 16-1 since the All-Star break. Since the first All-Star Game in 1951, the Lakers are the fifth team to win 16 of its first 17 games coming out of the All-Star break, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Each of the previous four -- the 1999-00 Lakers, 1997-98 Jazz, 1990-91 Bulls, 1989-90 Pistons -- reached the NBA Finals, with the Lakers, Bulls and Pistons winning it all.

Los Angeles is now two-and-a-half games behind San Antonio in the West. The Lakers have four home games and four away games remaining, with four of the eight games against teams currently in playoff position. The Spurs will be on the road for four of their final seven games but will play only two teams currently in line for a playoff spot in that span. The top seed out West could be decided April 12 in Los Angeles when the Lakers host the Spurs.