As a phoenix rises from the ashes to symbolize a new beginning, the San Antonio Spurs have risen to the top of the Western Conference standings once again. Through all the injuries and adversities that come with an aging team, the Spurs continue to find ways to be relevant.
Thanks to the Los Angeles Lakers‘ unexpected 110-104 throttling of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Spurs now hold a half game lead in first place. With a record of 46-16 and a current winning streak of six games, the Spurs have regained their championship swagger that was seen just a year ago. And it is not a coincidence that the return of Tony Parker for the Spurs and Russell Westbrook for the Thunder both come around this crucial momentum swing.
Parker is averaging 19 points in his four games back, and Westbrook is averaging 20.8. The Spurs are 4-0 with Parker in the lineup, while the Thunder are just 3-5 with Westbrook back in uniform. Parker has had a visible effect on the physical, mental and emotional attitude of San Antonio. His new-found energy brings more scoring options for his teammates as well as a balanced attack from all positions.
The Thunder, on the other hand, look like a totally different team. Westbrook has come in with a full head of steam, and it has definitely affected his teammates’ approach — most noticeably Kevin Durant, who seems more passive and willing to let Westbrook have his way with the ball.
It seems as though the tide has changed in the west and regardless of what other teams are doing, San Antonio is well equipped for any coming threats. With the best road record in the NBA, grabbing the home-court advantage throughout the playoffs would make another title run very realistic.