by Zvon Knezovic
After being swept in the second round of last year’s playoffs, few would have predicted the Spurs to be sitting atop the West — and the league — with a 26-4 record. But even after racking up wins at a franchise record pace, question marks still remain as to whether this Spurs team can truly challenge for their fifth championship.
For all the superlatives thrown the way of this new and improved Spurs team, they've yet to really test themselves against the big boys of the league. Their best wins to date have been on the road against the Jazz and Thunder — likely 50-win teams, and not expected by most to seriously contend through June – and at home against the old Magic — who later went on a run of 7 losses in 8 outings before shaking things up with a trade (and delivered a 22-point blitzing of the Spurs — albeit on a back to back for San Antonio). However, the upcoming schedule will afford the Spurs an opportunity to test themselves against what are very likely to be the two biggest roadblocks standing in the way of an NBA Finals return.
The Spurs will play host to Kobe and the Lakers tonight, and then travel to Dallas on Thursday to take a second crack at Dirk and the new and improved Mavs. If the Spurs are to make a return to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007, they will likely have to go through at least one, if not both outfits come the playoffs. It’s safe to say, when it comes to the Lakers and Mavs, the Spurs won’t find a tougher test in terms of matchups.