Commentary

PER Diem: Dec. 31, 2008

The Spurs might be sitting pretty with a 20-11 record, but the Playoff Odds tell a different story.

Updated: December 31, 2008, 1:21 PM ET
By John Hollinger | ESPN.com

Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim DuncanD. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty ImagesEven with a healthy big three in San Antonio, the Spurs might have a hard time making the playoffs.

Checking out the Playoff Odds on Wednesday, there's a bit of a surprise out West.

Daily Gems
Here are John Hollinger's top five NBA observations for Wednesday. Insider Insider

• Regression to the mean for C's, Cavs
• Jose Calderon's unreal free-throw feat
• The Pacers' bad luck continues
• Dallas' amazing comeback on Tuesday
• Injuries keep piling up for key players

According to Wednesday's simulations, the eight most likely playoff teams from that conference are the Lakers, Blazers, Nuggets, Hornets, Rockets, Jazz, Mavs and Suns.

You'll notice I didn't mention the Spurs. After Tuesday's 100-98 loss at home to Milwaukee, the Spurs project to finish ninth in the West with a 47-35 record. They're a lowly 14th in the Power Rankings -- more than a point behind No. 13 Dallas.

All this seems a bit odd just looking at the standings. San Antonio is 20-11, after all, with the third-best record in the West and just a half-game behind New Orleans in the Southwest Division race.

Intangible factors seem to be on the Spurs' side, too. They've compiled their record despite losing Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili for big chunks of time, and they have a history of rallying in the second half of the season after ho-hum starts.

However, the Playoff Odds and Power Rankings underscore this: San Antonio hasn't played nearly as well as its record. The Spurs already have played 18 home games, tied with Boston for most in the league. Also, their opponents' .469 winning percentage is the worst of any team in the West.

Moreover, the Spurs have been remarkably mediocre since Parker and Ginobili returned to the lineup. Their past 10 games include close shaves at home against Minnesota, Oklahoma City and Memphis, a home loss to the Bucks and a convincing defeat in Orlando.

As a result, the Playoff Odds project the Spurs to go just 27-24 in their final 51 games. This would be hugely disappointing from San Antonio's perspective, but its schedule is about to rise several notches in difficulty.

From Jan. 11 to March 4, the Spurs will play only eight of their 25 games at home. Of those eight, six are against high-caliber opponents: Orlando, Portland, Cleveland, the Lakers, Dallas and New Orleans. The other two games, against Indiana and New Jersey, aren't exactly gimmes, either.

And of the 17 road games, at least eight -- at L.A., Utah, Phoenix, Denver, Boston, Detroit, Portland and Dallas -- have to be considered likely or somewhat likely defeats. Of the 25 games, only two are against the bottom six teams in the West, and both are on the road.

Thus, the Spurs' position isn't nearly as strong as it appears in the standings. The Spurs aren't playing real well, and they'll get absolutely bushwhacked by the schedule if they don't start playing better real soon.

John Hollinger writes for ESPN Insider. To e-mail him, click here.