Updated: Feb. 27, 2007, 12:01 PM ET

Spurs getting their act together

Answering a few questions after Monday's game in which the San Antonio Spurs dispatched the Toronto Raptors, 107-91 …

What's the latest inside word from Brent Barry, the Spurs guard?

I talked to my brother right after the All-Star break. He told me that he couldn't put his finger on the reason why, but he thinks the team will take off.

What signs do you see of this?

I think the two road wins they earned at the end of the first half, right before the All-Star break, beating Detroit and New Jersey, were crucial. A good sign of a revival for a team that had its struggles in the first half.

The thrashing of the Raptors gave them a season-high six wins in a row. Are we seeing a revving-up process?

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said earlier in the year how important it is to be playing your best ball in April. That's all well and good, but if you're not the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the West, the row you have to hoe is difficult.

At the Spurs current No. 3 seed, you're looking at a first-round matchup most likely with the Lakers, Rockets or Jazz. Then you have to go through Dallas and Phoenix in the next two rounds.

It's hard to believe a team could beat them both. But you can't count out a team that has three players like Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan.

The centers in the Spurs' lineup have been revamped compared to last year's team. The Wrath of Rasho (Nesterovic, the exiled Spurs center who scored a season-high 18 points for the Raps) was felt early on. How are the new middlemen working out for the Spurs?

They decided to go with Fabricio Oberto and Francisco Elson over Nesterovic and Nazr Mohammed. Earlier this year, when I asked Popovich about losing Rasho, he made a point of saying that they chose to do it.

So, the numbers from the new centers are basically the same, but the interior D is not. Elson is not a Nesterovic or Mohammed in terms of size. I always liked the Spurs' approach of using ball pressure to funnel guys into two 7-footers like David Robinson and Duncan.

A total of 10 international players saw time in this game, including Spain's World Champion members Jorge Garbajosa and Jose Calderon. The latter had a hard time with France's Parker (27 points). Good call by the NBA to broadcast this one on its international channel?

Oh yeah. I thought I was watching an Olympic game.

The Raptors, though carried early by Rasho, didn't have a great night. Still, they came in with the best record (18-7) in the East in 2007. Good things ahead for the Atlantic Division leaders?

They were tested against one of the better teams in the West. They're not ready for that big Western stage, but they're in the East, and they're going to be in the playoffs and will get some good experience. I give credit to coach Sam Mitchell for recognizing this team couldn't win with a wild, take-100-shots approach it started this year with. It didn't work, they recognized it, changed their approach and have been better for it.

Could the Raps win a playoff series as, say, the No. 4 seed?

They could. To me, Detroit is distancing itself from the rest of the field. But a No. 7 seed beating a No. 2 wouldn't surprise me. Washington could beat any team in the East. And what if Dwyane Wade came back and the Heat had the eight spot to face Detroit in the first round? The East is up for grabs.

ESPN analyst Jon Barry retired last year after 14 years in the NBA.

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Head And Shoulder, Below The Rest
Damon and Gary
AP Photo/Pat Sullivan
Rockets forward Juwan Howard leans into Al Jefferson, whose Boston team won 77-72. In the race for worst record, the C's (14-42) slipped one game ahead, or behind, the Grizzlies (15-43).

Dime Mailbag: Heed The Seed

Readers react to Kiki Vandeweghe seeding the East

Kiki, You must be watching different NBA games than the rest of us. Chicago has beaten the Wizards two times this year, just beat the Cavs on the road, and lost by 2 at Detroit. Oh and with the exception of losing to the Raptors once this season they have owned them the last few. So maybe you should rethink having the Bulls finishing fifth in the East.
-- Joe (Mechanicsburg)

The Wizards will finish far lower, the Pacers higher than seventh, the Heat will not make the playoffs, and the Raps will finish second.
-- Craig (Vancouver)

Streak Facts

The Mavericks beat the Hawks on Monday night 110-87 and became the first team in NBA history to fashion three different winning streaks of at least 12 games in the same season. Eleven of the 30 current NBA teams have never had a single 12-game winning streak in the history of their franchises: Charlotte, Cleveland, Golden State, Indiana (as an NBA franchise), L.A. Clippers, Minnesota, New Orleans/Oklahoma City, Orlando, Toronto, Memphis and Washington.

• Elias Sports Bureau | More from Elias

Records At A Glance

Dallas Orders Three Dozen

Dallas win streak hits 12 for third time

Scorer's Touch
Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images
The NBA's leading scorer Carmelo Anthony (33 points) overcomes Pau Gasol and the Grizzlies, 113-109. The Nuggets are now 3-7 with Anthony and Allen Iverson in the lineup.

Extreme Behavior
Lamar Odom

Monday's Best
Lakers forward Lamar Odom: Finishes one dime short of a triple-double. Odom netted 19 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists in the impressive road win at Utah, 102-94.

Shane Battier

Monday's Worst
Rockets forward Shane Battier: Talk about playing down to the competition. Maybe Battier thought he was back at Duke, playing Savannah State or something. He went 1-for-12 from the field, missing all five trey attempts, in a home T-Mac-less loss to the Celtics.

Quote of the Day
"I am kind of disappointed in myself because if I make free throws I'd be at 30,000 rather than 25,000."
-- Heat center Shaquille O'Neal, after scoring his 25,000th point in a loss to the Knicks.

See how all 199 who played stacked up
Playoff matchups if season ended now

-- Andrew Ayres

What The Market Will Bear
Dirk Nowitzki

Josh (NY): If Dirk Nowitzki were American and not white, would he get as much hype as LeBron? seems like even though he's the best player in the NBA, being a white guy from Germany kills any sense of media love he could ever get.

Scoop Jackson: I think there's some validity to your thoughts. But I don't think he would be as big as LeBron. Unless he had LBJ's high school career. But you have to remember, a lot of these ballplayers are getting pub because every one of these companies (NBA, Nike, EA, ESPN, etc.) are all looking for the next "Jordan" in everything: skill, marketability, image, personality, etc. Dirk doesn't fit that mode. But then neither does Iverson.

Complete Scoop Jackson chat

When Fifty Is Not Nifty
DeShawn Stevenson

In his NBA.com blog, Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas takes teammate DeShawn Stevenson to task for grabbing a nickname he deems inappropriate. (Stevenson's name reflects his field-goal percentage) ...

"And let's talk about 'Mister 50.' Can you believe that crap? Mister 50 ain't had more than 30 points in one game yet, but he's Mister 50. I'm not paying attention to a proclaimed Mister 50. If he was Mister 50, why did he lose to a one-armed man? Tell that to Mister 50. If he ain't scoring 29 points a game, he can't talk to me. I'm Mister 29 … Forget that, I don't need to be Mister 29. I'm Agent Zero, son."

News And Notes
Andres Nocioni

• Bulls coach Scott Skiles said the Bulls have no idea when Andres Nocioni might return. Nocioni has a plantar fasciitis in his right foot, has missed 10 of the last 11 games and could be out another month. Skiles said if it stretches out and Nocioni misses six weeks which could keep him out the rest of the regular season, the Bulls have to compensate. "We got to go on," he said of losing the energetic forward.

• Knicks F David Lee missed his second straight game due to a sprained ankle. Steve Francis also sat out because of knee tendinitis.

• There was a moment of silence before the Blazers-Sonics game in honor of Dennis Johnson, who died last week. Johnson played in Seattle from 1977-1980.

• Portland C Joel Przybilla missed his second straight game with a sore let knee.

• Fred Jones scored four points in his first appearance with Portland after getting traded from Toronto last week.

-- The Associated Press


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