The Spurs were down 96 to 90 with 5:20 remaining in the fourth quarter and I felt as if the Spurs were done. How many times have we seen this play out over the last several seasons? It's a meaningless game. Popovich decided to give Tim, Tony, and Manu the night off. With only that knowledge, you would have to assume that the Spurs were not going to win this one.
However, there was much more. Gary Neal stayed in San Antonio due to the hard hit he took last game. By the way, Gregg decided this was not a game worthy of his presence so he flew back to San Antonio with the rest of our best players. To confound it all, this was probably Steve Nash's last game in Phoenix, (the dude showed up pregame in a tux with a handkerchief. This coming from a Canadian that normally ‘dresses up' in jeans and a nice polo.) Also, there's that whole history thing that shows the Spurs are 0 for their last 7 when the Big Three do not play.
So, it's the fourth quarter and the unproven Spurs have seemingly lost control of the game. It happens. This is how Pop made sure we did not win 12 games in row this season, both times. In previous outings without the Big Three, our young guys played admirably, sustained a lead, but melted like a Matt Bonner in sunlight once the fourth came along.
I've written about momentum numerous times as it pertained to individual games. I blamed the blowout loss to the Lakers on the momentum that Pop gifted to the Bynum by tasking our DeJuan with defensive duties. However, momentum does not solely exist on the game level; it transcends to the week, to the month, to the season, and beyond. This Spurs team, regardless of who is in uniform, has the inertia to move glaciers.
4th 5:10 Spurs 90, Suns 96
Patty Mills hits a three that gives pause to the Suns. Patty is playing for playoff minutes right now. He knows it, we know it, and Pop knows it, (even if he is a few bottles deep at this point.) Mills finished with 27 points and 5 assists. I understand that minutes are sparse but come on, Pop. He's too good to sit!
4th 4:43 Spurs 93. Suns 96
Jackson boards a missed layup. After an errant pass that he recovers, he scopes the defense and penetrates to demand the defense's attention. Jack makes a simple pass, layup Blair. I bet everything that Pop told Jackson to not drive hard to the basket this game. If you've been paying attention recently, Jackson has been making love to contact. He's attacked the rim like a Ginobili and has earned many free throws since he joined the the Silver and Black. This game, he pulled up every time and looked for the pass. Even so, when Jack sees and opportunity, he takes it. Great pass by Jackson.
4th 4:03 Spurs 95. Suns 96
James Anderson drives in and shoots an air ball. Tiago rebounds and puts it in the bucket. Can I quickly point out that James Anderson is the ONLY player on our team that plays for himself? It's unfortunate for him because he stands out on a team that is uniquely unselfish. But it's also unfortunate for him that he is selfish. I'll give you three selfish plays for every unselfish play that James Anderson makes. It was very evident in this game.
4th 3:47 Spurs 97, Suns 96
Cory Joseph intercepts Nash's pass. As Nash attempts to foul, Cory throws the ball to Mills who drops it back to Tiago for the dunk. Now that's unselfish basketball.
4th 3:19 Spurs 99, Suns 96
Off of a missed free throw, Mills grabs the rebound and initiates the fast-break. He drives into the lane to collapse the defense and kicks it to Bonner in the corner. Bonner makes the extra pass Cory Joseph who takes his funky three point shot; it goes in. That, my friends, is momentum, destiny, and foreshadowing. It's what was meant to be. The Suns take a timeout as the entire Spurs team runs to high-five Cory. We do not know what the future holds for Cory, but I can tell you, he wants more of this. He will be working the entire offseason so that he can feel this once more.
4th 2:40 Spurs 103, Suns 98
The Spurs hit a technical free-throw and the Suns answered with a bucket. Mills casually brings the ball up the floor. He waits for Tiago to set the screen at the three point line. He finds the smallest sliver of daylight and hits the long two. My man wants minutes, Pop. Find them for him.
4th 1:23 Spurs 105, Suns 103
The Spurs came up with a few empty possessions and the Suns took advantage. They closed the gap to two points. So, with Mill bringing the ball up, we're all thinking, "Good effort, guys." Mills plays the pick and roll game with Tiago. He hits the rolling man and Splitter is fouled. He makes both clutch free throws. Spiltter also wants more minutes, by the way, and he's played wonderfully. Splitter finished with 26 points and 5 boards shooting 10 of 13. I understand you have a man crush on Bonner and Blair, but we have to get this guy minutes. He's too good to waste on the bench.
4th 0:55 Spurs 106, Suns 103
Hakim Warrick just got rim checked, for the second time in the fourth quarter. It's happened to me before and I can say it was the most embarrassing moment of my life. My momentum carried me one way, the rim blocked me, and I fell on my ass. But, at least it didn't happen to me twice in the same quarter, right? I feel as if Hakim may have just set a record that will be difficult for Guinness to validate. Two NBA rim-checks in the same quarter. Well, Cory rebounded the rim-check and was fouled. He hit both free-throws.
4th 0:20 Spurs 108, Suns 106
Telfair made a ridiculous shot and received a generous call. He converted the three point play to get the Suns within two. With 20 seconds remaining, the Spurs needed a stop. Telfair received the inbounds pass and used a Brooke screen to shoot a three for the win. He missed badly and the ball was deflected numerous times but ended up in Joseph's hands. He was knocked out of bounds and a foul was called. Sweet. Joseph made both and the Spurs won, 110 to 106.
Even though I speak of destiny and foreshadowing often, I do understand that it's not real. However, I do believe we create our own luck. The addition of contributors such as Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, and Tiago Splitter separate this team from the one that lost in the first round last year. A healthy Manu also differentiates us. The late, mid-season acquisitions of Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw, and Patty Mills improved us. Bonner, Blair and Neal are greatly constants, but still are players that would start on most other teams in the league. Tony and Tim have had career seasons. This is Tim's best year since probably 2007 and it's Tony's best year ever.
This team is not the same old Spurs. This team is the favorite. As you've probably heard from me many times by now, this team will win it all.
Best is the West.
That is all.