I needed a couple hours and a couple of beers to settle down after that one. I went from the first quarter when I was thinking this could get really ugly, to cackling like a madman in the second and third quarters, to having my stomach in knots in the fourth because I wanted this win so badly. In the end, it was elation and pride that finally resonated in sweet victory.
I love this team. I love it the way I love good friends. It's sick, but you couldn't pay me to give it up. I know it's sports, and sports aren't actually important, but there are endless comparisons and metaphors for life and what can be accomplished in the face of adversity with this team. It's been beaten to death, and perhaps after being said so many times it has become something we see or hear so often that we have stopped actually considering the thought behind it, but the saying this blog is named after still rings true not just in sports, but in all facets of life. Tonight, for me, was a great reminder. The Spurs never stopped pounding the rock tonight, and it paid off for them once again.
It's ridiculous that after all this time the Spurs are still one of the best teams in the league, still winning a silly number of games year after year. This 17-year run with Timmy has easily been the longest run as a contender by a team in any sport in the modern era, and even those Celtics with Bill Russell only had 13 seasons. I mean, Timmy and Pop were winning 50 games when Slick Willie was still in office, when Americans were still using those 100-free-hours-of-AOL CDs to connect to the internet, King of the Hill was still in it's first season, and Anthony Davis was four. Tim's played with well over a hundred different players during his tenure. The whole thing is completely absurd, and I highly doubt that the world will ever see anything like it again.
Spurs Outlast Warriors Without Big-Three
Marco Belinelli, Patty Mills and Kawhi Leonard combined for 69 points as the Spurs took advantage of 24 Warrior turnovers to pick up a big road win.
I've followed this team for a long time. And I've followed it closely since Manu was a rookie, rarely missing a game,. The version of the Spurs we have seen over the past two seasons is easily my favorite. I'm a sucker for old men. I love watching wily vets do something improbable as they gray about the temples. My views on athletes soften as they reach their golden years. I was rooting for Kobe to come back and be good. When Roger Federer was dominating tennis, I always rooted against him but now I find myself cheering for him in almost every match he plays. I loved watching Brett Favre almost take the Vikings to the Super Bowl at 40. (Exception that proves the rule: I have not softened on KG. Can't tell you how much I'm enjoying the struggles he and his team are having.)
So, it's easy to see why I love this particular roster. Tim and Manu are far over the age that they should be able to be useful, much less still be among the NBA's best players. Every new gray hair in Timmy's beard -- or square centimeter of scalp that appears on Manu's head -- allows me to delight just that much more when they continue to excel at the game of basketball. No preening or talking, just a fierce competitiveness and a deep desire to play at the highest level. Every night.
I've said before that the second unit is my favorite part of watching the team this season. Then recently, the original guys reminded me that watching them is special, and that we should appreciate everything we can before they're gone. I think I've come to the conclusion that the best part of watching the team is the team. It doesn't matter who is suiting up, or who gets more minutes because they are hot. It doesn't matter, because after winning for so long, the culture (or system, or program, or whatever you want to call it) has created demands that the team strives for excellence at all times, no matter who the opponent is or who is on the court.
This was a great win tonight. The team was so overmatched on paper that a 20-point loss wouldn't have made me the least bit upset. Instead, we got a very memorable performance from the Spurs. This was the most satisfying win during a regular season I can remember.
If you haven't already, please go read Fred Silva's excellent recap.
I'd just like to add this. In the first quarter the Spurs' offense was like:
And then Tiago did this, and it seemed like the night would end badly:
In the end, I think we can all agree that we felt like this:
Finally, I'm filling in today for aaronstampler, who was disappointed that Tim and Manu were sitting out, but ended up being one of the few, very lucky Spurs fans that were actually in Oracle for that one. Merry Christmas, Stampler.
Standard Pop Quote:
"Helluva win. Helluva win."
By The Numbers:
19,596: Attendance at Oracle tonight.
19, 595: Number of fans in attendance that didn't enjoy this game on the level that Stampler did.
2: How many more assists each team had than turnovers in the game.
28, 29: Number of points scored by Marco Belinelli, and how many minutes The Spicy One played.
10: The number of points the Spurs outscored the Dubs by when the plus/minus king Matt Bonner was on the floor, despite The Red Mamba failing to score a point in this one. This was matched only by Patty's +10. May the orange-headed, baby-carrot-hawking big man forever reign.
1: Number of field goals that Tiago Splitter made tonight, but man, it sure was a beautiful one.
17: Approximate number of times that Reggie Miller wondered why the officials weren't going to take a look at Splitter's tip to see if it was basket interference. The officials can review a basket interference call in the fourth with less than two minutes to go, but the call has to be made on the floor. The ref's can't stop the game and then go look to see if they missed something. Reggie bothers me, and this was driving me crazy.
3: Number of Aussies who started tonight. This has to be a record, right?
0: Number of minutes Malcolm Thomas played tonight. There was just no opportunity for the newest member of the team to see the floor. Maybe next forfeit attempt.
21-10: Points and rebounds that Kawhi came up with in this one. A Duncan-like line, and in Duncan fashion it kind of snuck up on us.
Sequence of the Game:
It has to be the Spurs' final bucket and defense on Curry, right?
Tweets of the Night:
BREAKING: Marco received Popovich's patented "Manu Face" just now. pic.twitter.com/0s39NB0PJM— Project Spurs (@projectspurs) December 20, 2013
Which team sat their best players again?— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) December 20, 2013
Best part of that quarter was watching the Spurs bench react to every big shot.— Trevor Zickgraf (@yowhatupT) December 20, 2013
Marco Belinelly pic.twitter.com/WOleFIA71y— Dane (@danecarbaugh) December 20, 2013
TWO max contracts for Diaw.— Aaron (@DukeOfBexar) December 20, 2013
BORIS GONNA ICE THIS GAME THEN GO BACK TO HIS HOTEL ROOM AND EAT 25 DONUTS.— netw3rk (@netw3rk) December 20, 2013
Another terrible outing for Thompson against Spurs - 6-18, 1-7 on 3s. Won't say Leonard owns him, but he's definitely got him on layaway.— Dan McCarney (@danmccarneysaen) December 20, 2013
— Chuck D (@MrChuckD) December 20, 2013
Your Three Stars:
It would be easy to give Belinelli, Mills, and Leonard these points. Instead, I'm going to give the entire team the credit. Sure, these three, with a little help from Diaw and Splitter down the stretch, were outstanding tonight. But really, the team got this one. It was as inspiring a performance as can be had in mid-December, and I'm so happy to be a Spurs fan. Truly.
The Spurs will get one day of rest before the Thunder visit the Alamo City on Saturday night. Unfortunately for OKC, Tim and Manu should be fresh as a result of their night off, and the rest of the team just got quite the confidence-booster after tonight. If Tony is able to go, the Thunder will have a tough time beating the Spurs. Oklahoma City is on a tear right now. and they own the best record in the league. Hopefully the Spurs can change that on Saturday. I can't wait.