Morning Rehash: Patience Is a virtue

Talk to The Hand, Batum. - Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

In their win over the Blazers, the Spurs offer a lesson: It's a long season, but if you're looking at the finish line, the walk won't seem so long.

It's a long season.

In 82 games, anything can happen. An injury can derail a season. A losing streak can dash your playoff hopes. A coaching change can reinvigorate your team. A winning streak can change your outlook.

Patience isn't an easy thing to come by in the NBA, but it pays to have it. The Spurs know this very well, having just survived (and even thrived) through two months of an injury bug that left many questioning their championship credentials. As always, the Spurs were prepared, never panicked, and maintained at lease one eye on their prize: another shot at the title.

So these last eight wins must have felt like a reward. Dropping the Blazers, the Bulls, and the Heat in the span of seven days would have seemed impossible two months ago, perhaps even with a full squad. But here the Spurs are, in the middle of their best stretch of the season, looking down at the rest of the league as the season winds down.

Beating the Blazers surely felt great for the Spurs, as Portland has been one of the few teams that San Antonio has struggled against over the past four seasons or so. Even through coaching changes and roster upheaval, the Blazers have maintained a bizarre level of dominance in their head-to-head matchups with the Spurs.

Maybe this was something San Antonio focused on entering Wednesday night's contest. There were limbs everywhere, batting passes out of lanes and balls out of opponents' hands. Kawhi Leonard was everywhere, but what's most impressive is how the team has adopted his tenacity on defense. Danny Green was a disruptive force, too, and Patty Mills found that competitive fire, giving the AT&T Center one of the night's best moments. Mills and Damien Lillard got tangled for a jump-ball and, refusing to let go, Mills seemed to throw Lillard to the ground. (There was some minor floppage that helped.) The crowd roared, and the Spurs bench joined them.

It was a moment in the game that perfectly illustrated where the Spurs see themselves. They have the confidence that they can hang with anybody, and to them, their months-long struggle with the injury bug was merely a bump on their road to a title. Even after all these years, all these massively successful seasons, the Spurs have found a way to play with a chip on their shoulder. Where other younger contenders are struggling late into the season, the Spurs are honing in on the final stretch with a laser-like focus. The gang's all here, healthy, and ready to compete.

Oddly enough, it's the Blazers that find themselves in the drudges of the long season, having lost four games in a row and possibly their star player, too. Just three months ago, they were the NBA's darlings, a high-octane offense that rocketed to the top of a competitive Western Conference. That moment must feel like an eternity ago to a team that is struggling to find itself again in a league that has caught up to their schemes. As they stumble to regain their footing, the upstart Blazers can learn from the patience of the old guys that handed it to them on Wednesday night. It's a long season, but if you're looking at the finish line, the walk won't seem so long.

Be sure to read Fred Silva's recap if you haven't already.

QUOTE OF THE GAME

"Any more questions? I'm hungry. What is it, 11?"

Gregg Popovich, expressing all of our frustrations with late games (via Paul Garcia)

GAME MVP

Kawhi

KAWHI "THE SLEEVE" LEONARD

PTS

FGM/FGA

REB

AST

STL

BLK

+/-

MIN

12

6/8

9

1

2

1

-3

34:58


There were a lot of players who could be getting the highlight in a game where there weren't really any standout performances. Several players had excellent halves or quarters only to disappear as others took over. Consistency throughout was an issue. Kawhi Leonard was one of the few Spurs who shot above 50% in meaningful minutes, all while filling up the stat sheet with rebounds, steals, a block, and an assist. His offense came in a variety of ways, from pull-up jumpers to floaters to dunks. It seems all it took was a hand injury to remove most of the hesitation from his shot. (But I wouldn't recommend trying that at home before your next pickup game.) Most importantly, Kawhi spent time guarding several players in the game, including Damien Lillard, who needed 22 shots to score his 23 points. Kawhi was everywhere, and like every game since his return, the Spurs were better for it.

GAME LVP

Side-show-bob

ROBIN "I'M NOT IN THE COUNTING CROWS" LOPEZ

PTS

FGM/FGA

REB

AST

STL

BLK

+/-

MIN

4

1/6

6

0

0

2

-7

33:37


Robin Lopez had the kind of night that Tiago Splitter falls into on occasion, as he looked out of sorts and awkward in his team's offense throughout the night, barely registering in the game's final box score. Granted, Lopez's value to the Blazers is primarily on the defensive end, but his output Wednesday night was well below his season averages. He looked tentative, and the Spurs reduced him to a non-factor in the game. I still think Lopez is one of the most underrated pickups from the offseason, as his defense has in many ways transformed the Blazers. On Wednesday night, the Blazers limited the Spurs to 30 points in the paint, well below their season average, and Lopez was a big part of that. LaMarcus Aldridge going down in the game didn't do any favors for Lopez, as the Spurs defense was able to key on him. In that way, I suppose the 1/6 shooting was somewhat expected.

ODDS AND ENDS

  • Aron Baynes started in the second and third quarters, which is interesting if you're Tiago Splitter and depressing if you're Jeff Ayres.
  • It was 80s night in the AT&T Center, and while that meant weird Max Headroom references and some really bad music, it also meant reliving some great moments, like when the Spurs drafted David Robinson. Here's an old clip to give you the warm and fuzzies this Thursday morning. (Also, get a load of Normal Craig Sager in this clip. So weird.)
  • If you shrunk down the height of a Wesley Matthews picture without preserving the aspect ratio, you'd have a picture of Raymond Felton.Wm-rf
  • How often do you think Terry has heard his kids referred to as the "Stotts Tots"?
  • During the game, a discussion briefly broke out on Twitter regarding the best burgers in San Antonio. For the last time, here is the Official San Antonio Burger Hierarchy: 5) Chester's, 4) Big'z, 3) Texas Hamburger Co., 2) Fattboy, 1) Chris Madrid's. That's it. End of discussion.
  • Get well soon, LaMarcus Aldridge. (And I'm sincerely sorry about the LaMarcus Falldridge pun.)

BY THE NUMBERS

  • 490/173: W/L record of the Duncan/Parker/Ginobili trio, second all-time in the NBA. Amazingly, they have the exact same record as the Kareem/Magic/Cooper trio. The Spurs' Big Three need 51 wins to pass the Bird/McHale/Parish trio and move into first.
  • 794: Number of double-doubles Tim Duncan's had in his career. He's sixth all-time and needs, of course, 21 to pass Karl Malone and move up to fifth.
  • 8: Spurs win streak, a number that will likely balloon after the next four games against some cupcakes.
  • 12: Number of Spurs turnovers for the game, 2.8 less than their season average. Remember when we were all worried about the burgeoning turnover problem in San Antonio? It looks like the Spurs were worried about it, too, as turnovers have been way down since the start of the win streak.
  • 29: Number of games this season where Patty Mills has scored in double digits. He had 24 total in his entire career before this season. Can we please start calling him "The Little Aussie Bakery"? Every night, Patty comes in the game, and he starts cookin'. He's been amazing this year.

BIRD IS THE WORD

THE GAME IN SONG

"The task is waiting... Confidence, confidence / Don't slow down" – from Dodos' "Confidence"

GOING FORWARD, THE SPURS NEED TO...

Not get cocky? I don't know, you guys. They've won eight in a row, and their next four opponents are the Lakers, the Jazz, the Lakers (again), and the Kings. Pretty good little stretch to go into with an eight-game winning streak. With the way they've been playing, it's hard to fathom the Spurs dropping one of those.

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