The speculation began as the game ended in Dallas on Thursday night. The Spurs magic number to secure the best record in the NBA was down to one and they still had a Lakers card hidden up their sleeve, ready to play on the last night of the regular season if necessary. Surely Coach Popovich would rest everyone on Friday night against the Suns, especially considering the scare that Tim Duncan gave an entire fan base when his right knee buckled in the first quarter against the Mavericks and he tumbled to the floor in a heap.
But Gregg Popovich is smarter than you.
He's smarter than the experts loudly boasting that with all their size and strength, surely the Spurs don't want to face the Grizzlies in the first round.
He's smarter than those analysts that suggest the Spurs have to be wary of the youth and quickness of the Suns, and the last thing they want is to face them in the first round.
And he's smarter than a chubby blowhard that seemingly gets paid millions solely to ridicule a team and it's entire fan base year after year when he's ultimately proven wrong. But who has time to worry about such trivialities? The big man is off to the Nevada desert to watch another couple of largely unearned paychecks disappear. Poof. Like magic.
The Grizzlies came to town on April 6th with everything to play for. A playoff spot on the line. An opportunity to put a scare in the hearts of the mighty Spurs and a smile on the experts faces. This was a statement game. And they were promptly sent back to Memphis with a loss.
The Suns came to town on April 11th with everything to play for. A playoff spot on the line. An opportunity to put a scare in the hearts of the mighty Spurs, and a smile on the analysts faces. This was a statement game. And they were promptly sent back to Phoenix with a loss.
You see, Gregg Popovich doesn't care how you think the season should play out. There's no jockeying for position with an eye toward the potential first round opponent that scares him the least. There's no secret strategizing behind closed doors hoping the seedings line up in a particular way. There's only a desire to get this thing locked down as quickly as possible. It was evident in the comments by Tim Duncan on Thursday night, and it was evident in the way the Spurs fought back against the Suns after trailing by 21.
Pop played Kawhi Leonard for 34 minutes against the Suns after playing 37 minutes the night before. Pop had Boris Diaw posting up in the 4th quarter and had Patty Mills in at the end of the game in place of Tony Parker. Pop started Austin Daye and gave Danny Green 38 minutes where he thrived and scored a career high 33 points. And Pop knew that his budding young superstar could once again put this weary team on his broad shoulders in the final five minutes of the game and carry them home. Which is precisely what Kawhi Leonard did.
I didn't see the win coming against the Suns, and if you're being honest you'll probably admit that you didn't either. Fortunately for us, Coach Popovich is smarter than that and now this battle tested team can rest, heal, and turn their full focus to April 20th. The Spurs were the best team in the NBA during the regular season. Now it's time to rest for eight days before going to work.
In this environment where billions of words, theories and predictions are circling us at all times, it's nice to have a calming presence inside the storm. If you listen hard enough and can cut through the clutter and noise, Gregg Popovich will tell you where we're going.
For complete coverage of the game be sure to check out J. Gomez's outstanding recap.
Mike Monroe (SAEN): "Some of us have started to receive propaganda promoting players for post season awards. This organization has never done that. Is that part of your philosophy?"
Gregg Popovich: "I guess, if we've never done it."
Spur of the Moment
Kawhi Leonard is starting to hear more "oohs" and "ahhs" from the crowd than anyone else on the court. I swear he jumped over the backboard for a one handed rebound in the 4th quarter and as mentioned, he carried the team home.
But, I've gotta give the game ball to Danny Green. A career high 33 points with seven threes, and he brought the crowd back into the game at critical times. Congratulations on a huge game, Danny.
Odds and Ends
- And now, to highlight some of the cutting edge tools used by Spurs media: Bill Schoening conducts interviews (and presumably tapes his :20 segments) with his iPhone. No fancy microphones and recording devices. It's all with his iPhone. At the same time, Geoff Sheen from Ticket760 reads tweets during his show, and often does so seamlessly. I always imagined him following along on a lightning quick laptop with TweetDeck. Nope. He uses his phone too. He sits with a headset, doing his show, holding his phone and reading tweets. Talent.
- Danny Green had a 4 point play early in the 3rd. I doubt the cameras picked it up but Danny REALLY wanted the ball on that possession. He ran around the perimeter with his hand high above his head, reminding me of an eight year old that really, really wants the ball. I bet he was yelling "TONY TONY TONY TONY" and it worked.
- In warmups Boris Diaw was working on a weird looking flip shot from in front, and just to the side of the rim, proving once again that Gregg Popovich is smarter than us. Boris was in the low post at the end of the game, flipping the ball around.
- The coyote approached me in an aggressive way in the 2nd quarter. I have a picture.
I got accosted by the coyote. Now I need to have my jacket cleaned. pic.twitter.com/CE1Dilsl0f— Travis Hale (@SARR_SBN) April 12, 2014
Tweets of the Night
Like, you’ve never seen anyone rest people as hard as Pop’s gonna rest these guys tomorrow.— Matthew R Tynan (@Matthew_Tynan) April 11, 2014
If you bought tickets for Spurs-Suns, get ready to cheer Austin Daye! #research— Geoff Sheen (@geoffsheen760) April 11, 2014
Pop could not care less about this game. 19-3 Suns run, no timeout.— Dan McCarney (@danmccarneysaen) April 12, 2014
Pop's going to suit up the entire Sixers team in Spurs jerseys tomorrow and see if anybody calls him on it.— Caleb Saenz (@calebjsaenz) April 11, 2014
I've noticed the Spurs ESPN coverage makes it look like the opposing team lost as opposed to the Spurs won. Like "Suns Blow Big Lead."— Karl Schoening (@K_Scho15) April 12, 2014
Here's To (Raise Your Glass)
- Tim Duncan's knees
- Gregg Popovich's mind
- Manu Ginobili's stubborness
- Earning the #1 seed in the playoffs for the first time in ten years.
- And here's to cooler than normal temperatures in April across South Texas. It's almost as if its on purpose. The cool mornings and mild afternoons are allowing San Antonio to focus on the task at hand without distraction. The mindset across the city is to take care of business now, because with any luck the heat will be back here soon.
- Recap: Spurs secure best record in the league with 112-104 win against Suns
- Final Score: Spurs fall down 21, but come back to beat Suns 112-104
- Full Coverage: San Antonio Spurs vs. Phoenix Suns
- Playoff Countdown: Tim Duncan puts his playoff cards on the table
- GIF Breakdown: Spurs at Dallas Mavericks