Wednesday night, the Golden State Warriors came to San Antonio hoping to put a stop to the Spurs' ridiculous win streak. The Spurs came in winners of their last 18 in a row and were looking to increase their lead on the overall number one seed to ensure home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. The Warriors, meanwhile, were fighting for their playoffs lives. One team out of the Mavericks, Suns, Grizzlies and Warriors will be on the outside looking in once the playoffs commence. It will be a shame because all of those teams have had nice seasons, although none of their performances can touch what the Spurs have accomplished.
The Warriors were on a SEGABABA after defeating the Mavericks with a Steph Curry game-winner in overtime the previous night. The Spurs blew out the Indiana Pacers in their last outing and have been generally well rested, even though this was their fourth game in six nights, because their recent margins of victory have allowed Popovich to manage his stars' minutes. The Spurs were without Aron Baynes, Matt Bonner and Austin Daye tonight while Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut and David Lee all sat out with injuries for the Warriors. Obviously, the Spurs are fairly healthy and the Warriors are not.
The game began with a thud for the Spurs. Tim turned it over on their first possession and missed a wide open shot on the next. He did that thing where he stares at the rim until it gets uncomfortable for everyone watching before finally taking the shot. I hate it when he does that. The Warriors scored on their first two shots and so Popovich stopped the action 69 seconds into the game, down 4-0.
Pop's message must have been received during the timeout, because the Spurs streaked through the rest of the first. It was more of the same that we've grown accustomed to, except at what seemed like a slightly faster pace. Understanding that this was a SEGABABA for the Warriors, the Spurs pushed the ball at every opportunity. In the first quarter, the Spurs recorded nine assists on 13 made field goals, shot 54% from the field and finished with a 31-18 lead. You know, more of the same.
The Spurs spent the second quarter giving the Warriors opportunities to quit, but the Warriors were intent upon keeping it close. Each time the Spurs went on a run, the Warriors answered. It was highly disappointing. Towards the end of the second, the Spurs increased their lead to 17 only to have Klay Thompson and Jordan Crawford hit back-to-back threes. It's just the way things went.
With their lead dwindling to just nine points as the half came to a close, it seemed like the Spurs were going to allow the Warriors to enter intermission with a manageable deficit and the game's momentum. But then the Spurs executed a 2 for 1 to perfection. Tony hit a sweet jumper leaving a perfect 32 seconds on the clock. Draymond Green missed a contested three and the Spurs milked the clock for the last shot. Tony drove into the paint, kicked it to Diaw, who made the extra pass to Kawhi. Though Leonard missed the three, Manu came out of nowhere for the buzzer-beating put-back from about 7 feet. And just like that, the Spurs took a 15 point lead into the half and the Warriors finally seemed tired after the demoralizing finish.
The Spurs began the third strong and it again seemed like the Warriors could take the easy way out, but they didn't. San Antonio pushed its lead to 18, but once again the Warriors fought back and cut the lead all the way down to seven points, 74-67, with four minutes remaining. Klay Thompson was making everything tonight, and the Spurs found it difficult to contain the Splash Brothers. When those two are making shots, the Warriors are not an easy team to put away. However, the Warriors would not score a single point for the rest of the quarter, and the Spurs went on a game-clinching 13-0 run to end the third.
Up 20 to begin the fourth, the Spurs immediately increased their lead to 25 and the Warriors finally threw in the towel. The Spurs once again cruised to victory, 111-90, to win their 19th consecutive game. This was the Spurs' eighth victory by 20 or more points during the streak. They are now tied for the sixth longest regular season winning streak in NBA history.
Next up, the Spurs will play the Thunder in OKC tomorrow night. It will be the Spurs' fifth game in seven nights. Now, this has been a scheduled loss all season, but Popovich was once again able to give his guys game-time rest. Tony, Tim and Manu played just 28, 20 and 19 minutes, respectively. As much as I'm sure that Popovich would love to end this streak by sitting everyone, I do not think the players are going to let it happen. We've seen each one of them successfully argue their way into games that Popovich had initially planned on keeping them out of. I think the players are going to kick and scream until Pop agrees to play them tomorrow.
- Kawhi Leonard continued his stellar play finishing with 11 points, 4 rebounds, 4 steals and an assist in 29 minutes. He's been the Spurs' most improved player since the All Star break, which is strange considering he wasn't exactly having a bad year. He's just been that much better than good, recently.
- I think Tony Parker is enjoying the option of turning it off and on. In previous seasons, the Spurs needed Tony to be an All Star every time he stepped on the court. This year? He can coast through the many blow outs, rest his legs and show up for the important ones. He led the balanced Spurs with 18 points and 8 assists.
- Boris Diaw was solid, as he's been all year. He started tonight, most likely to matchup with the Warriors' undersized squad, (David Lee and Andrew Bogut were out tonight with injuries). He finished with 8 points, 5 assists and 3 rebounds.
- Tim Duncan finished with 18 points and 8 boards in just 20 minutes. You had the sense that if needed, he would have had an absolute monster of a game. But the Spurs controlled most of it and put the Warriors away in the third, so Tim didn't get a ton of playing time.
- I'll leave you with the graphic just below. The Spurs are killing Vegas. This just shows the last 10 games, but it's been orange throughout the streak. The Spurs were favored by 9.5 tonight. Make that one orange as well. Vegas, like the NBA, doesn't know how to account for these streaking Spurs. 19 in a row! These games aren't even close!