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Past Spurs glories echo in the present

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Spurs fans are in an interesting position this year. The Spurs aren't what they were, and not yet what they will be. But the present points backwards as much as it hints at the future.

Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

The ever polarizing Don Draper (habitually drunk, much-maligned all-around scumbag) delivered one of the best moments in television history in Season 1 of Mad Men in a pitch to potential client, Kodak.

"Nostalgia is delicate, but potent," he begins while delivering a slideshow of his treasured family moments. "Nostalgia literally means pain from an old wound. It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship. It’s a time machine. It goes backwards and forwards. It takes us to a place to where we ache to go again."

(Here's the following clip. Even if you don't like or watch Mad Men, I question your humanity if you don't tear up a little after watching this scene.)

For Spurs fans, toeing that line has been a delicate tight rope for several seasons. There's the nostalgia of five Spurs titles that have spanned the past 18 seasons clashing with the inevitability of what appears to be more deep postseason runs under the new regime of Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Danny Green. There's the future, present and past colliding with one another simultaneously.

We remember Tim Duncan in his prime, when he would actually jump, dunk and decimate opponents while carrying the entire offensive and defensive burden. We remember Tony Parker slashing into the paint consistently, unfurling his refined (and reliable) mid-range jumper which won him the 2007 Finals MVP and eventually put him in the MVP conversation.

We remember Manu Ginobili in the 2005 Finals, with his flowlng locks of hair and his sheer insanity that would often cause Coach Pop to lose his mind. We remember David Robinson -- from his ridiculous prime to when he ceded his responsibilities to the younger Duncan.

We remember Steve Kerr saving the Spurs against Dallas, Stephen Jackson making love to pressure, Robert Horry hip checking Steve Nash into a scorers table and almost single-handedly rescuing the team in Detroit, Ginobili inadvertently fouling Dirk Nowitzki, Derek Fisher's impossible shot with 0.4 seconds left, the eight times (and probably more) everyone thought the Spurs were finally done, the "Beautiful Game" Spurs and even bleeping Ray Allen.

The last two decades of San Antonio basketball has been a fantastic roller coaster ride, with incredible highs and inevitable lows. From a basketball perspective, there hasn't been anything that the Spurs haven't seen over the years.

All too often, and I'm guilty of this, fans tend to live in the past. After all, the past is already defined while the future is murky. The fear of the unknown is why I spend one day each month pouring over old YouTube videos, reliving the Tim Duncan dynasty over and over again.

Those days are gone, but the emotions can manifest in any individual game, at any moment in time. Take Saturday's 92-82 win over Memphis: the victory in itself wasn't notable but way the Spurs systematically slowed the Grizzlies was. It was a throwback performance in every sense.

There was Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili knifing through the defense and getting anything they wanted. There was the suffocating defense that once drove the Spurs to four titles in nine years. There was Tim Duncan taking over with the game on the line and finishing with another double-double. The Spurs scored just 92 points and still won by 10. Pop, true to form, yelled at every single person on the team and perhaps the entire AT&T Center. Sound familiar?

These moments are a constant reminder of the glory days of Spurs basketball, the lasting twinges in our hearts from a generation that gave us everything that we could have possibly wanted. I watch this season torn between aching to return to the glorious past I've known, and expectant about the future. Watching the team in the present is like taking a ride on that carousel while cheering for the team to reach the familiar mountain top again.

Game ball


Tony Parker: 18 points on 6-10 shooting, 6-6 on free throws, 3 assists, 1 rebound, 1 steal, 1 block.

Another positive performance for Parker, who was crushing Mike Conley head-to-head and, frankly, every defender that was thrown in front of him. He reached the rim at will and finished at a high-efficiency. Knocking down all six of his free throws was a plus. The only downside was that he didn't score in the second half, notching just two shots. Regardless, this is the Tony Parker the Spurs need to make a deep run in the postseason.

Quote of the night

"We're building. We don't really care much about the record right now."

- Manu Ginobili (via Jeff McDonald)

By the numbers

  • 6. Six wins for the Spurs in six games at the AT&T Center. The average margin of victory has been 15 points, so they must be doing something right.
  • 6. Number of NBA franchises with fewer wins than Gregg Popovich (1032). Those franchises in order: Orlando, Charlotte, Minnesota, Toronto, Memphis, New Orleans.
  • 1. Consecutive game with at least one rebound for Tim Duncan. He's 1341 games away from tying his previous streak. He'll reach that total sometime in 2033, which will totally happen by the way.
  • 1344. Consecutive games with at least one point for Tim Duncan. He didn't score in the first half, leaving some doubt that he would extend his streak (not really).
  • 2. Dunks for Kawhi Leonard, who makes the art of dunking on a 10-feet rim look as easy as pouring milk in your morning cereal.
  • 1: 3-pointer for Memphis, which isn't enough to beat a professional basketball team in the current era of the NBA.
  • 38: Bench points for Memphis. Dave Joerger only went with a nine-man rotation and the bench had more success than the starters for the most part. Mike Conley (18 points) was the only starter to finish in double-figures.
  • 0. Minutes for Boban Marjanovic. Hashtag sad tweet.

#analysis

  • David West filled in for LaMarcus Aldridge, who missed the game with an ankle injury. If you didn't watch the game, West's unassuming 8 point, 6 rebound line won't stand out. But his assimilation in the Spurs system has already taken place, with 23 passes on 31 touches per SportVU. He's making the quick pass, crashing the boards and making the mid-range shot in the flow of the offense.
  • Kyle Anderson bailed out the Spurs on a few possessions in the fourth quarter, finishing with six points in the final frame. His time with the four starters (Parker, Danny Green, Leonard, Duncan) was valuable because it showed that he can be a contributor in high-leverage situations. This might be the confidence booster that puts him over the top. Anderson, like most young players, has been up-and-down this season.
  • Goodness, Ginobili is incredible. 15 points, 4 assists and 54.5 percent shooting in 23 minutes. At one point, he had more points than minutes. The two games of rest clearly did his legs well.
  • 39-year-old Tim Duncan filled the box score, per usual: 10 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals and 62.5 percent shooting.
  • Will there ever be a player better than Duncan at blocking people without jumping? Probably not.

Twitter highlights

Taco Bell menu item of the game

San Antonio went back to its old roots with its win. Defense and the Big Three carried the Spurs over the Grizzlies. For Taco Bell, those old roots begin and end with the crunchy taco. Everything starts from there.

And that's a wrap folks. Until next time ...