It wasn't the prettiest of games, with 19 turnovers from the Spurs and 18 from the Heat, but the Spurs played well enough to comfortably pick up their 48th win of the season. With eight games left in the season for the good guys, it's all but assured that the Spurs will once again hit the 50-win mark for the 16th-straight season. It might even come on Friday against the Denver Nuggets.
A decent start for the Spurs was followed by a stretch of stagnation for the team and eight minutes in, the Spurs had put just 10 points on the scoreboard on 35% from the field. The shooting improved for the Spurs as the game wore on and climbed over 50% about halfway through the third quarter. At the final buzzer the Spurs had hit half of their shots and 44.4% of their three pointers.
For the Heat, only Hassan Whiteside and Mario Chalmers finished having made more than half of their field goal attempts. Chalmers would have been 3-for-7 had he not connected on a buzzer-beating, half-court shot that elicited this delightful reaction from Gregg Popovich:
Pop's reaction to Mario Chalmers' half-court shot is too good. pic.twitter.com/OLy5OMufs3— Chris Itz (@Chris_Itz1) April 1, 2015
Kawhi Leonard continued to bolster his case as the best player on the Spurs and posted the stellar line of 22-9-3-4-2. With no LeBron to account for, Kawhi made life difficult for Dwyane Wade and the aging two-guard finished just 6-for-20 from the field. It's so much fun to watch Kawhi play defense, with those active hands, his impeccable footwork and the knack he's shown for swiping balls without gambling.
I know I've said it a couple of times lately, but I've really been impressed with how much Leonard has grown in his short career. Not only is he the best perimeter defender in the game, but he's shown the ability to take over games on the offensive end, which is good for a team that has limited options to go to when the ball-movement stalls. Now it's give Whi the ball in the post and see what happens. When the defense sends a double-team, Kawhi has shown great patience and court-vision as he kicks out to the open man. If the defense holds tight, Kawhi has been remarkably solid in his ability to efficiently score in one of the most inefficient play types in the game.
Cory Joseph got the call as the back-up point guard on Tuesday in place of the struggling Patty Mills. Pop said that he doesn't plan that stuff ahead of time, but I'm not sure if I buy that. I guess we'll see if it's Patty or Cory who gets the call in the SEGABABA against the Magic. CoJo played a great game, brought the energy that has endeared him to the San Antonio faithful and has proven to be the best insurance policy in the league. It's such a luxury to be able to call on the Canadian and know that his effort and fearlessness will never falter.
The Spurs weren't exactly impressive in their victory over the Heat, especially after we were treated to three fantastic performances from the Silver and Black, but at least we didn't see the kind of inconsistency that the team brought in he losses to the Knicks and the Mavericks. The Spurs did have several good stretches and were able to push their lead all the way to 21 five minutes into the fourth on a 12-2 run only to see Miami respond with a 13-2 run to make it an 85-75 game with 3' 30" left on the game clock. That resulted in Tony Parker giving up his comfy spot on the bench and the Frenchman sparked a quick four points for SA before Pop pulled TP just a minute after inserting him with the victory secured.
The Spurs remain in the sixth seed but are only two back in the loss column of the two-seed. It's unlikely, but with eight games left and the team playing solid basketball it wouldn't be a shock to see them finish in the second position.
- The preferred starting five of Tiago Splitter, Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Tony Parker all finished with a double-digit, positive plus/minus with Kawhi's +23 leading the way.
- My man Boris Diaw continued to be aggressive and took 12 shots, though he made only five, and had a couple of fun post-ups. It's always a smile to see Bobo go to work on the block.
- Tim Duncan, the grizzled and grey-bearded veteran, was his usual solid self and finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds for his 30th double-double of the season. He chipped in three blocks for good measure and should be fresh for tomorrow night with just 24 minutes played. Hooray for the GOATPUFF!
- Former plus/minus king, Matt Bonner, played 13 minutes, canned two triples and finished a +13. I say we give him 48 minutes tomorrow and see if the Spurs can pull off a 110-62 victory.
Steal and Score of the Night:
The Spurs will continue to try to climb up the Western Conference standings when they complete their Florida trip against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night. They'll host the Nuggets on Friday night and then the Golden State Warriors visit the River City on Sunday evening.