The Spurs title defense has been ongoing for 290 days. There are 17 days and seven opponents (the Rockets twice) before the 2015 NBA Playoffs begin. The Spurs need one win to ensure they are among the 16 teams (...or the West plus the Hawks & Cavaliers) vying to wear the crown of NBA Champions.
The Spurs last played the Heat on February 6th, their 50th game of the season and the last game before the Rodeo Road Trip. That was the initial rematch of the NBA Finals, and true to form, the Spurs won soundly. Kawhi Leonard, in his 10th game back from injury, had a ridiculous box score plus/minus of +26 (still his fourth best of the season).
This glimpse at "Finals MVP Kawhi" would be fleeting--as the entire team struggled through the first seven games of the RRT--but would portend this incredible tear he has been on. Leonard has basically been playing at that MVP-caliber clip for the past 17 games. THIS team, with THIS Kawhi is starting to make Spurs fans giddy. Oh sure, we're playing it cool and modest on the surface: "Yeah, we are lucky to even make the playoffs in this brutal Western Conference. It really could be anyone's year..."
But inside, it's clearly more like "AHHHHH!!!! WE CAN DO IT, THAT REPEATING THING PHIL AND PAT ALWAYS YAMMER ON ABOUT!! EVEN, ODD, WHO CARES?!?"
The Spurs have won 14 out of their past 17 games and dominated about 66 out their last 70 quarters (save for two quarters against each of the Cavs, Mavs, and...Knicks). Leonard's stat line during that stretch? 19.4 points on 53% shooting, 7.5 boards, 2.7 assists, 1.4 turnovers, 2.6 steals, 1.1 blocks and at least a Defensive Player of the Year nomination.
And while the Spurs finished tonight with a very similar box score to that last "Finals rematch" against the Heat:
- Kawhi 8-for-13 (vs. 8-for-15), 22/9/3/4/2 (24/4/4/3/0)
- Tony 7-for-12 (vs. 9-for-12), 16/5 assists/4 turnovers (21/4 assists/3 turnovers)
- Tim Duncan 5-for-10 (vs. 5-for-8), 12/11/3 blocks (10/12/0)
this one didn't feel quite as satisfying. Though the Spurs shot 50% from the field and 44% from deep and held the Heat to 40.5% and 33.3% shooting, they were not quite as dominant as in the three game home stretch preceding it. The 19 turnovers is not a recipe for lifting the Larry O'Brien Trophy, (approximately) 365 days after the last time.
Quote of the Night
Mr. Leonard. See above. And this:
This Kawhi character can defend a little https://t.co/hrIr2jPOVM— CBS Sports NBA (@CBSSportsNBA) April 1, 2015
Oh, you know. Just a tune about Hassan Whiteside set to the Killers' "Mr. Brightside." (Compare the lyrics here)
Coming out of nowhere
Danny Green-like D-League find
Gotta, gotta rebound
Because he wants ‘em all
It started around Christmas
How did it end up like this:
Seen his per 36, seen his per 36???
Now here’s Bob Cousy
Comparing him to Russell
How does 42 games
Rate against 11 rings?
Though he was really good
Playing with 10 stitches
And scoring 10 points
He made Boris his...chien
Now, that’s French for dog
Now, I’d better go.
He’s just trying to get his 2K…
Jealousy, hidden gems: a Spurs thing
Rejecting all of our guys
Stuffing Diaw’s French Fries
Wondering what's the price we'd pay
Would we want him anyway?
Open up Buford’s eyes
'Cause he's Mr. Whiteside!
BTW, if his 42 games were enough to qualify, Hassan Whiteside would be:
- 1st in Total Rebounding % (26.2% compared to DeAndre Jordan's league-leading 24.4%)
- 1st in Block percentage (9.4% compared to Rudy Gobert's league-leading 7.2%).
- Tied for 5th with Russell Westbrook in Win Shares/48 (.227)
Odds and Ends
- As I was trying to write this after the game, I left TNT playing in the background, which led to (at times lengthy) writing intermissions to watch Steph and CP go at it. At half, a stat flashed across the screen revealing that the Warriors are 7-9 when down at half, which means they’ve lost only 4 games in which they weren’t down at the half. Small sample size either way, but it seems that the way to beat the Warriors with an enormous success rate of nearly 13% is to get up on them early. #hope?
- What an odd 2nd half of runs. After Miami cut the lead to 51-50 in the third, the Spurs went on a 32-12 run to go up big. They then got complacent, and the Heat answered with a 13-2 run to make it a 10 point game, forcing the starters to return for a spell to see out the game.
- I guess Manu got a big head from reading PtR and the glowing praise lavished on him. Not a great night for the Argentine with 5 turnovers and only one assist. The bright side may be that he helped ensure Cory Joseph played 23 minutes.
1000. Games for Tony Parker. And that doens't even count the playoffs. They grow up so fast.
54. Seconds that The Spurs trailed against the Heat (end of the 1st quarter).
4. Consecutive games in double-figures for Boris (Spurs are 18-7 when this happens, and Diaw has done it in 6 of his last 8). #HibernationOver
18. Consecutive games in double-figures for Kawhi.
19. Consecutive games with a steal for Kawhi.
17. Consecutive games with double digit leads.
25. The Spurs clinching the playoffs with a win will be their 25th trip in 26 years (which sent Matt Moore into total meltdown. Check the @HPbasketball timeline from last night)
2. Wins needed to reach 50 for the 16th consecutive season.
This is one of the best tweets I've ever seen:
Whiteside got an assist today. He's up to five total for his career. Take that, Yinka Dare.— Justin (@AcrossTheCourt) April 1, 2015
The Spurs were GIF hall-of-fame worthy:
Pop's reaction to Mario Chalmers' half-court shot is too good. pic.twitter.com/OLy5OMufs3— Chris Itz (@Chris_Itz1) April 1, 2015
The Tony Parker shocked face pic.twitter.com/NXS1KEQvko— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) April 1, 2015
The Heat is On is a song by Glenn Frey, and also how a person who works for Miami's NBA team would tell you their game is on TV right now.— Perd Hapley (@PerdHapleyNBA) April 1, 2015
Kawhi is +28 tonight. In related news ... pic.twitter.com/va7cZ3YZOh— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) April 1, 2015
Tony Parker with the beautiful drive and spin move early in the first quarter. pic.twitter.com/HKfewAPddn— Chris Itz (@Chris_Itz1) April 1, 2015
Very much here for a Beasley vs. Diaw shootout.— Dan Devine (@YourManDevine) April 1, 2015
Matt Bonner. Hassan Whiteside. I fail to see the difference.— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) April 1, 2015
BONNER GO STARE DOWN WHITESIDE. DO IT. GO DO IT. DO IT NOW.— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) April 1, 2015
Tim, Tony, and Manu now only 8 wins back from Parish, Bird , and McHale for most wins by a trio (540).— Aaron Preine PS (@DukeOfBexar) April 1, 2015
This was just...man...I mean:
This really looks like some NBA Street: Pro Edition animations https://t.co/Jh4bFmfHXh— Tweetgood Mac (@SnottieDrippen) April 1, 2015
Drake is caught checking Instagram during the game https://t.co/1AlF9GY3Vr— AP (@Ananth_Pandian) April 1, 2015
The Hawks social media team is legendary:
Dang...the platoon system doesn't work so well in the NBA. pic.twitter.com/Y4yeYqsT0b— The 1 Seed (@ATLHawks) April 1, 2015
Chris Mullen has named his coaching staff. pic.twitter.com/6djFUhah9g— DD | SR | BC (@BarkingCarnival) April 1, 2015
What a great story in two tweets:
Doc Rivers says he understands Warriors resting Green because "they didn't want to take the risk of going 2-2 with their regular guys."— J.A. Adande (@jadande) April 1, 2015
Kerr's reply to Doc's theory: "Either that or we have a 9-game lead with a couple guys banged up."— J.A. Adande (@jadande) April 1, 2015
One problem Miami is having in this game is that the Spurs are much better than them.— Joseph Flynn (@ChinaJoeFlynn) April 1, 2015