Game 81 Vs. Phoenix: Spurs 107, Suns 91 Rec: 55-26 1st in Southwest (!), 2nd in West (!!) Streak: W-11
And after all that, the Spurs are right about where you thought they'd be, atop the redonkoulous Southwest Division, second in the flat out stupid Western Conference, and with another 55 (probably 56) scalps to their name.
Same as it ever was, same as it ever was.
Sure, they made it interesting on us and the rest of the league. At one point they were 19-14 just before New Year's, with Kawhi Leonard sidelined and in a brutal stretch of the schedule where they lost nine of 13 games. They lost at home to the Lakers and back-to-back triple overtime marathons, also at home, to the Grizzlies and Blazers, where they needed one stop on the final possession in regulation to ice those games.
Then, later in the year, once Leonard returned and they were feeling a bit better about themselves going into the All-Star break, the Spurs dropped four straight in the western swing of their Rodeo Road Trip to fall to 34-23. I wrote them off. I remember sitting there, in the third quarter at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, dismissing them as they were trailing against the Kings without Boogie Cousins.
The Spurs went on to win that game going away and 21 of 24 in all. They should've gone 23-1, probably. It's a wonder JRW still let's me work here.
Against a Suns squad missing Alex Len and Brandan Wright (as well as Brandon Knight), the Spurs had difficulty keeping their focus throughout the game, as you might expect. The crowd at the AT&T Center were doing their best to get them going, buoyed by the mood for "fan appreciation day," and if anyone realized that it was quite possibly the last time Tim Duncan and/or Manu Ginobili would step on the floor in that building for a regular season game, they tried their best to stifle such thoughts.
Duncan for his part went out in style, if this was indeed the unofficial end for him. He dominated the undersized Morri (h/t Zach Lowe) and scored more than Marcus and Markieff combined, while also grabbing 10 boards and dishing four assists. He moved past Kevin Garnett for 14th all-time in the NBA scoring list, and is at 25,959. If he were to play one more season and somehow replicated his numbers from this year, he could in theory finish his career in the all-time top 10, passing John Havlicek, Dominique Wilkins, Oscar Robertson and Hakeem Olajuwon along the way.
The most memorable part of his evening though, came early in the game, when Duncan dove into the stands to save a loose ball for the Spurs. That he's willing to risk his body, in Game 81 of the season in such an important part of the game and two weeks short of his 39th birthday, sums up Duncan's career better than I ever could hope to. The people he wound up running into turned out to be WWII Veterans, but thankfully no one was the worse for wear.
When told that some AARP representatives might want a word with him afterward, Duncan quickly shot back, "I've been accepted?"
(Please don't retire, Tim.)
Ginobili meanwhile had an ordinary night in most respects, but was more aggressive on both ends than usual. After being shut out in free-throw attempts the past three games and having six, total, in the past nine games, he got 10 freebies against the Suns. He didn't quite miss enough of them for rival coaches to contemplate the "Hack-a-Manu" strategy during the playoffs, but you never know with Rick Carlisle. Ginobili also had two springy blocks and was fantastic as usual in the locker room afterward.
(Please don't retire, Manu.)
As far as actual records go, the man of the hour was Danny Green, who broke the aptly-named Chuck Person's single-season franchise record for threes, set in 1995-96, by canning his 191st, on a swing around the perimeter from Tony Parker. (Person was sensational, at least as far as shooting the ball is concerned, in those playoffs by the way, hitting 53.2 percent of his threes over 10 games.) Green's set career-highs in virtually every category and is making 51.7 percent of his threes in April, after connecting on 48.8 percent of them in March. Green is going to sign a very nice contract as a free agent this off-season.
(Please don't leave, Danny.)
I don't want to get into it too much here since I'm gonna write about it tomorrow, but Pop used Patty Mills first off the bench in relief of Tony Parker and Mills missed his only shot and had a turnover, overshooting Ginobili on a potential breakaway. He was subbed out in favor of Cory Joseph at the start of the second quarter and didn't play again until late in garbage time. It was the umpteenth time this season he's failed to carry over an encouraging performance after helping to save the Spurs at Houston.
Joseph on the other hand was fantastic. After the Spurs reserves struggled mightily in the first quarter, allowing a 10-0 run that got Phoenix back into the game, a lineup Joseph-Marco Belinelli (13 points) -Green-Leonard-Aron Baynes got the home side back into a comfortable lead with a 16-4 burst. Joseph repeatedly penetrated into the paint, forcing the Suns defenders to converge on him and leave shooters unattended, leading to threes for Belinelli and Green. When Phoenix stopped sending help in the second half, Joseph had little difficulty attacking the rim, and finished with 13 points on 5-of-7 along with four assists. Man, if he could just hit that corner three consistently...
(Hit that corner three consistently, Cory.)
I can't believe we're already at Game 82. I don't want to sound like a cliche and say it felt like preseason just yesterday, but the calender sure seems to move faster when these guys are winning. Maybe it means I'm failing in my goal to not be a fan anymore. It sure would be sweet for the Spurs to face an opponent in the first round I have no animosity toward. Some innocent, precocious team with likable players like a Portland or maybe Memphis would suit me fine. Just anybody whose owner isn't a self-important obnoxious ja
(Checks playoff seedings.)
Oh dammit so much.
Your Three Stars:
3. Danny Green (73 pts)
2. Cory Joseph (55 pts)
1. Tim Duncan (111 pts)
[Players receive 5 points for first star, 3 points for second star and 1 point for third star. Numbers in parentheses are their accumulated totals for the season.]