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Spurs set milestones in win over Suns

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In which the Spurs give their 100% effort for five whole minutes and come away with a win.

Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Pop Quote

It's remarkable

On tonight's MVP, and his ability to turn on another gear for the playoffs.

Game MVP

Tim Duncan - 22 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 1 turnover, 1 foul on 7-11 shooting in 26 minutes.

Just take a look at that stat line. Per 36 minutes, that's a 30-15-6-3-3 night right there. Unbelievably dominant stuff from a man who is nearly 39 years old. Taken with a grain of salt, obviously, since the Suns had very little to guard Duncan with (literally they spent most of the third quarter giving the assignment to PJ Tucker), Duncan's performance tonight was one of doing exactly what he needed to, nothing more, and doing those things perfectly. Setting a screen here, helping the defense there. Fooling one of the Morris twins with a gorgeous shoulder shimmy before kissing the ball off the glass. Duncan should be entering the phase of his career in which the move to the bench is seriously discussed. He's never missed the playoffs; rarely has he gone out in the first round. Yet there he is, outlasting Kevin Garnet, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant, saying nothing of his other long forgotten contemporaries Allen Iverson or Vince Carter. Duncan has done the unthinkable by merely surviving the supposed twilight of his career. That he is thriving as still, unquestionably, one of the 10 best big men in the game is testament to how special and nearly incomparable Duncan's career has been. Ranking across the NBA Generations is a facile and stupid argument. But unless you have Tim Duncan as one of the five greatest NBA players of all time (for my money, trailing only Magic and Jordan, and tied with Kareem), you're fooling yourself.

Honorable Mention : Marco Bellineli - 13 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists on 4-8 shooting in 24 minutes.

Were it not for Marco's hot spell in the second and third quarter, this game might've come close to something resembling the New York Knicks debacle. The Suns, to their credit, played insanely hard. But Marco kept the ship alive and relatively steady with his hot shooting and energy to make it to crunch time, when the big boys took over. With Patty Mills' three point stroke yet to reappear, Manu's consistent stroke probably never to return, Marco may yet play a key role in the Spurs' playoff bench mob. That's a sobering, dark thought, but the way he played tonight was testament to how Spurs fans probably undervalue Marco's contributions to our team.

Numbers Game

  • 191 - Deserves to be said once more. Congrats Danny. The #V3RD3 was scalding this season.
  • 33-8 - Spurs close the season with an excellent home record, two games better than last season. And as this tweet notes, four of those losses are extremely noisy, rarely repeatable mistake-esque games. The Spurs might not have pulled all of them out, but in terms of expected vs. actual records, the Spurs have a few more wins at home. That 2 seed suddenly becomes a whole lot more meaningful.
  • 25,959 - Tim Duncan passing Kevin Garnett in All-Time Scoring, moving to 14th. Considering the low priority Tim has always given scoring in his bag of amazing tricks, to only have 14 people above him is astounding.
  • 51-20-5 - Tim Duncan's points-rebounds-blocks over the last two games. I MEAN COME ON.
  • 539 - The Big Three's win total, one shy of Bird-McHale-Parish. The Spurs have one more game, and Manu's language in interviews this season has been one of cautious leaning toward retirement. I'll just go out and say it: I REALLY want the Spurs to win in New Orleans.

Run The Tweets

I love this so much.

Kids favorite topping was also meat lovers so... this kid knows things.

It's on my list, but I'll take any recommendation from the GOATPUFF as gospel.

Unpopular, Slightly Ugly Opinion Alert: What Russell Westbrook has done over the last two months has been unbelievable. He is a one man wrecking crew single-handedly expanding the idea of what an NBA player can really do going 150% all the damn time. He decided based on a spate of injuries that it was just not feasible to rely on Dion Waiters and Enes "Empty Stats" Kanter to help too much in reaching the postseason. Yet, on the cusp of failing on his phenomenal odyssey, I can't help but feel vindicated, and a little happy, at Russell's failings. Not because he's playing some selfish version of the game (he's not... he's a phenomenal team player). Rather I find Russell's failing satisfying because of the way Westbrook has gone about his business. Namely, that anyone on a basketball court not wearing an NBA jersey that says "Thunder" has done him wrong in a very real, personal way. When Russell attacks, it's more literal attack than war metaphor. That has always struck me as petty and a little weird. It's hypocritical of me, I know, since I spend 2500 words every month making serious business out of a game that eight year olds are pretty good at. But it still sort of makes me happy that we'll probably get to say goodbye to OKC on Thursday.

The GOATPUFF had a pretty All-Time night tonight, huh?

#100

I am aching, with every bone in my body, to see a Warriors-Spurs Western Conference Finals.

Oh man. Oh man Oh man Oh Man.

Miscellany

  • Just one quick note: Houston won tonight, which actually helps the Spurs, if that makes any sense. And to give you some perspective on how long a season it has been getting back to this point, I will leave you with this tweet.

#GoSpursGo

Rant

The 82 game schedule is a given. I get this. But why?

At this point the bevy of articles, tweets and data driven think-pieces about reasons to shorten the NBA regular season have come and gone. For every noted blogger, there's an owner somewhere clinging to the money all of those games makes him/her. So setting aside the obvious reason we as fans will probably never see a shortened schedule (money), April 12th's slate of games, including a tilt between the Spurs and an eight (or nine?) man Suns squad, was a prime example of the reality that the regular season is just too darn long.

This is the time of year when schedules, become important. Who a team plays against in its last seven games usually makes a difference in seeding, especially if that team is stuck in the chaos of the Western Conference 2-6 seed or the morass of the Eastern Conference 7-10 seed. But the schedule becoming a determining factor is a backwards sort of variable to introduce into a playoff race. Theoretically, if you have a slate of teams who are stuck at the same relative level, in order to find out how good they actually are, you want them playing the same type of opponents. Instead, oftentimes, you find at least one team with the distinct advantage of playing competition fixed squarely in the "tanking" vein, artificially inflating the last two weeks of their season. I, somewhat, believe that is what is happening to the Clippers. Tanking teams will exist at every stage, even if you shorten the season. But from a fan's perspective, I just write this to point out how miserable it has been to pay attention to Lakers/Sixers/Timberwolves/Knicks games for the last two months. It's an exercise in fan attrition, a battle between the NBA's prolonged, sometimes dreary spring and it's unbelievably exciting summer. By the way, did you catch that amazing game between the Pistons and Bobcats?

One of the arguments for shortening the season (from a Spurs fan perspective anyway) is the gathering of momentum versus the ever-present threat of injury. This season the injuries have already started to pile up in anticipation of the first round offering a new slate of asterisk-worthy injuries. The woes of the Thunder have been well cataloged. Portland seems to be unable to keep their starting swingmen in any state of upward mobility, having lost Aron Afflalo and Wes Matthews for extended time going into a playoff run, saying nothing of LaMarcus Aldridge's herculean effort to continue on through a bum finger. Memphis just lost Mike Conley. Andrew Bogut has been suspiciously healthy for the past two months, and that fact really frightens me. Dirk Nowitzki does not look ok, game to game. The collective toll of the NBA season would appear to be shortening the careers of its players, which seems like something the league would actively want to avoid. As the game speeds up (and it is speeding up), the NBA will continue to ask for more of it's athletes, to the detriment of their long-term career health, and their stamina during the regular season and the post-season. We have all personally witness this as Spurs fans. Spurs-Suns was no less an example. Tiago Splitter is being held out as a precaution because frankly him playing a full season ever is probably too much to ask. Manu Ginobili is a walking injury waiting to happen. And, let us not forget that a team vying for a playoff spot just a week ago trotted out eight guys (EIGHT) because the malaise of the NBA season wore them down too far. From a personal standpoint, it's hard to watch NBA players get up for such extended pressure month to month, when decreasing the schedule by a month would alleviate such stress and remove some of the long malaise of Spring.

Take tonight as an example. The Spurs trudged through the first half of this game. Never did it feel like Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker or Danny Green couldn't get exactly what they wanted on offense against a depleted nearly to the level of forfeiture Suns, yet there was 36 minutes of general malaise amounting to a wholly unsurprising 11 point lead heading into the fourth quarter. Take what highlights you will from the first 36 minutes of this game; if you believe anyone on either side was more than 80% invested in its outcome, you're kidding yourself.

Then, O Blessed Fates!, to be dealt a five minute stretch in which the starting five (Boris stepping in for Tiago) turned in a 100% effort felt like a blast of cool air reminding the entire crowd (and hopefully the viewing public) that this is how NBA games should always be. The ball pinging around at ludicrous speeds. Hands flying into passing lanes. Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan generally being the dominant players they are on both sides of the court. It felt like the Spurs machine was finally waking up. All the more confusing and stunted, then, to find that five minute stretch balloon the lead out to 21 and the bench guys coming in to escort the win to its rightful place in the standings. To say the game was a poor excuse for basketball is going far. To say it wasn't anything on the qualitative spectrum that Fan Appreciation Night would ideally bring out is an understatement. Directly responsible for this is the length of the NBA schedule.

But then you register the quixotic part about the length of the season... would the Spurs be hitting this high a peak at the end of the regular season were the regular season ending in March?

One of the more interesting, semantic and meaning as it is, arguments that the NBA has put forth about the quagmire that shortening the season would be is the transfer over of season total records. Namely, shortening the schedule would effectively end any breaking of those records for a while. This is a tough one to reconcile, and tonight was a decent bellwether as to why.

When asked to answer who the greatest Spurs three point shooter of all time is, I doubt any more than 15 of 100 Spurs fans would answer "Chuck Person." Part of that is recency bias; the Rifleman (first off, what a nickname) is far less known to the sector of Spurs fans who came along immediately post-1997 NBA Draft. But even accounting for this bias I doubt you'd see his name much; Bruce BowenMario Elie, Manu, Michael Finley... hell, Gary Neal might even get a vote. Yet there is (was) Person's 190 three-point 1995-96 season standing as the All-Time Spurs REgular Season Made Three mark. Ideally, records should be held by those who are best at doing the things the records record (wow, that's a sentence and a half). So, in an effort to prove why the 82-game season has a place, we had Danny Green splashing number 191. Doubtless there would be some to argue, but I'm not sure they have much leg to stand on disagreeing with Danny Green taking the mantle of the greatest Spurs Three-Point Shooter of All-Time. That he's done it in a scant four seasons is remarkable. The man makes millions in future money every time he pulls up on a fast break and drills and three, and tonight his talents were on full display.

As we inch ever mercifully closer to the end of the regular season and into meaningful Playoff territory, the presence of these milestones because the only substantive discussion point of games like this. Sure, the Western 2-6 seed finish scenarios could've probably filled this entire article with #content; maybe we could keep beating the dead horse of James Harden or Steph Curry for MVP... when the regular season becomes less about the games that are being played and more about the implications upon seeding and awards, we've reached time for the playoffs.

So, in a game where the Spurs only seemed to care for about five minutes, it's worth noting that those five minutes were excellent. The Spurs are right where they want to be going into the post-season. And Danny Green is one hell of a three-point shooter.