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Spurs fully resurrected as title contenders

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A dominant 107-92 win over the Warriors is, in itself, just a game. But it serves as a punctuation point to the larger narrative: The Kawhides of March have carried over into April...and probably beyond.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Narratives, man.

Sometimes as journalists we create them, sometimes we shoehorn them in, but sometimes we pluck them right out of the air, floating before our eyes. This game was absolutely saturated with them.

It was pretty obvious that the Spurs were going to win because:

  • Matt Bonner was starting along with Parker, Green, Leonard, and Duncan, an undefeated lineup (and on his birthday no less) in 11 games this season.
  • Bill Clinton was in his first term the last time the Warriors won in San Antonio (and Stephen Curry was 8).

But COUNTERPOINT, the Warriors are unstoppable:

  • 1st in the NBA in offense AND defense.
  • Heading into the game on a 12-game win streak.
  • MVP Steph Curry, etc.

However, the truest, most salient narrative is that the Spurs are in the midst of an incredible resuscitation--neigh--Resurrection! (That's the one). Fittingly on Easter, the Spurs-as-NBA-Title-threat have been fully resurrected. Not quite in 3 days like the more famous story, but over an impressive few weeks.

20 games is no small sample size; it constitutes a quarter of an NBA season. That's how long this Spurs revival has been developing before our eyes. I hinted after the Sacramento win, at the time a small suture to a gaping RRT-sized wound, that the Spurs could possibly build on this small step forward:

That is the type of emotion that can be planted, watered, harvested, and turned into something substantial. We'll see if the recently slumping Spurs can build off the end of game momentum into the team we all know they can be.

And the Spurs have done exactly that. They've won 17 of 20, including their last seven. They've outplayed their opponents in at least 75 of those 82 quarters. They've held at least a double digit lead (often a 20+ point lead) in each of those games. And they've been steadily improving the entire time.

The biggest revelation has certainly been Kawhi Leonard. A dominant, yet non-pantheon NBA Finals MVP last season, his ceiling was still something of a question mark heading into January. After recovering from a string of injuries and the team-wide maladies of early February, Kawhi has looked like one of the league's top 5-10 players in March and now April.

Going back to February 25th, Kawhi had averaged 18.7 points on ~53 FG%, 7.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.6 steals, and 1 bpg. The steals and blocks are an indicator of his strong defensive play, but to truly understand how dominant he's been, you have to watch. One quantifiable example however: the Warriors had an offensive efficiency rate of 98.8 in his 24 minutes on the floor, an unfathomable 11.1 point drop from the league-best 109.9 they average.

He opened the game by outscoring the Warriors while on the floor in the first quarter and put up one of the most incredible statlines I have ever seen in 24 minutes: 26/5/3/7 steals/0 turnovers! The 7 steals in 24 minutes is mind-boggling in it's own right, but 4 of them directly involved MVP-favorite and "best ball handler in the league" Steph Curry.

I don't know if Kawhi and the Spurs can replicate their tenacity, efficiency, and overall dominance every night over the next two weeks and the playoffs, but if they can, a repeat is all but prophesied.

Quote of the Night

"They kicked our ass. That's the team with the rings."

- Steve Kerr, Coach of presumptive-favorite Warriors (via Dan McCarney)

Game MVP

Kawhi, without a doubt, but Danny Green deserved his delicious, ample consolation prizeooki.

DG Pizookie 2

via Instagram

Green had 18 points on 70% shooting, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks and looked like the second best wing defender in the league (just so happens that his teammate is number one). He has nights like these where it all comes together and he nearly looks like a max player himself. Please PATFO, figure out the financials to keep all of these guys again.

Odds and Ends

  • "Beware the Kawhides of March" (and tremble knowing his star is only beginning to rise): Leonard has had more 20+ scoring nights (10) in his past 17 games than his entire career preceding it (230 games).
  • Since coming back from injury on January 16th, Kawhi's monthly per 36s
GMS REB AST BLK STL PTS
JAN 8 10.29 2.50 0.44 2.35 16.75
FEB 11 7.07 3.27 1.16 2.64 15.62
MAR 15 7.92 2.95 1.01 2.95 20.88
APR 3 7.52 4.30 0.54 5.37 30.09

  • Popovich tried to play down some of his team's dominance, citing fatigue from Golden State. For what it's worth, the Warriors posted the on SEGABABAs, losing just their 4th of 19 on Sunday.
  • This was really the first time this season the Warriors have been dominated. They trailed by a mere point in the fourth quarter of their previous worst loss (against the Clippers). In their largest home loss (13 to the Spurs in November), it never truly felt over until the final whistle blew, even with a double digit lead.
  • The Warriors two largest losses this season have come on Christmas (14) and Easter (15). Extrapolate what you will.
  • Around the 8 minute-mark in the third quarter, Tim Duncan got pushed to the ground by Andrew Bogut (I believe Curry actually picked up the foul). He popped up in an instant with a fire in his eyes, then went on to score 7 of his 19 points over the next five minutes (actually 9 points, but 2 were called off for a bizarre and Mewtwo-rare 5-second call). Glad to see Tim can still get angry and translate that to dominance.

Numbers Game

2 Greens. Only two players average at least 1 steal, 1 block and 1 three-pointer per game: Draymond Green & Danny Green...Point Danny.

32. The Spurs have now won 32 consecutive against the Warriors in San Antonio, the 2nd longest streak in NBA History.

12. The Warriors came in on a 12 game win streak, their 2nd longest in franchise history.

6. This was only the 6th loss for the Warriors with their starting five healthy...

2. of those 6 have been the Spurs.

Dear Internet,

Thanks for being really, really awesome last night. Again.

#WILDcats:

#MettaWorldHotTakes

Baynes truly is a writer's dream

Requisite Manu gif(s):

Spurs fans, trying to keep expectations in check:

...oh:

Birthday Boy:

Matt Bonner was, yet again, a trendsetter: