A 7-1 Rodeo Road Trip, a 50-9 record and a five game winning streak, and still an hour before the game I was an anxious, nervous, forlorn mess, thinking of the worst.
The Spurs did something highly unusual beforehand, you see. They said that Manu Ginobili would speak 15 minutes before the tip. My pal Paul said he couldn't recall them doing such a thing with any player in that time-frame before. My heart skipped a beat. My mind started racing. What could be so important for Ginobili to discuss it before the game? Did he have some setback in his recovery between yesterday's practice and this afternoon? Was he going to announce that he was retiring? Was it going to be effective after the season or immediately?
As per my custom, I couldn't stop thinking of nightmare scenarios. I was positive it was going to be bad news.
And then, ten minutes later, Mike Monroe talked me off the ledge and I felt like a complete doofus. He explained that what likely happened was that ESPN asked the Spurs to make Ginobili available and they complied, so then the team decided to let local media have time with him too since that would only be fair. Monroe reasoned that Ginobili wouldn't want to stick around after the game to talk and that it'd be more convenient for him to do it before.
Sure enough, not five minutes later Spurs PR sent a tweet saying the presser would just be a simple health update and nothing overly headline-worthy and that's exactly what it wound up being, with Ginobili confirming that all was progressing as expected in his recovery and that he expected to play in a week or so.
Anyway, given the hysterics I was in right before the game, the actual basketball contest seemed awfully tame and anti-climatic by comparison. It was as though we were playing along on NBA2K and got bored sometime around the second quarter and just decided to simulate the thing to the end. There wasn't much in the way of highlights, with the Spurs getting and mostly settling for a steady stream of mid-range jumpers, and the Pistons simply didn't inspire much excitement from the home side or the fans. Ginobili got a nice reaction from the crowd when he was shown on the jumbotron in his sport coat and new Spur Andre Miller got a nice ovation when he checked in late in the third quarter, but aside from that... well 97-81 kind of tells the story.
Believe me, I know it sounds spoiled and entitled as hell. The team is 51-9. FIFTY-ONE AND NINE. That is insane. They've clinched a playoff spot on March 2. They finished 55-27 last season, which is still really, really good for just about anyone, and these guys are 51-9.
It was a little over a year ago when the Spurs lost at home to these same Pistons with Brandon Jennings sinking a miracle floater and Stan Van Gundy screaming at his guys to "form a f---ing wall." Fast-forward to the present and we've got the Spurs easily dispatching a much better Pistons squad and it's like you catch yourself thinking, "Yeah, whatever, lemme know when they play the Thunder," or something along those lines. And you hate yourself for feeling that way, but I suppose it's the double-edged sword a 51-9 record brings. You need an awful lot of 97-81's along the way to compile such a record. So while being "locked in" and "taking it one game at a time" is hunky dory for the players, it's not so much the case for the rest of us who can't help thinking about real challenges in the offing.
And the idea that Ginobili will once again be fighting for the forces of good when the next homestand gets here, with one intriguing opponent after the next... you'll forgive me for feeling like a kid counting down the days til' Christmas.
With that written, onto the highlights!
I know Andre Drummond is having a big year, but I've been really underwhelmed with him in both of his games against the Spurs. He's been foul-prone and a non-factor, to the point where Aron Baynes seemed a more viable pivot. Still, Timmy was pretty good tonight.
Speaking of pretty good, Kawhi Leonard had the stroke going early, with 11 first quarter points on the way to a game-high 27.
Parker can still turn on the jets when he sees a big leaning the wrong way. If I were him I'd say "meep meep" every time I did this.
Here's all three of San Antonio's bench points in the first quarter.
And Duncan, showing better fullback skills than anyone on his beloved Bears, with Leonard patiently waiting for him to set up his block.
Can't imagine why Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook got tired of this guy.
Aldridge got frisky in the third quarter with 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting and two assists besides. It was a one-point lead at half but the Spurs nearly doubled up the Pistons 27-14 in the third, holding them to 4-of-18 shooting and coasted from there.
Morris trying to deny LaMarcus the ball, and Pistons try to triple him when he gets it. Never mind, turnaro... https://t.co/HiEQLISgoh— J.R. Wilco (@jollyrogerwilco) March 3, 2016
When he's feeling it, he makes the game look so easy.
Seriously, what is Drummond doing here? That's only one of the eight best players to ever play you're not guarding.
Patty with the pick-six.
And then Kawhi says to Patty in his best Australian accent, "That's not a pick-six, THIS is a pick-six." Yup, that totally happened.
Your Three Stars:
1. Kawhi Leonard
2. LaMarcus Aldridge
3. Tim Duncan
Up Next: At New Orleans Pelicans (23-36)
What an awful year it's been for the NOOCH. So much was expected of them as a darkhorse challenger of the West's superpowers and instead they started off 1-11 under Alvin Gentry and never recovered. As it happens, their second win of the season came on Nov. 20, at home against the Spurs, one of San Antonio's few decisive losses on the campaign, and it was keyed by a pair of reserves, with Ryan Anderson going for 30 and Ish Smith notching 17 points and 13 assists. For reasons that escape me, the Pelicans released Smith soon after. The Spurs won the return engagement at home easily enough, with Aldridge out-dueling Anthony Davis and scoring a season-high 36. It will be a SEGABABA for both teams (the Pelicans lost 100-95 at Houston) and we don't know if Pop will be resting anyone, but while they've struggled in the Bayou the last few years, they are 16-0 in their last 16 SEGABABAs, dating back to last season, an NBA record.