Okay, so this wasn't exactly the most dramatic home game involving the Spurs and the Heat. It still feels pretty cool to kick their butts though, I'm not gonna lie. You just dislike some teams more than others and some leave permanent scars on your soul. It's weird, I don't know how to describe it. I sincerely believe that if you hooked me up to a lie detector and asked me if I could change anything about how the 2012-13 season ended, knowing what I know now, I'd say "Nope, I'm good with it," and the machine would read that I'm telling the truth. But at the same time, I will never forgive the Heat for 2013, for making me feel that way, you know?
Obviously that's stupid and irrational. They didn't do anything wrong. It's competition and their organization and players and fans want to win like everybody else. But fandom isn't rational. You just hate them because you feel they stole what was yours, a championship you earned and was snatched away because, essentially, LeBron James missed a shot so badly that it didn't even hit the rim and caused an awry carom off the backboard.
And now you're getting upset again. Sorry about that.
Really the only link to those back-to-back Finals against Miami and the Spurs of today is Kawhi Leonard playing like an absolute maniac. The Heat had no answers for him whatsoever, regardless of whether they tried Joe Johnson, rookie Justise Winslow, who's supposed to be a good defender, or whomever else. I suppose San Antonio caught a break in that Luol Deng was out with a sore left quad, but truly the way Leonard was rolling I doubt very much it would've mattered. The only guy on the planet capable of slowing him down was somebody he'd see sneaking a bashful glance at him in the mirror.
Leonard singlehandedly carried the Spurs to a 56-47 halftime lead, outscoring his fellow starters 24 to 10 (and taking 16 shots to their combined 12) as well as Miami's. The two dozen points is the most by any Spur in any half this season, topping the 23 that Tony Parker put up in the second half at Detroit on Jan. 12 in what was a season-high 31 for The Wee Frenchman. The SDSU phenom and recent Sports Illustrated cover boy had it all working, canning a pair of threes, a pull-up 19-footer and a crazy fade-away floater?
in the lane in the first quarter and then really turning it on once he checked back in for the final 9:19 of the second, tossing in 14 more on a pull-up three in transition
a fast break lay-in
an and-1, another mid-range jumper, another driving score
and finally a tip-in of a Danny Green miss.
It was almost enough to make you forget that he's still better in his own end of the floor than with the ball, but perhaps Joe Johnson's five points on 2-of-6 shooting in 32:32 may serve as a gentle reminder.
Leonard added eight more quick points in the third quarter on a couple of acrobatic and-1 layups
(including one where Josh McBob would've needed to commit a felony to stop him)
and two more freebies to tie his career-high of 32 before exiting stage left to the locker room for the night with right thigh contusion. As a result, he became just the ninth dude since 1983-84 to score at least 30 and grab at least eight rebounds while playing fewer than 25 minutes. Our very own David Robinson is on the list (he did it in his MVP season against the woeful Vancouver Grizzlies) and everyone who did it was either a Hall-of-Famer or very good, but the all-time WTF stat line has to be what Bill Laimbeer did with the Pistons against the Cavs on Jan. 2, 1985.
Also, I recommend checking out the list if you expand the perimeters to at least 26 points and deflate the minutes to 21 or fewer, and if you didn't know that was gonna happen then you must be new here.
Anyway, judging by Gregg Popovich's jovial mood in the post-game scrum (I'm as surprised as you are), I don't think Leonard will miss more than a game or two. Parker, who is neither a doctor nor does he play one on TV --though he does play a chef-- estimated it'd be "2 or 3 days," based on his own personal history with that ailment.
By the time Leonard checked out, the Spurs had stretched the margin to 16 and the odds of them blowing such a lead two games in a row were about as remote as them losing a home game, period, and they've stretched that streak to 45 games now, going back to March 12, 2015, the second highest all-time, behind the Warriors also active record of 50. They're also just one game behind the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls for best undefeated start of a home schedule. Those Bulls started 37-0 at home before petering out with a pair of one-point losses in their last four.
The bench as a whole were pretty good tonight after a poor showing at Charlotte -- Manu Ginobili had his passing shoes on really for the first time since returning from his surgery--
and all that was left to do over the final third of the game was watch Boban Marjanovic grind the more celebrated Hassan Whiteside into a fine powder
which he then snorted in celebration and was immediately assessed a five-game suspension from the league for violating their substance abuse policy.
The Serbian giant scored a season-high 19 points in just 13:33, making 9-of-12 shots almost entirely with Whiteside trying to check him one-on-one
Boban signals to Miller to pass to West as he buries Whiteside in the paint, fakes left, spins right and sc... https://t.co/0Gtcgl4Pj7— J.R. Wilco (@jollyrogerwilco) March 24, 2016
and later credited his Sunday cameo with the Austin Spurs of the D-League for boosting his confidence. (He beasted in that game, with 21 points on 10-of-12 shooting and 15 rebounds in 26 minutes, but the Junior Spurs lost a squeaker anyway to the Bakersfield Jam.)
"He's one of the most selfish players I've ever been around," Popovich joked afterward about Marjanovic's heroics. "He shot it every time he touched it, he should apologize to his teammates for being so greedy. He just wanted to get his name in the paper."
Plenty of Spurs had their names in the paper on June 16th, 2014, the day after their sweetest win over the Heat. This one won't be remembered quite as fondly, but Leonard and his teammates might be even better now, and that's a remarkable thing to contemplate.
Your Three Stars:
1. Kawhi Leonard
2. Boban Marjanovic
3. Danny Green
Up Next: Vs. Memphis Grizzlies (41-31)
The Spurs will try to extend their home streak, I imagine without Leonard, against a Grizzlies club that is still firmly in fifth in the underachieving Western Conference even though they're without their two best players in Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. Their current roster reads like something you'd see find in an expansion draft, with graybeards like Birdman Andersen and Vin-sanity, veteran nutters in Matt Barnes and Lance Stephenson, an overpriced star on the decline Z-Bo, a fellow whom analytics is trying to usher out in Tony Allen, a pair of unproven former Spurs in Ray McCallum and JaMychal Green, and oh, just because, Jordan Farmar and P.J. Hairston. Allen shot 12-of-12 the other night in a loss to the Lakers, and that might be even more hard to believe than Laimbeer's stat-line against the Cavs was. Anyhow, the Grizzles have lost twice to the Spurs earlier in the season by an average of 15 points and they had Gasol and Conley for both of those games. It'll be a San Antonio home-and-home for them, but the Spurs have will have a prime-time Saturday night nationally-televised SEGABABA at Oklahoma City (a.k.a. a scheduled L) in between.