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The Spurs have a knockout combination

Kawhi and LaMarcus. Aldridge and Leonard. When they get rolling, the Spurs stop teams cold.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Tim Duncan posted up, and spun for the hook-shot, swinging his elbow and cracking Anthony Davis's head back. Blood dribbled from the Pelican's All-Stars mouth and he had to vacate the court to receive five stitches.

Later in the game, the Spurs did the exact same thing to the Pelicans -- they laid the smack down. On both sides of the ball, they popped them right in the grill. And New Orleans was finished.

Facing a fourth straight loss in New Orleans, San Antonio came up with stops and made baskets down the stretch, putting together a 25-5 run in the fourth. With the victory, the Spurs improved to 13-0 in back-to-backs this season.

While watching the game, I experienced deja vu - echoes of memory stretching down various corridors like a scene from Inception, where a whirling top is still spinning somewhere in the NBA office. Didn't this exact same situation play out for NOP last season? After OKC suffered without Kevin Durant, the Pelicans finished the season 8-3 (including a last game victory against San Antonio) to squeak in as an eighth seed. Despite the loss, the Pelicans played San Antonio like a first round matchup, contesting shots to create opportunities that dictated the transitional game, until choking in the fourth by missing their last six shots and failing to nab critical offensive boards.

Leonard was a killer on both ends of the floor, scoring 30 points and grabbing 11 rebounds - his point tally is his highest offensive onslaught since opening night. It was his tenth consecutive game with at least 18 points. As a symbol of passing the torch to the younger generation, Tim Duncan set screens for Kawhi to get the feed, trailing away from the ball and allowing Leonard to get buckets. Leonard entered the All-Star game averaging 20.2 points (51% fgm), 6.7 rebounds, and 1.8 3pm (48.2%). Since then, he's taken it to another level, improving to 26.2 points (54.5% fgm), 7.6 rebounds, and 3 3pm (50%).

Shaq referred to him as a "superstar", comparing him to the likes of Lebron James and Stephen Curry. Charles Barkely called him "the most complete basketball player in the world" and claimed he was a better two-way player than LeBron at this point. Even Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said he was a "great player" and was content with living with his shots as long as they were contested.

After the game, Leonard was wouldn't take the are-you-a-superstar bait.

"Just working hard, seeing what the details are in the flaws of my game. I gotta keep doing it to become a superstar."

Kawhi isn't enamored with the celebrity, or obsessed with the three-ball, or insistent about taking the last shot (a task often assigned to Parker or Ginobili). Leonard shoots consistently, combining all the positive attributes at the offensive end, and isn't a slouch on the defensive floor either.

Displaying the brutal instinct of a merciless killer, LMA took over the fourth, scoring 14 of his 26 points with the game on the line. In the last month, Aldridge is averaging 21.1 points and 7.9 rebounds, comparable to the 21.4 points and 10.5 rebounds he was posting in the same period last year with Portland, where he was required to do more.

Thursday the two of them were a one-two punch that San Antonio will likely rely on through the rest of the season.

Media Notes

The Spurs strong closing kick is reminiscent of classic miler Jim Ryun in his prime.  He would run with the pack until he decided to turn it on, and then he was gone:

  • Ryan Anderson is a free agent next season. Could he fill Ginobili's shoes if the veteran sixth man retires after this year?

  • Last night, the Spurs clenched their 19th playoff berth with a Utah Jazz loss. Here's what was happening in the season when they didn't make it to the post season.

At the time, here were the leaders during the season:

By the Numbers

6: streak of at least 20 points and 10 rebounds against the Spurs by Anthony Davis. The numbers is tied with Kevin Garnett (2000-2001) for the most 20-10 numbers since the 1997 season. The run was broken tonight. Davis finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds.

23: The number of road wins San Antonio has, and the number of total wins for New Orleans.

15: total of wins Spurs have improved by at this point over last season.

3: number of the oldest of six players in the league that are Spurs.

Social Media Gossip

The Doctor is IN:

Let's end with a little music.