So, the Spurs had a couple of noteworthy streaks broken tonight. They lost at regular season home game for the first time since Mar. 12, 2015, when some random named "Kyrie Irving" scored 57 on them to lead Cleveland to a 128-125 overtime win. And they also happened to lose at home to the Warriors for the first time since Valentine's Day, 1997. (I like to think I'm fairly knowledgeable about Spurs history from the David Robinson Era onward and I have no Feicking clue who Jaime Feick is.)
I like to think that last loss to the Dubs was when Cupid chose to cheer up the Spurs struggling rookie skipper by unfurling a couple of arrows from his quiver and shooting Gregg Popovich in the tuchus with one and a senior power forward at Wake Forest with the other, beginning a torrid love affair between coach and player that persists to this day. Tim Duncan wasn't quite a San Antonio Spur yet when they lost to Latrell Sprewell and Co. and he wasn't in uniform for this loss either, resting after playing both ends of a back-to-back.
Having Duncan --and also Boris Diaw, still out with a groin injury-- unavailable is just a flimsy excuse though. It's burying the lede, quite frankly. Give the Warriors credit where it's due. In snapping a pair of streaks they've reached the precipice of history. They're 72-9 now, one win away from setting a new all-time single-season wins record, and a very good bet to achieve it, with only a home game against battered Memphis remaining.
That they were able to defeat the Spurs on a SEGABABA tonight made it all the more impressive. Like we've seen at least a dozen times this season, the Dubs didn't have much going for them offensively outside of Stephen Curry. But he was enough, and that's why he's going to win a second consecutive Most Valuable Player award, possibly unanimously.
Curry shrugged off a fairly pedestrian first half --for him-- 4-of-8 shooting and 11 points and took over the game, scoring 16 in the third quarter and 10 more in the fourth to finish with 37, the most he's ever scored at the AT&T Center. The Spurs had jumped out to a 45-37 lead early on in the third quarter after a perfectly frigid 35-35 first half, but Curry was able to shake free of Kyle Anderson courtesy of an Andre Iguodala screen for a wing three right in front of the Spurs' bench and then canned another in transition the next trip down, prompting a time out from Pop as the tide turned to the visitors.
The rest of the half felt like one prolonged Curry heat check. He threw up three contested floaters from ten feet or beyond and they all swished straight through. He overpowered Danny Green at the rim and got an "and-1" to trickle in. There was, I think, a half-hook from 18 feet at the end of an expiring shot clock he banked in right after checking back into the game midway through the fourth quarter and even a half-court banker that mercifully didn't count because it came a moment after the buzzer.
The Spurs defended him as well as they could and were powerless to stop him, like countless teams before them.
Yet the team was fairly upbeat after the game, from Popovich on down.
"I couldn't be more proud of them," said the coach, adding "We played a hell of a team and I thought our aggressiveness, our attention to detail, was much better than game three (at Golden State on Apr. 7). They did a lot of good things out there, so I'm really happy with how we performed."
The Spurs don't really do moral victories, but Popovich wasn't blowing smoke in his presser. Indeed there were many positives they can take away from the game, not the least of which was that they kept it close without Duncan, their best interior defender, and Diaw, their biggest post mismatch. Holding the Warriors to 92 is never a bad thing, and it took Curry making a handful of shots only he can make for them to get that many. The Spurs also dominated the glass, with 18 offensive rebounds and kept their turnovers to a manageable dozen, though the Dubs still made them pay in fast break points, hitting shots on 6-of-7 opportunities.
They lost the game on offense, plain and simple. By now, after four head-to-head meetings and practically a whole season's worth of film to study, the Spurs can confidently attest that they've got the formula to defend the Warriors as well as they can possibly be defended in the half court. They've got the scheme to do it and the personnel to implement a winning game plan, for the most part. Offensively though they're still no closer to solving the Warriors' puzzle than they were in the first game in Oracle Arena, where they got blown out 120-90 on Jan. 25.
Even after all these regular season reps, the only open shots the Spurs seem to be able to consistently get against the Warriors are pick-and-pops to LaMarcus Aldridge, and Golden State largely gives those up by design, looking at it as the lesser of evils. Kawhi Leonard had a rough go of it Sunday night, unable to shake Iguodala on the perimeter or finish over Andrew Bogut or Festus Ezeli.
The real issue though, as we've seen happen more and more of late, is that Aldridge and Leonard didn't have enough help. The Warriors won the starting backcourt battle 51-6, and there's just no way for the Spurs to overcome such a disparity. Green had a disastrous performance, missing all six of his three-point tries (most of them decent looks), turning it over four times and losing Klay Thompson on the other end for a three which prompted... well ,you can guess. Tony Parker competed defensively against Curry as best he could, but provided zero offensively, with no legs on his jumper or forays to the rim. Manu Ginobiili was also fairly anonymous, especially in the second half where he only played 7:58, so it made for another grim outing for "The Big Three."
"They've got size, they are physical, and they switch a lot on pick-and-rolls, so it is hard to get an advantage," Ginobili explained when asked why the Spurs have struggled to score against Golden State. "In depth, they have a lot of players with the same size, who are very athletic and strong... so they can manage to switch everything. So again, even on defense, they are pretty unique. Not many teams do that."
The Spurs finished 3-of-17 from downtown and shot just 37.8 percent overall, with the starters aside from Aldirdge combining for 12-of-43 and no one shining from the bench either. Kevin Martin and Boban Marjanovic showed brief flashes in the second half, but hurt the team on the other end as well.
If they are to find a way to unlock the Warriors' defense, it will have to wait until the conference finals, a point both Ginobili and David West made sure to make. For the time being there's still a couple of meaningless games left to finish out the string and they still have no idea who their first-round opponent will be. The Spurs will have to regain their offensive mojo step-by-step between now and the end of May, and a couple of playoff series against Dallas and Oklahoma City may be just what the doctor ordered in that regard.
And just think... if they get past OKC with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and then somehow do the impossible and beat the Warriors four of seven times, then in all likelihood they'll get to avenge the last home loss against that Irving guy.
Your Three Stars:
1. LaMarcus Aldridge
2. Kawhi Leonard
3. Manu Ginobili
Up Next: Vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (54-26)
Well, this is pretty meaningless, all of a sudden. No 41-0 home record to play for and both teams have been locked in to their place in the standings for a while. I can't imagine that Billy Donovan will bring Durant or Westbrook to the arena. Why would they care? Why would anyone? Then again, he played Durant 40 minutes the other night in a loss to Sacramento, so who knows?