Wednesday marked a triumphant end to the 2015-16 NBA regular season. The Golden State Warriors won their 73rd game on the year, breaking the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' old record for wins in a year. Steph Curry became the first player to ever make 400 threes in a year (Before this season no one had even made 300 in a year). And of course, Kobe Bryant capped off his amazing career with one last transcendent game, scoring 60 points and drilling a game-winner in a comeback win over the Utah Jazz.
The San Antonio Spurs also had a game on Wednesday, and that was fun in its own right. Boban Marjanovic, Jonathon Simmons, and Kyle Anderson starred in a 18-point comeback victory over the Dallas Mavericks. It didn't mean anything for the Spurs, as they had already locked up the 2-seed in the West, but watching Boban post-up Dirk Nowitzki time and time again was pretty darn great.
After a long season, you can lose your feeling for basketball. I know I never stop loving the game, but it does become a bit routine, just a part of my normal day. As a result of that, I get caught up in always trying to be objective and I try to never get too high or too low about any single performance. Wednesday served as a reminder to me of just how much fun it is to let loose and be a fan of this game. I had no such problems letting loose on Wednesday night. I was mesmerized by the spectacular fashion in which Curry broke 400 threes, and watching Kobe drop 60 points in his final game made me cheer and scream more than anything else had this season. I couldn't contain myself.
Now that I'm rejuvenated, I cannot wait for the playoffs to start up again. The Warriors and Kobe gave us a taste of how sweet basketball is and the higher the stakes the sweeter it gets. Forget Christmas, this is the most wonderful time of the year.
The Spurs have a chance to do something great this postseason. They're the 2-seed in the West, and might have the most lopsided first round matchup out of anyone. If the Memphis Grizzlies were healthy, that might be a different story, but they're without not only Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, but they're missing Mario Chalmers and Brandon Wright as well and Tony Allen is questionable for game 1 with a hamstring injury. Zach Randolph, a roster full of aging vets (Vince Carter, Tony Allen, Matt Barnes, Birdman) and Spurs scraps (JaMychal Green is still with the team and Bryce Cotton and Ray McCallum had stints with the Grizz) stepped up admirably in the absence of Memphis' best players to even get them to the postseason, but without Gasol and Conley, it's tough to envision Memphis getting even a single win against a powerful San Antonio squad.
With that said, buckle up Spurs fans. This isn't like last year; you're in this for the long haul. Kawhi is going to be much better than he was last year against the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round. LaMarcus Aldridge is currently playing his best basketball of the year and that's a great sign. Everyone in Silver and Black is relatively healthy (knocks on wood) and should have plenty left in the tank. They've got an ideal first-round opponent, and have looked good against both possible second-round opponents. Heck, they even competed with the Warriors for a couple games this season (And won one.)
The playoffs are looming, and everything is trending upwards in San Antonio. This is going to be one hell of a playoff run.
Kyle Anderson - 15 points on 6-10 shooting, 10 rebounds, 5 steals, 4 assists
Anderson supplemented the Spurs with whatever they needed tonight, coming up with some much needed buckets in addition to playing some passing lanes and setting teammates up. I'm not not sure how much he'll play in the postseason, but he's shown that he's capable of giving the team what they need when they need it.
NUMBERS ON THE BOARD
22: The amount of points scored by none other than Raymond Felton. He got hot early, scoring 10 in the first quarter, then kept it going fairly steadily for the rest of the night. Felton finished 9-of-16 from the floor, including two threes.
20: Everyone in a black jersey played at least 20 minutes, due to the shortage of bodies. Not everyone had a fantastic game, but everyone made at least one or two plays that contributed to the victory. That may not seem like much, but for a short-handed team with some young guys, those positive plays increase confidence and add up over time.
18: Dallas held an 18-point lead at the half, but San Antonio's super-subs were able to overcome the deficit and get the win. They played consistently on offense, and were able to get into more passing lanes on defense and push the tempo a little bit as they pulled out a nice win to finish the season.
- The Spurs did a great job of defending Dirk Nowitzki all through the game. They sent a bunch of different defenders to him, and they mostly did a good job of getting into his lower body before the ball even got to him, as to never let him get comfortable in a scoring opportunity. As a result, he went 5-for-17 from the floor
- San Antonio is known to use a 2-3 zone look as a change-up out of timeouts and in special situations, but they used it for a much larger portion of the game. Whether it was to conserve energy for a short-handed team, or used to make sure they loaded the paint, it had enough of a desired effect, as the Mavericks shot 40.3% on the night. Dallas also took 39 three-point attempts in an effort to get the Spurs out of the zone, but only 30.8% of them fell, allowing San Antonio to sit back.
- A lot of San Antonio's offense came by way of back-door cuts. The Mavericks defense was very aggressive but didn't have much help at the rim, so the Spurs just walked their defenders to a spot then run past them to the rim. A lot of these looks came by way of Boris Diaw, who had seven assists. He'd set up at an elbow, receive the ball, then either hit a point guard down the middle on a give-and-go, or there would be a wing cutting from the weakside on the baseline. No matter how they did it, backcuts led to buckets for the Spurs all game long.
- Marjanovic and Simmons really looked fantastic against Dallas. Boban was able to get his post scoring going early and block some shots, while Simmons provided some athletic drives and finishes at the rim. Both rookies ended up setting career highs in points as they lead the Spurs to a win. With a shortened rotation, I'm not sure they'll get much playoff tick this postseason, but they've both cemented themselves as guys that should stick around the organization for a while.