The Spurs closed out yet another decade of winning basketball against what has clearly been the best franchise of the last 10 years. The Warriors’ 3 NBA Championships amidst a run of 5 consecutive Finals appearances makes that a pretty easy distinction to make. No slouches themselves, the Spurs made it to the Finals twice in that period, winning the title in 2014, and amassing more victories than any other team over that time.
The Spurs’ 117-113 overtime victory over the Warriors on New Year’s Eve left the Silver and Black at 554 wins since January 1st, 2010, well ahead of the 2nd place Thunder with 515. The Warriors’ 505 wins make them the only other team with more than 500 victories over the course of the decade.
For a myriad of reasons, though, the product on both sides of the floor bore little resemblance to the sustained excellence that led each franchise to such lofty heights. The loss dropped the Warriors to 9-26 or, depending on your point of view, allowed them to retain 2nd place in Tankathon’s lottery simulator.
Despite the loss, the Warriors have every reason to revel in the competitive play of the mostly young and inexperienced group they put on the floor. Without an MVP and 2 All-Stars, the Warriors controlled most of the game by being sharper and hungrier than the home team. The talent they are uncovering in these games may well be enough to fill out a real contender once their stars return.
The Spurs, on the other hand, entered this game at full strength and needing to take care of business as they head into a challenging January schedule. Their record now sits at 14-18, a game ahead of the Trail Blazers for 8th place but still 3.5 games back of the Thunder in 7th. A win is a win, but there’s something hollow about eking one out at home against what should be an over-matched opponent.
Still, the Spurs showed enough backbone to wrangle a victory. A relentless DeMar DeRozan scored or assisted on the Spurs’ last 11 points in the 4th quarter, including the should-have-been game-winning pull up jumper with 17 seconds to go. But despite playing very good defense on the ensuing possession, with LaMarcus Aldridge blowing up the Hammer action and deflecting Draymond Green’s baseline pass just enough to take away the intended shot, Glenn Robinson III drilled a difficult contested step back jumper to tie it up.
The Spurs were unable to convert with the remaining 9 seconds on the clock, sending the game to overtime. Once there, the Spurs’ offense came alive, scoring on each of their first 6 possessions of extra time to take a 7 point lead with just over a minute to go. It wasn’t always pretty as the Spurs were forced to work deep into the shot clock on almost every possession, but they got it done.
Unlike the end of the 4th, though, the Spurs’ overtime offense actually flowed through the entire team. Patty Mills found Bryn Forbes for a three and straight up worked Marquese Chriss for a driving scoop layup. DeMar DeRozan chipped in a pair of free throws and found Dejounte Murray for an open three on the left wing. Dejounte drilled that shot, swiped a handoff from Chriss to Alec Burks and took it to the rack, nailed a pull up jumper from the right elbow, and found LMA for a layup that proved to be the game sealing shot.
Perhaps the final 5 minutes is a better indication of what the next decade will bring than all that came before, and perhaps not. Either way, the Spurs closed out the decade the same way they came into it and the same way they emerged from a majority of its contests, with a win.
- There was some lucky shot making on both sides in this game, with last second bail out three pointers falling like wide open looks. But the most ridiculous bucket was the rainbow three Alen Smailagic banked in over Jakob Poeltl to tie the game at 84, which prompted a shrug from Jakob and incredulous looks up and down the Spurs’ bench.
- DeMar continued his recent streak of hot shooting, scoring 24 points on 11 of 18 from the floor (61.1%). He somehow only managed to get to the line 4 times despite getting into the paint all night long. The lack of calls had its usual effect, with DeMar committing a needless foul and getting T’d up in the process late in the 1st quarter.
- Patty (18), LaMarcus (17), Dejounte (15) and Bryn (14) all put up double digit points as well. Patty got up 11 threes and made 5. LaMarcus added 12 rebounds, including a crucial offensive board that led to Dejounte’s pull up jumper with 2 minutes to go in overtime, as well as 4 assists and 3 blocks. Dejounte had one of his more complete games of the season, with 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and notably, no turnovers.
- Bryn got angry a few minutes into the 4th quarter and proceeded to take it out on the visitors. He was visibly frustrated after a no call on a missed layup, and proceeded to sprint into a pull up jumper and drill a deep 3 on the next 2 possessions.
- The Warriors leading scorers were Alec Burks with 28, Glenn Robinson III with 25 and Damion Lee with 20, in case you were wondering who, exactly, lit up the Spurs’ defense. Draymond Green chipped in just 10 points to go with his stellar defense, but nearly pulled off the bare minimum for a triple double with 10 rebounds and 9 assists.
- Happy New Year! Hope PtR brings you as much joy as it does to all of us who contribute here.
Next game: Vs. Thunder on Thursday
The Spurs will get a chance to gain a full game on the 7th placed Thunder before heading to Milwaukee on Saturday for the first game of a home and home with the Bucks.