This past week wasn’t exactly spring break for the Spurs; it was probably closer to hell week. The team that coasted through a soft early-season schedule had to beat the Thunder, Clippers, Blazers, and Warriors in an 8 day stretch. It only counts as four more regular season home wins (44 in a row), but the quality home stand is a great sign that the new-look Spurs are hitting their stride at the right time.
Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, and Steph Curry are arguably the four best point guards in the West, maybe in the game right now. San Antonio used fantastic team defense to hold these excellent scorers and facilitators to an average of under 20 points and 7 assists. Steph Curry was limited to 14 points and 1/12 shooting from three point range.
San Antonio’s guards didn’t shoot the lights out- in fact, it took until midway through the third quarter for a Spurs guard to get a bucket in the OKC game. However, Tony Parker, Patty Mills, Danny Green, and Manu Ginobili played excellent defense running shooters off the three point line, funneling them towards shot blockers and contesting every shot.
The Spurs didn’t need offensive greatness from their backcourt because they got it from their frontcourt. The increasingly potent tandem of Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge contributed 44 points and 16 boards per game, which is a lot on a team like this. LMA has gotten much more comfortable in the system, and he and Kawhi have been playing well together consistently since the All-Star break.
This dynamic duo is vital to the continued success of the Spurs both this season and in the imminent post-big-three era, and unfortunately for other teams, it seems to be working just fine. Aldridge has been eating from everywhere on the court this year, and Leonard’s development into a Terminator-like offensive juggernaut has been well documented.
LMA’s per-game averages are down from his time in Portland, but his efficiency numbers are much improved. He’s dropped about five points per game compared to his last two years as a Blazer, but he’s also taking six less shots and hitting at a higher clip. His scoring totals and percentages have consistently improved over the course of the season, and he looks completely comfortable in his new system now.
These last four wins are incredibly meaningful for the team, but not because of the result. At the end of the day, each only counts for one more regular season win. Coach Pop and his guys don’t care about extending a record home win streak, winning statement games, or even chasing the 1 seed. They are completely focused on winning a championship, and this home stand was a strong step toward that goal.
Before these games, Patty Mills said this stretch would be “an exciting time for us to develop against quality teams who we’ll most likely see at some stage during the playoffs.” I’d say that it went pretty well. The transition period is officially over, and 69 games of tinkering has gotten the Silver and Black Machine humming down the stretch and poised to make a deep playoff run. It’s important to get hot at the right time, and San Antonio is definitely picking up steam.
Golden State is openly chasing immortality, but at what cost? These Warriors will never play the ‘95-’96 Bulls, and it seems like they forget that sometimes. Will they prioritize a regular season record over rest in the last few games even if the one seed is locked up? And what effect will it have on morale if they can’t reach that mythical 73 win mark? Questions like this don’t exist for the Spurs.
The young, exciting Dubs have earned every right to celebrate their historic run like little kids jumping on the bed. At this point though, they are becoming aware of the monster hiding under it. It has a terrifying claw and exploits their biggest fear (post-play). The kids are still making noise, but who do you think is more afraid of whom? The boogeyman just said, “BOO” on national television.