The San Antonio Spurs make it to 60 wins this season, beating the Memphis Grizzlies 112-92 thanks to Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili stepping up after an early exit from Tony Parker, that didn’t really bother the usual rhythm of the team with the best record in the NBA.
Parker lasted only nine minutes in the game. After being fouled by Mike Conley on his way to the basket, Parker hit the floor and as a result suffered from back spasms that forced him out of the game. That meant more time for Manu Ginobili with the ball in his hands, scoring 26 points, his best scoring night since January 17 in a loss to the Blazers when he finished with 29 points.
But Kawhi Leonard was probably the best player on the floor for San Antonio and not for the first time. They are 52-10 with him in the lineup, 8-7 when he’s out, which happened during their “bad” stretch in the middle of the season, but also included injuries that kept Tiago Splitter and Danny Green away from the floor.
Leonard had a perfect first half, scoring 15 points on 7-of-7 from the field. He finished the game scoring 26 as well (12-of-13 from the field), and his five consecutive points early in the fourth quarter stopped the momentum the Grizzlies were having as they were trying to come back from the huge lead the Spurs had opened up.
This is the fifth time in franchise history that the Spurs have reached 60 wins in a regular season. The loss to the Thunder didn’t faze them, and they picked up with a 20th win of 10 points or more in less than two months. The only way they don’t finish first in the West is if they lose four of their remaining five games while the Thunder win all that remains for them. While the second option doesn’t sound too far fetched (they did lose to the Suns at the same time), the Spurs suddenly letting it all go makes no sense. Only after the top spot is clinched will we being to see a massive resting trend.
This isn’t the first time this season Parker has suffered from back problems. He has missed 10 games, although most of them have been for ‘rest’ or at least listed as such. Parker had cramps bothering him during the NBA finals series against the Miami Heat 10 months ago, part of why he didn’t play very well in the final two games. The Spurs play well without him as well, especially when fluidity and passing are concerned, but it’s obviously going to be a big hit if there’s some long term issue with this injury.
The goal is a championship, and the wins in the regular season are just a bonus. But the real work begins only after completing the first task, which won’t really comfort anyone if the Spurs fall short once again of winning their fifth NBA title.
Wins are wins, but all of us want to be the last team standing. That’s all that’s really important to about six, or seven, or eight teams.