Winning six consecutive games, getting everyone back from injury and not letting a huge win over the defending NBA champoints go to their heads, following it up with a 121-112 victory against the Orlando Magic as Tony Parker & Manu Ginobili bring out their best, as the San Antonio Spurs make it a three way-tie for the best record in the NBA.
Tied with the Pacers and the Thunder at 46-16 for the best in the league, San Antonio look like a team that’s on a mission once again. Parker was at his elusive best, while Manu Ginobili brought more of the same – clever passing and the ability to split the defense in two on his own or in a pick & roll. Parker finished with 30 points, Ginobili with 24, and every other player chipped in, although Popovich was probably quite unhappy with the defensive effort.
The Magic are in a nothing-to-lose mode, simply letting the season pass and waiting for draft day to come. They still have some talent offensively, even without Victor Oladipo playing. Tobias Harris scored 23 points in off the bench while Nikola Vucevic made life very difficult for Duncan, Diaw and Splitter, finishing with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Arron Afflalo had 17 points as well, but not on the most accurate of shooting nights.
Besides Ginobili and Parker, it was a big game for Kawhi Leonard. He scored 17 points to go with his 7 rebounds, 4 assists and two steals, looking very aggressive whenever he saw some sort of opening to the rim. He had two impressive dunks on breakaways off steals, and it looked like his defensive performance against LeBron James from a couple of nights earlier gave him an offensive boost as well.
Tiago Splitter with 14 points, Danny Green with 12 (perfect 4-of-4 from beyond the arc) and Tim Duncan with an 11-10 double double completed the double figure scoring for a team that looked so fluid offenisvely it had an open shot on almost every possession, making 53.1% of their field goal attempts and 45% from beyond the arc.
Just before the trade deadline we wrote about the Spurs needing a trade. They wanted Turner but didn’t make a serious move. They had their hopes to sign Danny Granger and maybe Caron Butler, but that didn’t turn out either. The thing is that when completely healthy – not just the big three but key pieces like Boris Diaw, Splitter and Leonard ready to go it gives the Spurs the balance and defensive flexibility the team was missing during its rougher stretch earlier this season.
There are still matchup problems with the Houston Rockets and the Oklahoma City Thunder that need to be addressed, but if it’s only a matter of coaching and adjustments, you can usually have faith in Popovich to find out what’s wrong and fixing it. The Spurs look confident but more than anything they look complete with everyone on the same page. For the 8th consecutive season, it is their last chance of winning an NBA title with this group. After already getting over injury problems, they might be ready to make a long run like last year, only with a happier ending.