Even though March hasn’t been the toughest of months for the San Antonio Spurs, finishing it with a perfect record if they win one more game is an impressive accomplishment and another indication of how serious their title challenge is this season, easily walking all over the New Orleans Pelicans 96-80, led by Marco Belinelli.
If Tony Parker scores only two points and the Spurs still look this good, something good is going on. The Pelicans, who have seen their share of injuries ruin what might have been a promising season, were without Anthony Davis, which meant no chance at all against a team extending their winning streak to 17 games, and are now 15-0 in the Month of March.
Does this record mean anything? Only that the Spurs are playing their best basketball at the right time. The 1996 Spurs own the best record in NBA history during the month of March (16-0) but lost in the conference semifinals that season. Other teams like the Knicks and Bucks who also finished that month with a perfect record lost somewhere along the way. The Miami Heat are another example, also experiencing a similar winning streak last season at the same time, and finished March with a 17-1 record. A few months later they beat the Spurs in seven games to win the NBA championship.
The Spurs’ system was simply in this game, but without hardly any kind of opposition from the Pelicans, who had no interior defense whatsoever. The Spurs kept cutting into the paint and finding men open for shots on the outside, or simply took defenders into the paint and scored on them. The only reason they shot just 47.4% from the field is that they missed open shots, not the Pelicans proving to be a problem in any sort of way.
Marco Belinelli led the Spurs with 18 points, getting a chance in the lineup with Danny Green out with an injury. Belinelli doesn’t offer the same kind of defense Green does, but he’s a huge upgrade when compared to Gary Neal in the role of coming off the bench and providing points. Both Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili scored 15 points and Tim Duncan has 12 points, as Belinelli was the only player to spend over 25 minutes on the floor in the win, another sign of how easy it was.
Some worried that the collapse in games 6 and 7 of the NBA finals would damage the Spurs mentally heading into this season. Almost a year later, and it seems like this group is stronger than ever. They’re leading the league with a 57-16 record, and might end up with the best record in NBA history for a team that lost in game 7 of the NBA finals the previous year. The Detroit Pistons, with a .780 win percentage in 2005-06 after losing in Game 7 to the Spurs the previous season. The Spurs are hoping that the statistic of teams losing in game 7 returning to the finals (11 out of 17) is true, and becoming the sixth team to win the championship on that return doesn’t look like such an unlikely outcome.