March comes, and with it the San Antonio Spurs immediately get better, beating the Phoenix Suns 101-74 behind an excellent game from Kawhi Leonard, making it two in a row and signaling to the rest of the Western conference that it might be time to take them seriously once again.
After losing four in a row, the Spurs bounce back and cap off their Rodeo road trip with a 27 point win over the Suns, which included holding the Suns to their worst halfin franchise history, scoring just 24 points in the first half and 41 points through the first three quarters. They shot just 18.6% from the field in the first half, and went through a stretch of 7:51 minutes without scoring a field goal. They shot 29.8% from the field overall in the game.
Tony Parker went back to his struggles with just six points and 3-of-13 from the field, but a lot of other things worked quite well for the Spurs, not needing anything too special from Tim Duncan, or Manu Ginobili. It’s rare to see the Spurs doing so well while their big three combine to score just 14 points, but the sign of this team’s strength is the ability of other players to take over when the aging stars are nowhere near as dominant.
Leonard hasn’t made the extra step towards superstardom this season, but he has become an incredibly important part of this team on both ends of the floor, maybe the most important. He finished with 22 points to lead the Spurs, grabbing 10 rebounds as well. The long minutes of garbage time allowed Aron Baynes to finish with a double double as well, scoring 12 points to go with 10 boards.
What does this mean for the seeding in the NBA playoffs? The Suns fall to 1.5 games behind the Thunder, who have lost their last two. The Spurs are 7th, 10.5 games behind the Warriors but four games ahead of the Thunder, giving them plenty of breathing room. Assuming that their worst is behind them, the very small (2 games) lead the Mavericks and Clippers have over them won’t last for ever.