The San Antonio Spurs keep on winning, making it nine in a row, beating the Houston Rockets 110-98, to make things even more complicated and close in the Western conference, while proving once again that despite their low seed and “disappointing” overall record, they just might be the best team in the NBA right now.
The most telling number about how well the Spurs have been doing lately, more than their nine-win streak and the margin of 12 points or more in each of the wins, is the fact that over the last three weeks, since losing to the New York Knicks in overtime, the Spurs have faced teams with a winning record of 57.7%. The Spurs have gone 12-1 against that stretch with a +17.6 net rating.
Things were very chummy and friendly early on, including Gregg Popovich and James Harden comparing beards. But the Spurs are all business, as Kawhi Leonard continues to do an incredible job, this time scoring 20 points with suffocating defense that might be the best in the NBA right now, at least among perimeter players, picking up four steals this time, helping score 17 points off of turnovers.
Leonard didn’t hit 3-pointers this time, but is shooting 60% from beyond the arc in April to go along with his 62.7% field goal percentage, making 60% of his shots in six of the last seven games. He has missed too many games to be considered for major awards this season, but it’s hard to think of anyone having such a huge influence on both ends of the floor over the last month in the league.
The Rockets didn’t get a special game from James Harden (“only” 22 points) and without something special from his minions, it just wasn’t going to happen against a team that’s playing much better basketball right now. The bigger problem was the loss dropping the Rockets back to third in the conference, tied in their record with the Grizzlies, while the Spurs at the moment set themselves up with a series against the Rockets.
It’s the usual story with the Spurs – a team that slumbers through winter only to erupt when spring comes along. They lost too many games compared to previous years which means that regardless of their impressive finish, it’s going to be a much lower seed than they’ve grown used to over the last three years. However, there doesn’t seem to be a single team playing better basketball right now.