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What a difference a month makes

By Daniel Strickland on December 16, 2008.

Game 23: Spurs 109, Thunder 104

Last night’s win over the Thunder didn’t give Spurs fans much reason to celebrate. The Spurs led by 26 in the first half, but then let the worst team in the league cut that lead to a basket in the final minutes.

The Thunder began their comeback late in the second quarter. They cut the Spurs’ lead to three points at 100-97 with 2:02 left on Durant’s spinning layup. Durant made it 106-104 with another spinning layup with 30 seconds to go.

“It’s always the worst gift a team can get,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of the 26-point cushion. “This is the NBA, and there is a 24-second clock. Rarely, rarely does it stay like that — it doesn’t matter what a team’s record is or who you’re playing.”

But a win is a win, right?

Unfortunately, the Spurs most recent wins have come against Denver, Golden State, Dallas, Atlanta, Minnesota and Oklahoma City. Another way of saying it: the Spurs beat three ho-hum teams and three lottery teams.

But what a difference a month makes. A month ago the Spurs were 2-4 and struggling without Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili in the lineup. (The Spurs were just 6-6 without Ginobili, but 7-2 without Parker. Make of that what you will.) The Spurs are 13-4 since both returned on Nov 28, have won six games in a row, 8 out of 10, and are the hottest team in the Western Conference.

It’s noteworthy that even with Parker and Ginobili back in the lineup, Roger Mason and George Hill remain big contributors for the Spurs, combining for 115 points during the six-game winning streak.

It’s also not lost on this fan that Mason and Hill represent, along with Parker, Bonner and Mahinmi, the future of the Spurs franchise. Since the return of Parker and Ginobili, as Mason and Hill have gone, so has the team. The Spurs are 6-0 when Mason has scored in double digits and 4-0 when Hill has.

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