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What A Difference A Night Makes

By Daniel Strickland on February 24, 2013.

Thursday night, the Spurs beat one of the best teams in the league, a Clippers squad which owned them in their previous two contests.

It was especially satisfying to see the Spurs win so decisively, leading by as many 33 points before three quarters had even been completed. The Spurs were sharp and precise on offense, shooting almost 60% for the night and nearly 50% from behind the arc. On every play, with every possession, the Spurs demonstrated why they currently have the best record in the NBA.

Going into Friday night’s game, the Spurs had won five straight and 16 of 17 overall. They looked like a juggernaut rolling into Oakland.

The Warriors, on the other hand, have struggled in February, losing six straight earlier this month. While they seemed like a solid #4 seed in December, lately they’ve played more like a Warriors team fans have come to expect in the post-Mullins, post-Hardaway era: talented, but undisciplined; promising, but disappointing.

And the Warriors’ historical record against the Spurs is one of consistent and predictable ineptitude.

For the first three quarters Friday night, the Spurs looked flat, almost disinterested. I guess you can’t blame them, given the history between the two teams. It probably didn’t help that they were playing in a back-to-back either.

That all changed in the fourth quarter. The Spurs seemed to take control, scoring 13 straight in the first three minutes, thanks in large part to Manu Ginobili’s all-around play (5 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists in 3:19) and inspired hustle by DeJuan Blair (2 points, 5 rebounds in 3:01) and Patty Mills.

In a game like this, a 13-point lead should have been enough to win. Unfortunately it wasn’t. The Warriors answered with a 13-0 run of their own, and with six minutes to play, the teams were tied at 80.

During the rest of regulation, and for most of overtime, it looked like either team could win. A 107-101 win for the Warriors could easily have gone the other way on any other night.

While it’s not always true with games like these, you can tell a lot about this one from the box score. The Spurs shot 32% (15 of 47) in the first half and 39% overall. The Warriors weren’t much better at 42%, but won the war on the glass (57-50) and dished out more dimes (25-17). Those differences turned out to be enough.

That being said, let’s give credit to the Warriors where credit is due:

  • Klay Thompson put in a solid defensive night against Parker, limiting him to just three assists in 40+ minutes.

    (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

  • David Lee had his league-leading 35th double-double and NBA-best 20th game with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, finishing with 25 points and a career-high 22 rebounds.

    Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

  • Jarrett Jack had his third game with at least 25 points and 10 assists, becoming the first player to go for 30 points and 10 assists off the bench since Magic Johnson in 1996. Jack deserves legitimate consideration to be the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year.

    (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Even with huge games by David Lee and Jarret Jack, and terrible shooting by the Spurs, the Warriors still barely eeked out a win in overtime. That says a lot about these two teams: when one plays at their best and the other plays at their worst, they’re pretty evenly matched.

Mark Jackson spent most of his post-game remarks praising Coach Pop, Tony Parker, and the Spurs organization. It’s a common refrain we hear from opposing coaches, whether the Spurs win or lose. The Spurs are an enviable franchise, from both a business and a competitive perspective. But listening to remarks like Jackson’s, I often feel sorry for the fans. We Spurs fans have it so good. Our team is competitive year in and year out. Our team wins titles, and in years it doesn’t, its in the running to win. Fans of Golden State and most other NBA teams get tremendous satisfaction from games like tonight’s, when their David knocks off our Goliath. But we all know, most nights Goliath wins.

“It was just a beautiful win for us. We had every opportunity to hang our heads and fold the tent. We had fought a good fight, and for some that would have been enough. For us, we continued to battle and got an incredible win.”
— Mark Jackson, Warriors Head Coach

So while we saw a veteran team, coming off a big win, playing in a building where they hadn’t lost in five years, play pretty lousy for three quarters and end up getting a lot closer to winning than they deserved to, the Warriors coach saw an “incredible win.” And let’s be honest, the Warriors deserved to win as much as the Spurs didn’t deserve to.

Kudos to the Warriors on their “incredible win.” Enjoy it, because on just about any other night, the outcome would have been different.

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