San Antonio 125, Washington 118 (2OT)
By the time the final buzzer had sounded in regulation, with the Spurs coming all the way back in the second half despite not having Tony Parker, they had to win the game. By putting so much effort into the night (and facing at least 5 more minutes of it), they had lessened their chances of winning the following night. Every second of Duncan’s game on Wednesday ticked off the odds of the Spurs winning in Brooklyn on Thursday night. By going for the win in Washington, they had allowed for the likely event of losing in Brooklyn; so now they couldn’t suffer two losses. The eggs had been loaded into the basket. They had to win the game.
5 minutes later, as Washington completed an improbable comeback to force the game into a second overtime, the eggs started spilling out of the basket. It looked like the Spurs had lost all momentum and were dog tired. Duncan fouled out a minute or so into the period. Who the heck was even left to play?
Patty Mills played. Danny Green played. Tiago Splitter played.
What a fantastic win. Nothing should overshadow Duncan’s ageless night, with a stat line right out of 2003. He was great in the ways that so many talk about and aspire to be but few are. And Mills fearless shot-making in the 4th quarter and OTs was impressive, his great season rolling on. Remember when we all thought Joseph should be the back-up PG?
What I loved the most, though, was seeing Green and Splitter both playing in crunch time, both allowing us glimpses into how good this defense can be. After allowing a season-worst 62 points in the first half, the D clamped down. Over the next 34 minutes the team only allowed 56 points, and only 37 in the second half. Washington didn’t make a single shot in the second overtime period. After shooting something like 6 for 7 and scoring 14 points in the first quarter, under the watchful defense of Danny Green, John Wall only scored 15 more points the entire rest of the game (several of those points coming off of fast breaks), shooting 6 for 22 the rest of the way. Green’s biggest asset to this team is his defense against primary ball handlers. He was great again tonight.
I also really enjoyed watching Splitter get to play in crunch time. While he does limit the offense a bit, having both him and Duncan does allow the team (with Green and Leonard) to play elite, championship-level defense. While Duncan and Mill’s offensive heroics were impressive and necessary, the biggest change from the first half to the second half that allowed the team back in the game was on the defensive end. That was as much Green and Splitter.
And now we move to tonight’s nationally televised game in Brooklyn. Parker’s out. Duncan’s out. Leonard’s out. Diaw is out. (Manu is still out, obviously.) Marco played 38 minutes. Danny Green played 46 minutes. Splitter played 34. Who knows who will play or what will happen? Brooklyn clearly has the advantage and should win. But stranger things have happened. Remember that Golden State game earlier in the season that the team won without the Big 3? This team has a way of performing against expectation when the stars are out. Sometimes they’re the most enjoyable games. While last night became a game the team had to win because of all the energy put into it, tonight’s game becomes a game they can’t lose.
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