Season 50, Games 79 and 80
San Antonio 102, Dallas 89
San Antonio 87, Los Angeles Clippers 98
61-19, 2nd in the West

The playoffs start in one week; thank God.

It’s hard to watch “meaningless” games. What makes it even more difficult is knowing that each “meaningless” game can actually have negative impact on the team. Letting off the gas too early and playing for nothin for too long of a stretch can bring you into the playoffs dull, unprepared to match the necessary intensity playoff games require.

So I’m glad Pop isn’t resting players these final two games. I think this is a mistake the team has made in years past, and it felt like the team never regained their edge. Unlike last season (though against the same team), the playoffs will be a battle from the opening minute against a Memphis Grizzlies squad who have no doubt that they can beat the Spurs in a best-of-seven series.

I liked the way the way Pop managed these two games. Rest against Dallas on the road (giving the rested players an extra day off before the final push), then start the final push at home against the Clippers, a team that’s always a challenge for the Spurs to play.

It’s hard to take too much from either game. The Mavs likely would have won the game if Carlisle hadn’t essentially ceded the game at halftime, making the second half C-Squad vs. C-Squad (I like our C-Squad in any comparable battle). But it was fun to see the young ‘uns get the win and get lots of valuable playing time.

The Clippers were playing for real stakes and the Spurs weren’t. So while the game could have been more competitive, that slight difference in motivation will always manifest. The Spurs were just a step slow everywhere compared to the Clippers. I don’t like it–the Clippers are my second least favorite team to lose to–but I understand it. Factor in the way the Clippers match-up so well against the Spurs, and the loss makes sense.

So let’s look at some positives from the game:

–Aldridge contines to look sharp. He is playing aggressively on both ends of the court, rarely falling into his passive mode (probably the root of all the knocks against him). His defense on Griffin was tremendous in the first half, and his offensive game was flowing, as well. I hope Aldridge can have a productive playoffs.

–Kawhi seems to have rediscovered his long ball, which helps open up the rest of his game. His playmaking has obviously taken a dramatic step up in the last 2 months, which will be critical as he starts to see more and more double-teams. Like Aldridge, I hope Kawhi has a good playoffs. He needs to show he can lead a team in the playoffs.

–Gasol played great off the bench. I’m excited to see how the brother vs. brother match-up plays out in the playoffs.

Areas of concern:

–Parker. This will never go away. He’ll have good games, he’ll have more bad games. The fates of the team will rest too much on his play.

–The Spurs seem to have good offensive line-ups and good defensive line-ups, but not many that are really good at both. How Pop manages this will be critical, and this will likely become more and more of an issue the deeper the team goes into the playoffs…assuming they do.

Of course, the best news of all is that the Spurs almost certainly will not have to face the Clippers again this season. Only two teams beat them twice: the Clippers and the Grizzlies. (Ugh.). The Clippers beat them three times. They just have the Spurs’ number. Their starters (who are very good) tear up our defense. Their bench (who mostly stink) kill our bench (who mostly don’t stink). I don’t understand it, but we just never play them well.

Good riddance, Clippers. And bad luck in the Playoffs.

The Spurs close the season on a very tough 2-game road trip: Portland on Monday, Utah on Wednesday. The Blazers have locked up the 8-seed, so aren’t necessarily playing for anything. However, they’ve been fighting for their playoff lives for so long, it’s doubtful they’ll let up the last week of the season.

The Jazz will be fighting for that 4-seed and home court in the first round. That game will likely be huge for them.

The Spurs are still playing for nothing other than rhythm and confidence. I’d like to see them win at least one of these games so they don’t go into the playoffs on their only 3-game losing streak of the season.

Go Spurs Go.