Season 51, Game 36
San Antonio 119, New York 107
25-11, 3rd in the West
The Spurs beat the Knicks on Thursday night in a game characterized by its redundancy. Basketball masked the contest, but the game itself was the Spurs being the Spurs and the Knicks being, well, the Knicks.
Before tipoff, Bill Land highlighted a graphic that showed the differences between the two franchises since 1999, when a young Tim Duncan and a veteran David Robinson conquered the Knicks for the title. It was one of those graphics where you already knew the truth, but to see it in writing was almost funny.
The Knicks have been bad for quite a while and their franchise has been in disarray. It’s humbling to see these types of parallels. It makes you realize how fortunate we are as Spurs fans to get 50-win seasons out of our team on a year to year basis. This game was another example of that.
The game was never really in question, although the Knicks kept it generally close with the Spurs missing their MVP caliber player, Kawhi Leonard. But this game was a perfect example of the Spurs continued success over the years.
Forgotten in the excitement of “can LaMarcus and Kawhi play together” has been the quiet, yet consistent play of Pau Gasol. In his recap of the Spurs/Kings game, my counterpart Jeff reminded us of our expectations of Gasol: “a well-rounded game, contributing in lots of areas, but likely not dominating any one area.” Against the Knicks, Pau was just that.
Many Spurs fans were left scratching their head this offseason with the Spurs extension of Pau. I’ll admit, I didn’t understand it at first either, but as the season has progressed, it’s made more and more sense. The Spurs put a premium on culture and regardless of how you feel about him basketball wise, Pau embodies the Spurs culture. He was kind of a Spur before he played for the Spurs.
Now, Pau is doing all the little things and is a key reason as to why the Spurs have had success this year without Kawhi Leonard. Pau makes the game easy for everyone, but no one reaps the benefits more than LaMarcus. Gasol can stretch the floor and has showed an impressive consistency from 18 feet and beyond. But more so, his ability to get LaMarcus the ball, early, has brought the “High-Low” combo back in full force. Pau finished with 17-11-7 and no turnovers and the pair of them made Kristaps Porzingus and Enes Kanter look silly tonight.
But let’s make sure to give LaMarcus his fair credit as well. LaMarcus is an All-Star this year and rightly so. He’s been amazing the first half of the season and if it weren’t for the scoring spike in MVP candidates in recent years, he’d be in that discussion as well. He’s not going to score 35 on a nightly basis, but this has easily been his best year as a Spur and he’s the team’s MVP.
What impresses me is how hard he is playing. LaMarcus is putting in legitimate work here, folks. He’s been assertive, efficient and hungry. He wants the ball, he moves the ball and he makes the right play. This is the LaMarcus we all wanted two years ago. It’s better than “Portland LaMarcus” and I think he is only going to keep getting better.
A couple other quick notes from this game against the Knicks:
Tony Parker – Boy, does he look great. This is a 35-year-old point guard coming off an ugly injury and yet, he’s looking more and more like he never took 25-plus games off to start the year. He’s fast, he’s crafty and most of all, he’s an absolute calm on the court. Tony is going to win a playoff game this year for the Spurs and I’m all for it.
Kyle Anderson – It’s no secret that I’ve been critical of SlowMo over the years. I think his growth has been a bit slow and his slowness bothers me. But he’s had a phenomenal year as well. And didn’t he just have a knee injury too? Doesn’t look like it. Anytime you put your back-up small forward into the starting lineup and he produces 16 points and eight rebounds, shoots 4-for-4 from the field and 8-for-8 from the foul line and only has one turnover in 29 minutes, well I think you take that every day of the week and twice on Sundays. It’s time for me to eat some crow: Kyle Anderson is a good basketball player.
Danny Green – The best value contract in the NBA. Don’t @ me. If you could assemble the perfect “Three and D” player, it would be Danny Green. He’s had a nagging groin and hammy injury, but I’m expecting big things from Danny this May.
Rudy Gay – Guys, I really hope Rudy is ok. He’s been fabulous all year, but we might have to nickname him Achilles. His heel has been giving him problems and he is now scheduled for an MRI after leaving the game in the third quarter. He’s been a real gem this year and I hope he can stay healthy enough to stay on the court. The “Point Shark” is a playmaker every time he is on the court.
We still haven’t seen the best of this Spurs team and they are still pretty good. It remains to be seen how they will fair against the elite teams and their small ball line-ups. But for now, they continue to dominate with two more twin towers. Hopefully, we see the minutes restriction lifted for Kawhi in a few weeks. He’ll be back in action Saturday when the Spurs travel to Detroit to take on a pesky Stan Van Gundy-led Pistons team.
It’s going to be rowdy.
Go Spurs Go.