Season 51, Game 61
San Antonio 110, Cleveland 94
36-25, 3rd in the West

The Rodeo Road Trip certainly didn’t go according to plan, but the Spurs – desperate to snap their four-game losing streak – found a way to close it on a high note. San Antonio defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 110-94, led by their lone all-star LaMarcus Aldridge, who finished the game with 27 points and six rebounds. Though the big man led all scorers for San Antonio, he had a rough time in the first half. Aldridge shot 2-8 from the field before halftime, but managed to sink all eight of his free throws, keeping the Spurs within three at the break.

The game remained close until the start of the fourth quarter, when San Antonio’s Dejounte Murray took over the contest, marking one of his most impressive games to date. The point guard-of-the-future knocked down 4-6 shots – including the Spurs’ first three FGs of the quarter – to go along with four rebounds, a steal, and an assist in the closing quarter. Murray absolutely stuffed the stat sheet in this game, finishing the game with 13 points, five assists, nine rebounds, four steals, and three blocks. He also recorded zero turnovers, which is always nice.

San Antonio also relied on a huge game from Danny Green, who was benched in favor of Patty Mills to start the game. I think coming off the bench had more to do with Green recovering from some bad spaghetti than anything else, but neither the benching nor the pasta looked to be bothering him on Sunday. Green played his usual outstanding defense, including several assignments guarding LeBron James. Sure, James finished with 33 points and 13 rebounds, but… he’s LeBron James so we’re definitely going to let it slide. Anyway, Green dropped 22 points on the team that drafted him, including 5-9 from three point land. For more on Green’s recovery from food poisoning, I’ll turn it over to the San Antonio Express-News‘ Mike Finger:

So the Spurs finished the Rodeo Roadtrip with a rather unimpressive 2-4 record, but they closed it with a big win over a rejuvenated Cavaliers team who are certainly going to be in the thick of it when the NBA playoffs start.

And maybe, just maybe, San Antonio found the reason to believe in themselves for the rest of this campaign. The calls for tanking are getting louder and louder every day (at least on Twitter), but the Spurs team that took the court in “Believeland” on Sunday didn’t look like they were ready to give up on the season, with or without Kawhi Leonard.

And I think that’s the right thing to do. Look, we still don’t know if Kawhi is coming back this season. Sure, it’s highly unlikely, but if you look deep into your heart, you know this team is going to scare some people in late April if No. 2 comes back (…just not the kind Danny Green dealt with on Friday in Denver).

If you’re the kind of person with the “Spurs need to tank and get some good draft picks, then plan for the future without Kawhi and Aldridge” mentality, I have some thoughts for you.

  1. Both Kawhi and LA are going to be Spurs next year
  2. They will have some cap space this Summer, and can probably create more if need be
  3. A healthy Kawhi/LA combo is a pretty tantalizing offer for a coveted free agent
  4. San Antonio will be a much more attractive destination if they finish with a top-3 record in the West without their best player, and have cap space to bring another star over

If you want to be a grouch, go for it. But me? I prefer to live in a world that leaves open the possibility of Kawhi wearing silver and black for the rest of his career. Buy into the horror-movie montages of the severing Kawhi/Spurs relationship that networks like ABC and ESPN will play before every nationally televised game the rest of the season. But until I hear Kawhi say, “I want out of San Antonio,” I’m going to believe he wants to be out on that court with his teammates and that his source of frustration stems from being unable to play basketball, not the franchise he plays for.

San Antonio plays their first home game since February 3rd on Wednesday at 7:30PM Central against the visiting New Orleans Pelicans.

Go Spurs Go.

Photo credit: Tony Dejak/AP