Season 51, Game 70
San Antonio 117, Minnesota 101
40-30, 7th in the West
I could get used to this winning thing.
It’s a small hurdle for the usually lofty standards of the Spurs, but Saturday’s win against Minnesota marked the first 3-game winning streak the Spurs have had since the end of December. Almost 3 months without winning more than 3 games in a row (and often losing a bunch of games in a row). On that face, this was another huge win for the team.
But it’s not just that the team is winning; it’s how the team is winning. They are fighting; they are competing; they are playing with an edge. In other words, they look exactly like the Spurs you would expect to see playing without their best player: they might not have the talent to compete with you, but they’ll be damned if you’ll get anything easy or they’ll beat themselves.
And yes, every win has been at home, where the Spurs have been solid all year. But two of the three wins were against West teams competing for the same playoff spot, and getting those wins was crucial to playoff hopes. Basically, every game from here on out is a “Not-quite-a-playoff-game-but-more-than-a-regular-season-game” game, and the Spurs are (finally) showing up for these games.
The story of Saturday’s win against the Wolves must necessarily begin with the play of LaMarcus Aldridge. Granted we’re all subject to recency bias, but this may be the finest game he has played as a member of the team. After a slow start to the game, he was absolutely electric in the second quarter, willing the team to an 11-point halftime lead. He was getting his offense in every way possible: his patented midrange jumpers, bullying in the post, from the flow of the Spurs offense, and fighting his ass off under the rim to get offensive putbacks.
When the game was still in doubt in the 4th, he once again had a little personal scoring flurry, helping to put the game out of reach for good with about 4 minutes to go.
When LaMarcus wasn’t beasting, the rest of the team was playing more in line with “the beautiful game” of seasons past, rather than whatever it is we’ve been subjected to this season. The key to the Spurs’ offense is to play fast but not be in a hurry. Make quick decisions, keep the ball and yourself moving, but don’t settle for anything. Again, over these last three games, something seems to have clicked back into place for the squad, and the offense is just playing at a much higher level.
Rudy Gay also had a really nice game. It feels like he is finally getting comfortable coming back from his injury and fitting into the Spurs’ offense. For a player like Gay, there is a delicate balance of getting your own and flowing in the system. Or, between being too selfish and too selfless. He is a gifted scorer, and that role is much needed coming off the bench. Playing alongside Pau Gasol, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker (our new Hall of Fame bench crew) is allowing Gay to fit in perfectly.
Gay has also been better than advertised on defense. In the 4th quarter, he and Aldridge were fierce rim protectors, notching several blocks and generally stopping the Wolves in the paint. If he can play the 4, the Spurs have a potent closing lineup available to them.
A very banged-up Warriors team comes to town Monday night. This isn’t “must win”, but with the state Golden State is in (Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, and Play Thompson are all out, and Draymond Green is not 100% health), the Spurs should be favored to win the game.
Go Spurs Go.