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Bertans’ Career Night Pushes Spurs Past Kings

Season 51, Game 42
San Antonio 107, Sacramento 100
28-14, 4th in the West

4 high-end rotation players did not play.

3/5ths of the starting lineup combined for a mere 10 points.

The Spurs have mastered the “one hand tied behind the back” game this season, so Monday’s result in Sacramento after a dispiriting loss in Portland the night before shouldn’t be surprising.

LaMarcus Aldridge was a stud, yet again. 31 points and 12 rebounds only tells part of the story. He was an absolute monster on the floor, sprinting from end to end on every change of possession. His jumper was locked in. But more importantly, he ran himself into at least 10 easy points, getting baskets in transition off missed layups and offensive rebounds. He was easily the best player on the floor.

Not far behind him, though, was Davis Bertans.

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Disturbing Trends

Season 51, Game 41
San Antonio 110, Portland 111
27-14, 3rd in the West 

The Spurs fell in splendid fashion to the Portland Trailblazers on Sunday night after CJ McCollum tossed in some junk in the final seconds of a back and forth game. The 1-point loss to the Spurs was a perfect ending to a fairly entertaining game in which the Spurs could have probably used one more possession.

The Spurs led in pretty much every category. They had more rebounds, both offensive and defensive, had more assists, shot better from the line, shot better from the arc, and committed less fouls. Unfortunately, they also had more turnovers. Late game heroics by Manu Ginobili, who has been nothing short of inspiring, as well as the continued dominance of LaMarcus Aldridge, was once again overshadowed by a chaotic whirlwind in the backcourt. Kawhi Leonard aside, this team is vastly different, sans Tony Parker.

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Kawhi Looks Better as Spurs Beat Suns At Home

Season 51, Game 40
San Antonio 103, Phoenix 89
27-13, 3rd in the West

Welcome to the 2017-2018 NBA season, Kawhi Leonard.

Yes, this is a bit dramatic. But not that dramatic. And considering the mystery surrounding Kawhi’s absence and how long he has been absent (relative to, say, a 35-year old PG who ruptured his quad tendon a few months ago), one might successfully argue not dramatic at all.

Against the Phoenix Suns, in Game 40 of the season, Kawhi Leonard finally looked like Kawhi Leonard. Or at least a recognizable approximation.

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Comeback For Shorthanded Spurs Comes Up Short in Philly

Season 51, Game 39
San Antonio 106, Philadelphia 112
26-13, 3rd in the West

All in all, that actually wasn’t a bad game.

Granted, the Spurs’ defense looked porous at best, allowing the Sixers’ offense to look like the 2014 Spurs out there. Every back cut Philadelphia made was met with little to no resistance, leading to a dunk or layup. Nor could they secure a defensive rebound to save their lives. (Or, more accurately, to win the game.) And they did send the Sixers to the free throw line an absurd 43 times–only four of which were intentional.

On the other end of the court, the Spurs looked out of sorts for large chunks of the game. And it appeared that the Sixers were in possession of the Spurs’ playbook, seeming to know every cut, pass, and move before the Spurs even made it. The usual clever plays by the Spurs were completely swallowed up, usually leading to turnovers.

Putting all of that aside, though, it was a pretty good game for the Spurs.

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The Dynamic Duo Dominate at the Garden

Season 51, Game 38
San Antonio 100, New York 91
26-12, 3rd in the West

There were a lot of reasons to breathe a sigh of relief after this one.

After a dismal night against Detroit on Saturday, the Spurs showed signs of life and bounced back in New York, earning their fourth win in five games.

Six nights ago in Texas, the Spurs beat the Knicks handily behind a 25-point effort by LaMarcus Aldridge for a 119-107 win. Kyle Anderson subbed in for Kawhi Leonard during that game, but the Klaw was back in last night’s lineup. Given re-incorporation pains with Kawhi in previous games, tonight’s outcome was far from guaranteed.

From the outset, Aldridge and Leonard dominated and morphed into the dynamic duo San Antonio fans have been waiting to see all season. Aldridge stuffed his overflowing stat sheet with 29 points and 6 rebounds while geling with Leonard, who in his 7th game back from a quad injury recorded season highs in points (25), rebounds (8), steals (4) and minutes (31).

Through numerous tweaks to the rotation, the pair played well with others, forced fouls, and kept energy high. The Spurs went to the line 34 times scoring 28 points, more than doubling the Knicks effort with 14 points off 18 attempts.

Gone was the lackadaisical play seen against the Pistons. A balanced attack included 11 points from Pau Gasol, 12 from Manu Ginobili, and 10 from the other Latvian on the floor not named Porzingis – Davis Bertans.

Perhaps the result of last night’s super moon, some interesting plays occurred…

Late in the first quarter, a shot by Michael Beasley rimmed round and round and round and round and round before finally going in.

This would not be the weirdest thing to happen at the hoop.

At the end of the third quarter, Ginobili nailed such a lightning quick shot it was invisible to everyone, including the officials.

An intended alley-oop to Aldridge whizzed into the net, but Michael Beasley kept it in play as a deflection and brought it down the court. Ginobili argued at the other end and officials struggled to find a reason to review the play. They used the trigger of determining whether it was a two or three pointer to award the points.

Seriously, Manu is magical.

Watching this game in New York meant a local feed with commentators Walt Frazier and Mike Breen – Knicks-oriented this broadcast was not. Someone should remind them who writes their paychecks. These two praised the Spurs non-stop while sharing several stories about Ginobili, Gregg Popovich, Tony Parker, and even coaches Becky Hammon and Ettore Messina.

We also saw a beaming Ginobili greeting fans who’d arrived en masse from Argentina, fearing this season may be his farewell tour.

With win number 1,176, Gregg Popovich passed his friend George Karl, and is now the fifth winningest coach in NBA history. Not that we are keeping track, but after win 1,211 he will pass Pat Riley.

Kudos to Coach Jeff Hornacek for molding a young Knicks team that plays spunky and with heart now that the Curse of Carmelo has been lifted from NYC. Michael Beasley is a lot of fun to watch. All they have to do is get one win to be back at .500 and for the first time in over a decade I’m cheering for them to do it.

Here’s hoping Leonard, should he be kept off the DL, and Aldridge rekindle tonight’s spark in their back to back against Philly tonight.

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