Season 50, Game 25
San Antonio 108, Boston 101
20-5, 2nd in the West
As the Spurs approached a game that would make them the second team in the 2016-17 NBA season to reach 20 wins, there were several factors that made a seasoned fan like myself cautious about expecting the win.
With LaMarcus Aldridge out, the first unit would operate differently and sometimes that isn’t a good thing. Secondly the Celtics were missing All-Star Point Guard Isaiah Thomas, which could motivate their players to pick up the slack with extra effort and focus. Finally, since the 2011-12 season, the Spurs are a perfect 10-0 against Boston, which makes the Celtics ripe to play spoiler, the underdog on a homecourt which has seemed far from home for the Spurs, despite it’s location in San Antonio’s deep east side.
So as a fan I went through my officially unofficial checklist of “Things are going to be alright” during the game, to calm my anxiety:
- Spurs lead in the first quarter… check
- Danny Green and Manu Ginobili are hitting from behind the arc… check
- Kawhi Leonard makes his “signature move,” the open court steal and breakaway dunk… check
- Coach Pop delivers the appropriate level of bellicosity at his team and the refs… check
- Spurs are the first team to 100 points… check
What struck me most about this game was the pace – fast like the “Warrior Ball” most of the NBA has fallen in love with, and at times extremely fast, like a game of outdoor pick up on a warm day… players driving to the hoop and losing the ball off the dribble… bad passing leading to turnovers galore (not just the expected Ginobili snafus calculated into the game plan)… a game that felt a lot closer than the score indicated, because the scoring was almost automatic in spurts.
Normally I would feel dread coming over the course of a game that was going to get away from the Silver & Black, but it never really felt that way, even as the lead was trimmed to one point in the third quarter.
When your team shoots 55%, scores 48 points in the paint and creates 30+ assists for the game, it’s easy to feel comfortable believing that a win is the inevitable outcome.
To paraphrase Pop’s assessment: “(The Celtics) are a great defensive team; we (the Spurs) were just much better offensively.” It wasn’t an extraordinary quarter that set us apart, it was the attitude. Three – yes, three – ally-oop dunks to Dedmon is encouraging to see in this post-Duncan era of the Spurs Dynasty. Our beloved team has the talent that will do what it can (albeit in a different way than what we expect) to attempt to fill the void of #21. Having Tony take over the fourth quarter while Pau and Kawhi chimed in at the right time to keep the defense guessing made me forget that this is essentially a new team, only 25 games deep into the season.
Are the Spurs finally in a grove, playing the entire 48 minutes with grit and fiber? Maybe.
Will this be another 50+ win season for San Antonio? Probably.
Can this team invoke the dawn of a second iteration of the “Beautiful Game”? Possibly.
The only thing I can hang my hat on is that this team can no longer be labeled “boring.” There is a new attitude coming from this team, who takes its show on the road to ‘The Valley of the Sun’ to play a young Suns team (I feel like I’ve been saying this for almost a decade). It’s my hope the Spurs continue to trend upward in a Western Conference where there is very little separating seeds one through five.
Go Spurs Go.