Season 50, Game 50
San Antonio 121, Denver 97
39-11, 2nd in the West
On a night when Gregg Popovich recorded his 1,128th career regular season win – besting Jerry Sloan for most wins with one franchise – it’s fitting that he was led by his two elder statesmen, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
Parker has feasted on the Nuggets this season. After shooting 10-for-11 in the previous meeting, he was a scorching 8-for-8 tonight, for 18 points in just 23 minutes. He was steady in the first half, but really came on at the beginning of the second half, effectively putting the game out of reach for the Nuggets. Parker isn’t what he used to be, but if we can still get these concentrated doses of his brilliance, the team is still in good shape.
Not to be bested, Ginobili also scored 18 points, but all in 10 (10!!) first half minutes. Shooting 4-of-5 from deep and 4-of-4 from the line will do that. Much like Parker, Ginobili is still a key cog in the system in limited minutes. Part of the secret of aging gracefully is honestly accepting your limitations and playing within them. Both Parker and Ginobili have done that brilliantly this season.
Denver, playing their fourth game in five nights, ran out of gas early in the second half. The Spurs kept putting it on them, and we got to garbage time early. I love garbage time. I love watching Murray, and Bertans, and Simmons out there showing their stuff, pushing their limits, and working on their games. Simmons, in particular, was feisty in garbage time. You can see him developing and adding to his game. He could be a critical factor in the playoffs this season, and I love seeing his confidence grow.
While Pop would shrug it off, it’s nice to see him hit this milestone at home. It speaks to the consistent excellence with which he’s guided this franchise. And he’s got a whole bunch more wins in front of him.
And now the Rodeo Road Trip commences. This year’s schedule isn’t as tough as in years past, with an East Coast swing before the All-Star break, followed by two game in Los Angeles to close it out. 6-2 is realistic, though 5-3 is also likely. Anything worse than .500 would probably be a disappointment, given the schedule and the team’s performance on the road this season.
Up first: the Memphis Grizzlies, probably the second most challenging team on the trip. Oddly, these two Division foes haven’t played yet this season, which means we’ll see a bunch of this squad in the next few months. I’m very interested in this game, as Memphis has been a surprise this season (they do it every season, so I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise anymore), continuing to play their grit-n-grind style of play while also opening up the offense a bit. It will be a good test for the Spurs.
Go Spurs Go.