Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs clinched a playoff spot for the sixteenth consecutive season on Thursday night at the AT&T Center with a gritty 92-91 win over the Dallas Mavericks. Duncan was dominant with 28 points and 19 rebounds, delivering a performance reminiscent of his classic postseason battles with Dirk Nowitzki and his currently crestfallen in-state rivals. With the victory, San Antonio extended its streak of 50 or more wins to fourteen consecutive campaigns, an NBA best.
“To get out of the mud, you just keep going,” said Coach Greg Popovich after the sloppy game. “You just keep playing. You keep practicing. You get through it. There’s no formula. You’re going to have some pretty easy times and some tough times. We’re going through a tough stretch right now.”
Life without Tony Parker, their ailing All-Star point guard and MVP candidate, has been hit-or-miss for the Spurs. While their win against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder served as a season high mark, losses to the Portland Trailblazers at home and the Timberwolves in Minnesota have grounded the team in Parker’s absence. Along with his scoring and blazing speed, Parker has been the difference in the fourth quarter for San Antonio this season, locking down tight contests in the closing moments.
The Spurs take the court tonight against the Cleveland Cavaliers who are also missing their All-Star quarterback in Kyrie Irving, who is out with a shoulder injury. While the Spurs have received solid play from Cory Joseph, Gary Neal, and Manu Ginobili at the point, more minutes for Patty Mills at the position to further showcase his stellar offensive game would be a welcome sight. A strong win against a lesser opponent would also greatly benefit San Antonio’s recent bouts with inconsistency.
“They have a lot of great players that move the ball and make you chase it,” Thunder Coach Scott Brooks reminded reporters after OKC’s Monday night loss in SA. “We didn’t do a good job of containing that. We took some bad shots. That’s something that we can regroup and learn from and move on. We’ve had a tough stretch of games. I like that fact that we kept fighting and fighting. We just didn’t have a good enough game to win here. They played well. You have to give them credit. They are one of the best teams in basketball.”
With the Thunder only one game behind the Spurs for the top spot in the Western Conference, and sixteen games remaining on the schedule the onus is on the Spurs to play up to their potential , whether or not their most valuable player is on the court. Despite the recent victory, the road to the NBA Finals still runs through Oklahoma City.
— M. Solis