Popovich: That was ‘one of the best wins I’ve ever been associated with’
I’ll have more up tomorrow morning, but man, what a win. Without Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili, without Tony Parker in the second half and Tim Duncan in the second overtime, the Spurs somehow pulled out a 125-118 victory over the surging Washington Wizards.
Tim Duncan dropped in a season-high 31 points to go along with 11 rebounds, five assists, three blocks and two steals, joining Michael Jordan and Karl Malone as the only players 37 or older to register at least 30 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a game over the last 25 seasons. It’s unbelievable. Duncan is now averaging 17.5 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game in 2014, and he’s put up 25 points, 11.7 boards, four assists and 3.7 blocks in the month of February thus far. Clearly he was dogging it before All-Star selections so the coaches wouldn’t vote him in, right? I’m going with it.
And holy hell, what a difference Tiago Splitter and Danny Green have made in the lineup since their returns. Tiago had only seven points, but that’s not why he’s out there. His 12 rebounds and stellar post defense were massive, especially after Duncan took a seat on an absolutely ridiculous sixth foul-call; and Green was magnificent, dropping a deep corner bomb on a variation of the Spurs’ patented “hammer” set off a Boris Diaw feed from a post-up on the opposite block.
Oh, and Patty Mills had a game. The Spurs’ spark-plug point guard launched into action after Parker’s back tightened up — he will not play against the Nets on Thursday — and scored 17 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. He was brilliant, and I would argue that was easily San Antonio’s best win of the season.
There was some sloppiness, to be sure, and this team isn’t yet there. But how could it be with the impactful players that still remain sidelined with various injuries? The difference in this one was a 9-0 run to start the second half when the Spurs were down 14 points at the break. Gregg Popovich explained after the game that he was close to pulling the plug on this one if the team did not respond.
It was the type of gritty performance that had often alluded San Antonio for much of the season to this point, and the Wizards — coming off consecutive wins against the Thunder and Trail Blazers — are no longer a pushover. In fact, they’re pretty damn good. But the Spurs adapted to the chaotic, swarming Washington defense, and on the other side of the ball they battened down the hatches after the Wizards blew up for 62 first-half points.
John Wall, who lit up the Spurs for 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the first quarter, went 6-for-21 the rest of the way and finished with 29 points and nine assists. Two of those points sure seemed like a backbreaker at the time, though.
After the Spurs came all the way back to knot things up and force overtime, they surged out to late lead in the overtime period. But a few easy buckets out of timeouts for the Wizards set up a play that swung all the momentum San Antonio had gathered right back to the home team. John Wall intercepted a Duncan inbounds pass with five seconds remaining in overtime and raced the length of the floor for a game-tying layup with one second remaining, forcing a second overtime and taking the all the wind out of the Spurs’ sails.
And then came that pitiful foul call that knocked Duncan out of the game a minute into the second extra frame. To think a San Antonio lineup without the services of literally the team’s top four players could survive down the stretch of that game … well, it was borderline unthinkable. But it did, and the Spurs rescued another victory from the jaws of defeat to maintain their second-place position in the Western Conference.
Who’s ready to do this thing again tomorrow? With all the players who will be sitting for San Antonio during a nationally televised game against the Nets, methinks a courtesy call from Popovich to David Stern is in order, just for old time’s sake.