Despite loss, shorthanded Spurs feeling good about themselves
If you ask the Spurs, they left Houston accomplishing exactly what they’d hoped.
“It was a good night. We got the minutes we wanted to get for certain guys, got a lot of guys extra minutes and nobody got hurt,” Gregg Popovich said (via the San Antonio Express-News).
“Exactly what we wanted. A good workout, good game, good situations. A perfect situation for us, and no one got hurt,” Tim Duncan echoed.
Without Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter, Danny Green and Patty Mills, expecting a win would’ve been a misguided mindset. But with the Big Three in tow, San Antonio gave the Rockets, a team with playoff implications on the line, a run for their money.
Houston locked up the sixth seed in its 104-98 win on Monday, but they struggled to do so even with Patrick Beverley, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Terrence Jones and Dwight Howard (their starting five) battling with the likes of Cory Joseph, Marco Belinelli, Damion James, Boris Diaw, Jeff Ayres and a little bit of Austin Daye down the stretch. It was the Rockets’ ‘A’ team against the Spurs’ JV squad for much of the second half, and still San Antonio gave them a run for their money.
This isn’t a league predicated on moral victories, especially not for the Spurs, but against a team that’s been able to handle them during the 2013-14 season, it’s certainly something that can inspire confidence. Houston had to win this game to secure home-court advantage in the first round, and it struggled to do so.
Where before they killed the Spurs with ball-handlers out of the pick-and-roll, the Rockets scored just .75 points per possession on 5-of-14 shooting in these situations; and San Antonio managed to corral their running game, allowing only 14 transition opportunities, per mySynergySports. Without their defensive backbone (Leonard, Green and Splitter), this team will take that number against a group that’ll fast-break you into the ground.
The Spurs were outrebounded, 50-43, and Houston made an impact on the offensive glass late in this one, but that’s not something to necessarily be concerned about considering who sat this one out. This was essentially a playoff warm-up.
Tim Duncan played big minutes in the first half but rested for much of the second. It was the same for Tony Parker. San Antonio got what it wanted out of this contest, and after the Lakers roll into town on Wednesday, barring any totally unfortunate injuries, will be in great position for the start of the playoffs.
This was a short recap, primarily because there isn’t much conversation to be had other than explaining this was a quality outing for the Spurs. After the Monday slate of games, we know San Antonio will face the loser of the Memphis-Dallas game on Wednesday in the postseason, Golden State will be the sixth seed and Houston is locked in with home-court advantage against Portland. Oklahoma City lost to New Orleans, which means they must win at home against Detroit on Wednesday — or the Clippers must lose one of their two remaining games — to secure the second seed. If the Thunder lose and Los Angeles wins out, the Clips will sneak away with the No. 2 seed and play the winner of that Mavericks-Grizzlies tilt.
We’re almost at the regular-season finish line, and it’s been a hell of a romp down the stretch. But what’s about to come is going to be incredible. The Western Conference Playoffs are going to be a bloodbath, and the Spurs are in better position than anyone. The super exciting Suns were sadly eliminated on Monday, and San Antonio has won 17 consecutive games against the Mavs and Grizz combined.
There’s plenty to feel good about right now, Spurs fans, despite the loss to Houston. It really didn’t mean a thing. So sit back and enjoy the proceedings stress-free; give yourself a rest, because it’s about to get a whole hell of a lot more entertaining.
More: Check out Andrew McNeill’s player grades from an exciting night in Houston.