From the first week of the season the Spurs have been chasing regular season history: the best record in franchise history; a perfect 37-0 record on their home court; their sixth 60-plus win season.
The most veteran players on the NBA’s oldest roster understand such statistical minutiae are important to their loyal fans but meaningless in the long view.
“Nothing matters,” Tony Parker has reminded after each achievement has gone in the books, “if we don’t win the championship.”
Sometimes, tunnel vision is a good thing.
One piece of potential NBA history has a bit of traction, even among the players: Becoming the first team in league history to go through an 82-game season without a single losing streak. Such a distinction speaks to professionalism and consistency of focus, traits that are highly valued by Gregg Popovich and his players.
That pursuit remains alive following their Saturday loss to the Thunder in Oklahoma City with a 101-87 Monday night win over the Memphis Grizzlies at FedEx Forum.
As he did in a win over the Grizzlies on Friday night at AT&T Center, LaMarcus Aldridge dominated in the post against a team missing its top two interior players, All-Stars Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. This time Aldridge scored 31 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, then acknowledged the extra focus the Spurs apply after losses.
“We just stay in the moment,” he told reporters in a post-game interview televised by FoxSports Southwest. “Tonight was another challenge trying to beat this team here, where they’re very physical and they play hard. We just came in and tried to compete.”
Aldridge had remained in San Antonio after Friday’s win over the Grizzlies to get some rest, along with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Leading scorer Kawhi Leonard also remaining in Texas because of a bruised right thing.
Only Aldridge got Popovich’s permission to play against the Grizzlies, flying to Memphis on Monday morning before producing another monster game.
The rest helped.
“I was more energized and I didn’t feel as beat up out there,” Aldridge said. “It definitely helped.”
The negative effect of flying on game day?
“I was fine,” he said. “I came early so I was in my rhythm. I took a nap, ate and I was fine.”
The win ran the Spurs record to 62-12, with eight games remaining in which to surpass the all-time franchise record for best record in a season, 63-19 in 2005-06.
Second-year forward Kyle Anderson also had a major impact on the game, especially at the defensive end. His four steals in the first quarter set a solid defensive tone and he scored 13 points, with a career-high seven assists and three rebounds.
It was the eighth starting assignment of the season for Anderson, who appears to have solidified a spot in Popovich’s playoff playing rotation. After an up-and-down rookie season, he has proven he understands his time on the court is in direct proportion to his defensive work.
“I’m just trying to come out and focus on defense and rebounding, all the things that Pop loves, and let the offense come to me,” Anderson said in a televised post-game interview. “That’s going to be on or off. That’s not up to me but just come out with the focus to be good on defense and rebounding.”
Next up on the list of regular season markers for which the Spurs won’t be popping champagne: A chance to tie the franchise record for wins in a season when they play the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night at AT&T Center.
“We’re taking it game by game, don’t get caught up into all those things,” Aldridge said. “This is a team that stays in the moment.”
Top image: The San Antonio Spurs 2015-2016 Roster and Coaching Staff. Photo by Scott Ball.
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