The Spurs are approaching some meaningful NBA milestones, but one of the stars of Saturday night’s 112-100 win over the Washington Wizards insists he had no idea the victory on the Wizards home court had given them a 10-0 road start to open the season, a franchise record.
“I’m just playing, I did not know that,” Jonathan Simmons told reporters at Verizon Center who asked for his explanation of the Spurs’ amazing road success this season during a postgame interview televised live by FoxSports Southwest. “It’s still early. We’re still building.”
What the Spurs have built thus far is the best road start to a season in the history of one of the NBA’s most successful franchises. Their perfect record in their 10 road contests has tied them with two of Boston’s legendary Celtics teams, 1960-61 and 1961-62, for third place on the NBA’s all-time lists of best road starts. Only last season’s Golden State Warriors, who won their first 14 road games, and the 1969-70 New York Knicks, who won their first 12, had better road starts.
Saturday’s win also gave the Spurs a sweep of three road games in four days, pushed their win streak to nine games and ran their record to 14-3. They are tied with the Los Angeles Clippers for second in the Western Conference, and have the best mark in the NBA.
Saturday’s win gave point guard Tony Parker a sweep of his matchup against three straight elite opponents, outplaying Wizards All-Star John Wall after a Wednesday win over Kemba Walker’s Charlotte Hornets and a Friday win over All-Star Isiah Thomas’ Celtics. Parker made 8-of-13 shots and scored a season-high 20 points against Washington, 11 of them coming during a stretch of the second quarter when the Spurs first pushed their lead to double figures. He was one of five Spurs with at least 13 points.
Power forward LaMarcus Aldridge led the list, with 24 points, on 9-for-17 shooting.
Explanations for the team’s early success, especially on the road, are hard to pull from the team’s players and coaches, but Aldridge’s simple accounting suffices.
“We understand we’re on the road and you’ve got to compete harder and you know you’ve got to bring it,” he said. “So, I think guys have been locked in.”
Despite a major, off-season roster rebuild that brought seven new players, including three rookies, the team has coalesced more quickly than even Gregg Popovich believed possible.
“Kyle Anderson and Jonathan Simmons haven’t played much before and David Lee and Davis Bertans and DeWayne Dedmon and Pau (Gasol) all just got there,” Popovich said in a televised postgame interview. “So, they’ve blended in very well pretty quickly. That’s been the most surprising thing.”
Aldridge understands the difficulty of blending into the Spurs offensive and defensive systems, insisting he is still seeking an offensive rhythm in his second season in silver and black. He struggled mightily during Friday’s win in Boston.
“It’s on and off,” Aldridge said. “Last game I felt like I was in a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from. Tonight, I felt better but overall, the last stretch I have felt better.”
Popovich knows that Aldridge is more comfortable in the Spurs offense this season but understands it will be weeks before he and his new teammates truly mesh.
“He’s healthy and he’s getting in shape,” Popovich said. “I think he feels good about where he’s at and the team is starting to figure each other out, where they are on the court and where their teammates are. It’s new to a lot of them. They’ve never played together before.”
Even with Boris Diaw gone, traded to Utah to create salary cap space to sign Gasol, the Spurs bench remains one of the NBA’s most productive units. Aldridge appreciates what the reserves do for the Spurs, especially on nights when he and other starters are having the occasional nightmare.
“Last game was rough,” he said. “The starters didn’t have a great start so tonight was a focus of trying to come out and have both units be solid and locked in. Tonight was a lot better.”
Simmons has earned a spot as part of the bench unit. Against the Wizards the Spurs reserves outscored the Wizards bench, 35-18. In just 15 minutes of court time, Simmons made 5-of-6 shots, scored 15 points, grabbed 4 rebounds, had 2 steals, an amazing run-down black, and four monster dunks.
“(The ball) was finding me tonight,” Simmons said. “Just one of those nights I got it going and was able to get out in transition and get some easy ones.”
The Spurs return to the AT&T Center for a Tuesday night game against the Orlando Magic, and while Popovich will be happy he and his players will get to spend a few days in their San Antonio homes, he doesn’t know quite what to make of their 4-3 record on their home floor.
“I want to go home,” he said. I don’t want to play at home, but we’ve got no choice.”