The Spurs finished off the best home court season in NBA history on Tuesday night with a 102-98, overtime win over the Oklahoma City Thunder that made them just the second team ever to win 40 home games.
Except for that relatively arcane piece of NBA history – The Spurs matched the 1985-86 Boston Celtics for the best home record – the game meant next to nothing, though sharing a piece of history with one of the NBA’s great teams meant something to some of the team’s older players.
“We tied the Boston Celtics of ’86, one of the legendary teams, with Larry Bird and Kevin McHale and Robert Parish,” said Parker. “It’s pretty good. It’s not easy to lose only one game the whole season.”
Home win No. 40 definitely did not come easily. The Spurs fell behind by 18 points and had to fight from behind until a three-point play by reserve center Boban Marjanovic with eight seconds left in the third period took them to the fourth quarter with a 74-72 lead.
Their comeback turned the fourth quarter and overtime into a playoff-intense battle that wasn’t determined until Parker made two free throws that put the game out of Oklahoma City’s reach with 12.3 seconds left.
Kawhi Leonard scored 26 points and Marjanovic made a huge contribution off the bench, with 9 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks.
“Boban was great,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “I just wish he’d shoot it once in a while. He is scared to death to shoot, like I’m going to send him off to a camp somewhere and he’s never going to be seen again. But he played well at both ends of the court. He was a factor for us and helped us get there.”
Leonard put the finishing touches that turned the comeback into the win. He scored 10 of his game-high 26 points in the fourth period and overtime. The team’s leading scorer had to be more aggressive looking for his shot after LaMarcus Aldridge left the court in the third quarter and did not return after appearing to aggravate the right pinky finger dislocation he suffered in last Thursday’s loss to Golden State. Popovich claimed he had gone to the locker room “to use the latrine,” and declared he was fine.
Leonard is happy he can begin preparing for the playoffs.
“This is what you play for: To get a position in the playoffs and win a championship,” he said. “The regular season is over.”
Indeed, Leonard and Parker said they won’t be traveling to Dallas for Wednesday’s game, so Tuesday’s contest was the end of his regular season. It will be a shock if 39-year-old Tim Duncan, who played 34 minutes, and Aldridge, still ailing, make the trip.
Tuesday’s win was the first for the Spurs after three straight losses. They had gone through the first 77 games of the season without losing even two in a row but have not played with the same precision that produced 65 wins in their first 75 games.
Of course, those 65 wins also represent the best regular season in franchise history. More importantly, they earned the Spurs the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs, clearly a factor in their uneven play over the last week.
Simply stated, the Spurs have been in “can’t wait for the playoffs” mode for a while and it has shown on the court.
They won’t have to wait much longer. They are to play Game 82 of the regular season against the Mavericks on Wednesday night and then will have a few days to shake off whatever has beset them of late before the playoffs begin this weekend.
Veteran guard Manu Ginobili didn’t suit up against the Thunder but spoke after the team’s morning practice session about the importance of working on all the things that make a difference in the post-season.
“(We) work on little things, test some other ones,” Ginobili said. “Get everybody playing and in good shape, healthy. And try to play well, because playing well helps you, makes you feel better. And if it doesn’t, we know that the weekend is a new story.
“So we will see how it goes.”
It didn’t go all that well against the Thunder, just well enough to get a win.
Top image: The San Antonio Spurs 2015-2016 Roster and Coaching Staff. Photo by Scott Ball.
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