The Spurs made some NBA history at The AT&T Center on Wednesday night and it was a pretty big deal, no matter how little Gregg Popovich thought of it.
With a ragged 100-92 win over the New Orleans Pelicans, the Spurs broke a record set by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls for the most consecutive home court wins to start a season without a loss.
Those Bulls, led by Michael Jordan, won their first 37 games on their United Center home court before losing home game No. 38 to the Charlotte Hornets. They finished with a 72-10 record, the greatest season in league history, and followed with a playoff run that brought the fourth of their sixth NBA titles.
The Spurs got to 38-for-38 at AT&T Center behind Manu Ginobili’s 20 points and 16 each from Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.
Energized by five days of rest, Ginobili made 5-of-6 3-point shots and 7-of-10 overall. Leonard hadn’t played since suffering a bruised right thigh in a win over Miami on March 23 and was on a minutes limit, but looked aggressive and sharp in a little more than 22 minutes.
In addition to breaking Chicago’s home court streak, the Spurs got to 63-12 for the season, matching the greatest number of wins in the history of one of the most successful franchises in league history. They have seven regular season games remaining to set a new standard for regular season success.
Does Popovich give a whit about such history, specifically, the home court streak?
“No,” the Spurs coach said. “It doesn’t mean anything. Absolutely nothing.”
Well, maybe next to nothing. After a few moments of consideration, Popovich allowed that the home court mark might be worth a cup of coffee, though he seemed to be leaning toward absolutely nothing.
“Maybe a cup of coffee,” he said. “Maybe.”
Ginobili, the 38-year-old veteran who seems to produce his best games when he has been given a few days away from competition, was more quantitatively philosophical about a milestone he also deems relatively worthless.
“It really doesn’t (matter),” he said. “If we would have lost Game 24 and now we are 37-1 it wouldn’t make that much of a difference. Having a 38-game streak or 37-1 is unbelievable, anyway. So I really don’t care about streaks.
“We know we are having a great season. If we would have lost one more or two more it wouldn’t change that.”
Point guard Tony Parker had the most pragmatic minimization of the 38-0 home court streak.
“I don’t think about trying to have a good regular season, or how many games we win,” he said. “It doesn’t matter, really. At the end of the day, the only thing you remember is how many championships you won.”
What Popovich cares about for the final two weeks of the regular season– Game No. 82 is scheduled for April 13 — is sharpening his players for the first round of playoffs and keeping the players on the NBA’s oldest roster as fresh as possible in the process.
The process on Wednesday included a lesson in showing appropriate respect to an opponent, no matter how many of its players are on the injured list. In fact, New Orleans had the same number of players – nine — on the injured list as they had on the active list. Among their missing: top scorer and rebounder, Anthony Davis, out for the season with a left knee injury.
The Pelicans had to sign small forward James Ennis just to have the requisite eight players suited up for Wednesday’s game. Playing for his third team this season, Ennis didn’t arrive at San Antonio International Airport until a couple of hours before tipoff.
“He got here 15, 20 minutes ago,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said in pre-game remarks 90 minutes before tipoff. “We’ll give him a quick overhaul on what we are going to do, and you’ll see him tonight.”
Indeed, Ennis logged 24 productive minutes for the Pelicans, making 3-of-4 3-point shots and scoring 13 points.
Popovich had warned his players an indifferent attitude would be dangerous, no matter the Pelicans’ personnel problems.
“Alvin and his staff aren’t going to give in to anything,” he said. “They are just going to play with whoever shows up. They are competitors, and it is testament to the players’ character too. They want to keep competing. That’s their job. They take pride in it.
“They played hard, played well, executed wonderfully. They deserve a lot of credit.”
The Spurs led by as many as 18 points in the second half but Ennis’ third 3-pointer of the game brought the Pelicans within 96-90 with 50 seconds remaining, salvaging some pride for the star-crossed outfit.
Eventually, the Spurs may acknowledge some pride in the milestone they passed with their aimless win.
Popovich may even ask that his coffee cup be re-filled.
Top image: The San Antonio Spurs 2015-2016 Roster and Coaching Staff. Photo by Scott Ball.
A Distinction to Pursue: Spurs Continue Perfect Record in Games after Losses
Missing Five Key Players, Spurs Fall to Thunder in Game that Means Next to Nothing
Spurs Blow Big Lead and Jeremy Lin Leads Hornets to Comeback Victory
Spurs Take Ultimate Team-First Approach to Score Important Win over Warriors
Mike Monroe, Longtime NBA and Spurs Writer, Still in the Game