Suddenly the only team with a chance to complete a perfect regular season record on their home court, the Spurs on Saturday got one game closer to a 41-0 mark at the AT&T Center by beating the Toronto Raptors, 102-95.
Now 39-0 at home, the Spurs are assured of a tie for the second-best home court record in league history. The 1985-86 Boston Celtics have the all-time best home mark, 40-1.
Until this season’s Celtics gave the Golden State Warriors their first loss on their Oracle Arena home court on Friday night, the Spurs had just the second-longest streak of home court wins (47) over the past two seasons. Golden State’s run of 54 home court wins since a Jan. 27, 2015 loss to the Chicago Bulls, including 36 straight this season, ended with Boston’s 109-106 victory in Oakland.
Kawhi Leonard scored a career high 33 points and LaMarcus Aldridge had his most productive game of his first season in silver and black, 31 points and 15 rebounds, to lead the Spurs to their 64th win, an all-time franchise record.
The two All-Stars accounted for 63% of their team’s points, feeding off one another and taking turns as the focus of an inside-out attack.
“That’s just being patient,” Leonard said, “him getting on the low block and he’s scoring the ball and the double team is going to come and he’s getting a lot more shots for me and everybody else on the team. And vice versa when I’m on the block. We definitely feed off each other.”
With the victory in the books the Spurs did their best to pretend the milestones accomplished Saturday hardly mattered, especially their streak of home court perfection.
The truth lies somewhere between mandated apathy and sincere adherence to the long view.
“We don’t want to think about it much or pay attention, nor are we allowed to care,” said shooting guard Danny Green, flashing a knowing smile that left no doubt coach Gregg Popovich is the origin of the directive to appear indifferent. “It’s fun to be a part of something big or history-making, but we’re looking at the bigger picture. The bigger picture is being history, continuing to gain momentum and get our chemistry right before the playoffs.”
Considering the team’s recent history as the most dominant sports franchise of the past two decades, achieving the best record in club history is harder to ignore, though Popovich apparently insists on indifference to that, too.
“There’s not much we’re allowed to care about,” Green said. “We made the playoffs. We care about that. Being healthy and winning games in the playoffs. Those are the things we care about.”
Having established hegemony among the team’s best players, Leonard seems free to speak with candor. The all-time win mark, he said, means plenty, his joy expressed in the most Spur-like way.
“Just to be able to share that accomplishment with the Big Three and then making sure (LaMarcus) didn’t make a bad decision coming over here, it’s been great,” Leonard said.
The most sought-after free agent last summer, it is hard to imagine Aldridge regrets his decision to sign on with the Spurs,/ The team he chose is positioned to challenge the defending champion Warriors for the Western Conference title and the spot in the NBA Finals that goes with it. He has produced three games of at least 31 points and 12 rebounds in the last four games, during which he has made 38-of-60 shots, 63.3%.
And the Big Three stars: Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili? None scored in double figures in Win No. 64, but Duncan had 11 rebounds and three blocks and Parker scored six of his eight points in fourth quarter crunch time.
Clearly, they appreciate the opportunity Leonard and Aldridge have given them to be part of the Spurs team with the most regular season wins in the club’s 43 years in San Antonio. They have the best vantage point for Popovichian perspective – their personal histories as five-time (Duncan) and four-time (Parker and Ginobili) NBA champions.
They agree with the coach: Care about the playoffs.
*Top image: The San Antonio Spurs 2015-2016 Roster and Coaching Staff. Photo by Scott Ball.