Tonight San Antonio had the opportunity to set a new franchise record for season wins, but Coach Pop opted to take it easy on the starters. They’ve already sealed up home court advantage for the playoffs. While they’ve been playing their usual blue-collar style of team basketball, you have to wonder can this Spurs squad complete their winning season by raising the trophy in June?
San Antonio is right up there with the Lakers and Celtics when it comes to storied franchises. But they haven’t won a championship since 2007. In 7 years, the Spurs have added and subtracted pieces to complement the big 3 of Parker/Ginobili/Duncan. Yet, in those 7 years, they’ve come up short against the Lakers, Mavs, and Thunder. Last year, it was mostly Manu Ginobili’s frenetic play and free throws that cost them crucial wins vs. Miami in the Finals. This season, however, the Spurs seem to be operating as a well-oiled machine.
The free agent acquisition of Marco Bellineli has made a big difference at the guard position. Tony Parker has been able to get valuable rest throughout the season as Bellineli is capable of playing the point. He’s averaging 25 minutes per game and shooting 43% from beyond the arc, placing among him among the top 10 league-wide in 3 pt. percentage. On the defensive end, Kawhi Leonard continues to show that he’s going to be an elite defender for years to come. With his length and freakishly large hands, he did a formidable job containing Lebron James last year in the Finals. Within the last month, Leonard has tied his career best in scoring as well as set a new career high in rebounds. To put his contribution in perspective, the Spurs went on their 18-0 tear as soon as he returned from injury on 2/26. Saying Kawhi Leonard is a key to the Spurs winning games is like the understatement of the year.
The other player I think who’s going to have to deliver in the Spurs’s quest is Patty Mills. Guard play can easily become an X factor in tight games. And Patty Mills has become that same type of role player. Coach Popovich has trusted him more and given him more playing time along with Belinelli. Even though Danny Green has the ability to make big shots too, he’s wildly inconsistent. I like Mills more this season because he doesn’t just chuck up shots. He’s not afraid to drive to the paint and doesn’t need the ball in his hands.
People harp on the Spurs’ declining age every year. That’s an easy scapegoat. However, the fact remains that collectively, this very well could be the big 3’s last chance at a run for their 5th championship together. Do you think the Spurs have what it takes to seal the deal in June?