Popovich & Leonard Make Strong Case for Coach of the Year and MVP.

Jan 21, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) alongside head coach Gregg Popovich against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Spurs defeated the Suns 117-89. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 21, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) alongside head coach Gregg Popovich against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Spurs defeated the Suns 117-89. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

With a win last night in overtime against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the San Antonio Spurs clinched a playoff berth for the 20th consecutive season.

The Spurs are heading to the playoffs. Again.

For the 20th consecutive season, the Spurs will be participating in the playoffs. The last time the Spurs missed the playoffs, it was 1997. Here are some notable moments in 1997:

  • Bill Clinton was the President of the United States
  • Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield’s ear during a boxing match
  • The average price of a movie ticket was $4.59
  • Titanic broke box office records
  • Princess Diana died in a car crash in France
  • Steve Jobs returned to Apple

Fast forward 20 years later, and the Spurs are still making the playoffs.

Actually, the Spurs are better than ever, Last year, the Spurs had their best regular season under head coach Gregg Popovich, winning 67 games. Prior to last year, the Spurs highest win total was 63 wins back in the 2005-2006 season.

If the Spurs continue this pace, they will win about 64 games this season, second-highest in total in the Popovich era, without the services of Tim Duncan.

Spurs in playoffs for 20th consecutive season, longest active streak in #NBA. Second-longest active streak entering season: 9, by Hawks

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 5, 2017

With every game that passes, Popovich increases his case for NBA Coach of the Year.

If you would have told Spurs fans that the year Duncan retired, the Spurs would win 60+ games and clinch a playoff berth with 21 games left in the season, most of them wouldn’t believe you.

It’s also because they probably had no idea that the Spurs would trade for a guy named Kawhi Leonard, who in his sixth season, would be an NBA Champion, an NBA Finals MVP, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, and in competition for MVP of the NBA.

Spurs clinch their 20th straight playoff berth.

Pop ties Phil Jackson for most consecutive playoff appearances by a coach in NBA history. pic.twitter.com/FQRzS9cmDz

— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) March 5, 2017

There is no doubt that the Spurs faithful believe in Pop’s ability to rally his troops, but I don’t think many people expected this level of dominance.

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The Golden State Warriors, who went 73-9 last year, were able to sign Kevin Durant in the offseason in hopes to bolster their lineup for another championship run. As of today, the Spurs are just 2.0 games back of the Warriors for first in the West.

Since Durant is injured for the month of March, the two games between the Warriors and Spurs become that much more vital. If the Spurs can win them both, they’ll cut their deficit by 2.0 games.

For argument’s sake, if the Spurs and Warriors split the next two games, the Spurs would still own the tiebreaker since they won the first matchup on opening day in October.

With a win tonight, the Spurs will pull within just 2.0 games of the Warriors. The Spurs play GS twice in the upcoming weeks #GoSpursGo

— Air Alamo (@AirAlamo) March 5, 2017

Hypothetically, if the Spurs secure the 1st seed in the West, which would entail having the best record in the NBA, the Spurs can sweep all major awards.

As of today, Leonard is in the running for both MVP and DPOY.

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In the MVP race, Leonard’s biggest test is jumping ahead of Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

In Westbrook’s case, the odds are against him, despite him averaging a triple-double in a season for the first time since Oscar Robertson back in 1961-1962. Why? When the panel votes for MVP, they put high value on winning, and Westbrook is currently the 7th seed. Since 1988, the MVP has always been either the one or two seed. Robertson finished third in MVP voting the year he averaged a triple double.

In Harden’s case, it’s about how he finishes the season. If Harden falls out of the top-3, his chances of victory take a big hit. However, it’s unlikely that happens, given the Rockets 5.5 game lead on the Utah Jazz.

As of now, Harden is the favorite, but Leonard is making a serious push into the conversation. If the Spurs can secure a one seed over the Warriors, and Leonard continues this level of production, he will put a lot of MVP voters in a difficult predicament.

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  • In the DPOY race, Leonard is up against Draymond Green and Rudy Gobert. While Leonard is widely considered the best defender in the NBA, his numbers have seen a dip in production, mainly because Leonard is exerting so much energy on the offensive side of the ball.

    Green is a great defender, but doesn’t have the responsibility of leading the team in scoring, when he plays with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Durant. Gobert locks up the paint, but isn’t asked for much on the offensive end, either.

    In terms of defensive efficiency, the Spurs are first in the NBA. The Warriors are second, and the Jazz are third. In terms of points per game, the Jazz are first with 96.0 per game. The Spurs follow in second with 98.2. The Warriors allow 105.3, which is 14th in the NBA.

    Individually, Gobert is second in the NBA in defensive win shares at 0.061, followed by Green in third with 0.060. Leonard comes in at 25th with 0.045.

    At this rate, Leonard has a better chance at winning MVP than he does DPOY.

    Cases can be made for all coaches. However, if Pop wins, it will be his 4th, most all-time breaking his tie with Pat Riley and Don Nelson.

    — Air Alamo (@AirAlamo) February 13, 2017

    Lastly, Popovich could easily win another Coach of the Year award.

    Unlike the MVP and DPOY awards, I believe Popovich is in the lead for this award.

    Steve Kerr is doing a great job with the Warriors yet again. However, he arguably has a better team this season (hard to believe) and already surpassed his loss total from last season.

    Tyronn Lue is also in the discussion, and depending how the Cleveland Cavaliers finish the season, his Coach of the Year stock could diminish or strengthen. Unfortunately, when you coach LeBron James, your abilities as a coach are always questioned, since James does so much for his teams.

    Spurs have now won 7 in a row, longest active winning streak in the NBA. No other team has won more than their last 3.

    — Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) March 5, 2017

    Popovich’s toughest competition is probably Mike D’Antoni, who’s choice to move Harden to point guard may have been the smartest move of the NBA season. The Rockets, who aren’t all that talented on paper, are third in the west and are on pace to break every 3-point record possible.

    As of today, the Spurs lead the season series 2-1, with one more coming up on Monday at the AT&T center. I believe who ever finishes with the higher seed will win the award, and right now, Popovich holds a 5..0 game advantage.

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    Every game is another opportunity for the world to see the greatness of Popovich and Leonard. Tomorrow’s matchup is against the three seed Rockets, which should prove to be a great matchup. If the Spurs can muster up a victory, they’ll lead the series 3-1, and own the tiebreaker should playoff seeding come down to it.