San Antonio Spurs: A Week to Remember
By Matthew Perez
From two consecutive over time victories to the San Antonio Spurs beating the Golden State Warriors without Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge, here is a look back at a wild week in San Antonio.
A week ago today, the Spurs had completed a comeback victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves, earning their seventh straight victory of the season, officially clinching a playoff berth for the 20th consecutive season.
CLINCHED! For the 20th straight season we are playoff bound! #GoSpursGo pic.twitter.com/8OMlLq1sch
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) March 5, 2017
Leonard was playing at an MVP level, and the Spurs were looking ahead to secure enough victories to tighten the gap with the Warriors.
On Monday, Leonard would have his best game yet, scoring 39 points and single handedly taking over the final minutes of the game, giving the San Antonio Spurs a win over the Houston Rockets.
Kawhi hits a huge three …5 seconds go by… Kawhi makes a huge block. #KawhiGonnaKawhi pic.twitter.com/hzCuAX6e1G
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) March 7, 2017
After securing their eighth straight win over the Rockets, the Spurs set their sights on the Sacramento Kings. With the Kings being shorthanded since the trade to DeMarcus Cousins, Gregg Popovich decided to rest both Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge.
Despite resting his two best players, many believed the Spurs would still beat the depleted Kings. Unfortunately, no one told the Spurs players that before the game, because the Kings dominated the first half, building a lead of 28-points at one point.
Then, the combination of Patty Mills, Manu Ginobli, Pau Gasol, and David Lee decided that enough was enough, and willed their team back from 28-points down to beat the Kings, 114-104.
A 28-point deficit was the largest comeback win in the NBA this season.
The Spurs NEVER give up, no matter who's on the court, which is why the Spurs have had 18 consecutive seasons with 50+ wins. #InPopWeTrust pic.twitter.com/JMsbQaWOnN
— Air Alamo (@AirAlamo) March 9, 2017
On Thursday, the playoff clinching-Spurs brought their nine-game winning streak into Oklahoma City, looking to extend their streak to double-digits and take down MVP candidate Russell Westbrook.
What the Spurs didn’t know is that their luck would take a turn for the worst.
Late in the third quarter, Leonard took a hit to the face, forcing him to miss the remainder of the game. In that span, Westbrook continued his dominance offensively, leading the Thunder to a 102-92 victory, snapping their four game losing streak.
The following day, the Spurs announced that Leonard would enter concussion protocol, forcing him to miss the game against the Warriors on Saturday.
Spurs announce Kawhi Leonard (hit in the head Thursday in OKC) entered the league’s concussion protocol today & won’t play Saturday vs GSW.
— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) March 10, 2017
With nine wins in 10 games, the Spurs had successfully tightened the gap with the Warriors, and had their chance to play them at the AT&T Center on Saturday night without the help of Leonard.
On Friday night, the Warriors took their talents into Minnesota, where they would suffer yet another defeat without Kevin Durant, losing 103-102.
Immediately after the game, Steve Kerr announced that he would rest his starters.
The game we've all been waiting for is now a battle of the benches. Are we being trolled? Is this fake news? pic.twitter.com/GTY2vtBkcf
— Air Alamo (@AirAlamo) March 11, 2017
Although the entertainment value of the game had been completely depleted, Kerr had handed the Spurs a gift, for reasons still unknown. Was Kerr prioritizing health over seed, or was Kerr doing his best Popovich impression, benching his key players in a big-time matchup?
Either way, the Spurs were now in position to win this game. Unfortunately for the Spurs, the bad news didn’t end with Leonard’s injury. Early Saturday morning, the Spurs announced that Aldridge would be out indefinitely with a heart arrhythmia.
LaMarcus Aldridge will be out for an indefinite period due to an occurrence of a minor heart arrhythmia. pic.twitter.com/s0D2Enc6RO
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) March 11, 2017
For most fans, this was totally out-of-left-field.
However, Aldridge has a history with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, suffering a few setbacks in his time with the Portland TrailBlazers.
Aldridge has Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome & has undergone at least 2 procedures since his rookie season to address the issue. https://t.co/XilvxkdoVe
— Jeff Stotts (@RotowireATC) March 11, 2017
Instead of Spurs fans getting excited to beat the Warriors for a second time this season, own the tie-breaker and cut the deficit to 0.5 games, they had to think about Aldridge’s future.
Usually, injuries occur in the foot, ankle, knee, groin, hamstring, hip, finger, hand, arm, and even back. However, when trainers mention the “heart,” things get a little more serious.
According to Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News, Popovich thought the same when asked about Aldridge’s diagnosis during the post-game interview.
“And then somebody says ‘heart,’ and you start thinking a little more possible long-term stuff,” Popovich said. “That’s a little scary.”
Despite losing your two best players to uncommon injuries, the Spurs had a game to play, against a dismantled Warrior lineup. The Spurs led from start to finish, as Mills and Ginobli led them to another victory, 107-85.
With this win, the Spurs cut the deficit to 0.5 games in the West and own the tie-breaker over the Warriors. #GoSpursGo pic.twitter.com/U5nzZgwCQ2
— Air Alamo (@AirAlamo) March 12, 2017
Somehow, here we are. The Spurs have won 10 of their last 11, own a tie-breaker with the Warriors, and first place is within grasp. Yet, it doesn’t feel right.
Pop: "It's a win we're going to accept, but it wasn't a fair fight."
— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) March 12, 2017
Aldridge’s health status is completely in the air. It could be a few games, a few weeks, a few months, or the remainder of the season. It could even be worse than that.
The Spurs season in jeopardy, and so is Aldridge’s career.
As for Leonard, Popovich is hopeful he can return for tomorrow’s game. When Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News asked Popovich about Leonard’s status, he had this to say:
“He is just moving through the protocol,” Popovich said. “We expect he will be fine, but it just takes awhile. The next possible game is Monday (against Atlanta) and we hope he will be ready for that.”
If all goes to plan, Leonard will return to the lineup Monday for their home game against the Atlanta Hawks. Truthfully, it’s not Leonard Spurs fans are worried about.
More from Spurs News
- Spurs fans show Dejounte Murray support, buy all the New Balance shoes
- Spurs: The Athletic posts conflicting Aldridge rumors minutes apart
- Spurs: Kawhi Leonard ironically complains over lack of “consistency”
- Should the San Antonio Spurs keep Rudy Gay after all?
- San Antonio Spurs should focus on getting draft picks for Aldridge
Fans are eager to get more news on Aldridge, and rightfully so. It feels as though this injury came out of nowhere, and no one knows the severity of the illness.
All we can do now is hope. We can hope that Aldridge’s injury isn’t career-threatening, returns this season, ready to make a deep playoff push. We can hope this is just a minor setback, because the reality is, if Aldridge is forced to miss the remainder of the season, the chances of competing for an NBA championship dramatically decreases.
How is it possible that the Spurs, who are 51-14 and on the cusp of one of the greatest Popovich regular seasons ever, could be so uncertain about the future?
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I’m not sure, but I am sure of this: What a difference a week makes.