The San Antonio Spurs are Hitting Their Stride

Mar 27, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) shoots the ball against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 27, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) shoots the ball against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports /

The San Antonio Spurs started their toughest week of the season by blowing out the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers, 103-74.

The Spurs played arguably their best collective game of the season last night.

Every so often, the Spurs perform on such a high-level that it warrants the “best game of the season” compliment. However, given the opponent was LeBron James and the Cavaliers, last night’s victory was the most impressive of the season.

S Q U A D G O A L S:

All 13 active Spurs scored in last night's victory over the Cavs. #GoSpursGo

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) March 28, 2017

Every Spur that played in last night’s game scored a basket. If that isn’t the epitome of team basketball, i’m not sure what is. Not to mention, the starters got to rest a majority of the fourth quarter against the first (now second) seed in the Eastern Conference.

ICYMI: Tonight was fun.

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) March 28, 2017

For the Cavaliers, 74 points was the lowest point total by a James Cleveland team since 2009.

Luckily, the game was nationally televised on TNT, giving fans a glimpse of the Spurs, and just how efficient and dominant their defense really is. Granted, the Cavaliers came into this game struggling on the defensive end, but their performance offensively was a bit surprising.

Spurs are holding their opponents to less than 100 points/game for the 22nd straight season, the longest streak in NBA history. 2nd is 18.

— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) March 28, 2017

Here’s a look at the Cavaliers’ offensive numbers last night.

James finished with 17 points on 7/17 shooting, along with eight rebounds and eight assists in 29 minutes (led team). Kyrie Irving had just eight points on 4/13 shooting, with three rebounds and two assists in 25 minutes. Kevin Love contributed nine points on 4/12 shooting, including seven rebounds and four assists in 27 minutes. JR Smith finished with five points on 2/7 shooting.

As a unit, the Cavaliers shot 37.3% (31/83) from the field, 15.4% (4/26) from beyond the arc, and 61.5% (8/13) from the free throw line. This is the same team that is fourth in the NBA in points per game, and second in the NBA in points per game from beyond the arc.

"Well we had a really good night defensively," said Coach Pop of the Spurs' defense. "Team defense was better than usual."

— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) March 28, 2017

The thing is, we’ve known all along that the Spurs were elite defensively. They have been hovering in the top-3 of team defenses for the entire season.

However, what worried fans about the Spurs was their ability to ball in the basket. Since the return of LaMarcus Aldridge and Tony Parker, the Spurs have been firing on all cylinders.

Last night, the Spurs as a unit shot 47.7% (41/86) from the field, 26.9% (7/26) from beyond the arc, and 82.4% (14/17) from the charity stripe.

LeBron on the Spurs: "When you're struggling, this is the last team you want to play, a well-oiled machine like this." #DefendtheLand

— Analyzing The League (@ATLeague_NBA) March 28, 2017

Kawhi Leonard led the way for the Spurs, scoring 25 points on 11/21 shooting, along with six rebounds, six assists, one block and three steals in 29 minutes. Aldridge and Pau Gasol both contributed 14 points each, and Manu Ginobli not far behind with 12 points.

Patty Mills was big off-the-bench, scoring nine points and leading the team in assists with seven. While Danny Green barely scored, he did contribute four blocks, tying a season high.

The win was a result of dominant defense, as well as a dominant second unit.

The Spurs bench scored 49 points, nearly half of the Spurs total points. The Cavaliers, on the other hand, had 24 bench points, and a majority of those came in garbage time. As a matter of fact, the Cavaliers got their first bench points with 2:59 left in the third quarter.

History in the making. At 2:59 left in 3Q, Cavs get their first bench points. A 9-footer from Channing Frye.

— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) March 28, 2017

With a loss last night, the Cavaliers dropped to 47-26, now 0.5 games back of the Boston Celtics for first place in the Eastern Conference.

With a win last night, the Spurs improved to 57-16 on the season, 2.0 games back of the Golden State Warriors for first place in the Western Conference.

Spurs are now 57-16 this season, equaling the second-best record EVER in San Antonio franchise history through 73 games.

— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) March 28, 2017

The Spurs and the Warriors will clash tomorrow night on ESPN for the final time this season. However, before the Warriors travel to San Antonio, they have to take on the third place Houston Rockets tonight in Houston.

If the Rockets can muster up a victory at home, the Warriors lead will be cut to 1.5 games before the Spurs-Warriors matchup tomorrow.

According to Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, the Warriors will not be resting their starters against the Rockets and Spurs, despite a back-to-back.

Steve Kerr said Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green will play both sides of Rockets, Spurs back-to-back

— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) March 26, 2017

The beauty of the situation is that the Warriors will have to play their starters heavy minutes down the stretch of the season if they want to secure the number one seed, considering the injury to Kevin Durant a few weeks back.

The Spurs can make a push for the first seed in the West without playing their starters heavy minutes. Like you saw last night, the Spurs dominated for three quarters, and rested their starters in the fourth quarter, against a championship caliber team. Why?

Besides the defense, the Spurs have an incredible second-unit. When they match up against other teams second-units, more times than not, the Spurs have the advantage. If you can manage to increase leads without burning out your stars, you have a formula for success.

Manu mentioned that he and Patty like Pau with the second unit, as he gives them an anchor on offense. He's used more with the 2nd unit.

— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) March 28, 2017

This, in turn, limits the chances of injury. If the bench players can produce at a high-level, it alleviates pressure from the stars to play 38+ minutes every game.

At the end of the day, seeding is incredibly important.

Obviously, a matchup against the Portland TrailBlazers is much more ideal than a matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies. However, if the Spurs are healthy and firing on all cylinders, it doesn’t matter who they play in the first round.

The Warriors may end up with the number one seed, but how healthy will their core players be? Given their bench production, how many minutes will they have to play in the playoffs?

Want your voice heard? Join the Air Alamo team!

Write for us!

Or maybe, the Warriors hit a rough patch, and they’ve moved past it.

Tomorrow, when the Spurs host the Warriors, we’ll get a better idea of just how healthy and rested these Warriors really are.