The NBA Western Conference playoffs picture has essentially been locked. The eight teams have already been decided on since Sunday. Besides the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers playing for home-court advantage, the final games left for the other western teams are basically just scrimmages.
The Spurs game last night against the Portland Trail Blazers didn’t really have any purpose since they have already clinched their playoff spots. Coach Pop said there’s no time for resting anymore. Each Spurs starter played, but for no longer than 20 minutes. On the other hand, the Trail Blazers benched their top 3 scorers and started several of the deep bench players. Let’s see a short recap of last night’s game.
The Spurs were off to a slow start when the Trail Blazers blocked seven of their 3-pointers in the first half. Portland was leading the first half, but the Spurs finally made a comeback and took the lead in the third quarter. Kawhi Leonard scored 9 of the team’s 33 points. Patty Mills then helped the Spurs get its first lead since 2 minutes into the first quarter. The Spurs came into the fourth quarter with a five-point lead, but they lost it too soon. Leonard held a team-high with 18 points, while Parker had 12 points and 4 assists.
During the final seconds of the fourth quarter, the ball was bouncing around the court and bouncing off several players, but somehow Noah Vonleh was able to get a hand on the ball and make a layup into the basket. The Trail Blazers came out on top and defeated the Spurs by one point with a buzzer-beater (99-98). We hardly see Coach Pop smile, but he just couldn’t help but laugh. The Trail Blazers barely saved themselves from a losing record (41-40). The Blazers are in the eighth seed and will play the Golden State Warriors, while the Spurs are in the second seed and will face off against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Coach Pop said he only wanted to see discipline and consistency from his team over the last couple games in the regular season. Danny Green also rejoined the starting lineup. He had been out the last 5 games because of a quadriceps contusion. However, Green says the team doesn’t think they’re as ready as they have been for playoffs.
“There were times in the past where we knew. Like, we were clicking, we were playing pretty good basketball, and we had a good shot. We still think we have a good shot. But we don’t think that we’re mentally ready. Our focus, I don’t think we feel like we’re there, like we’re where we want to be.”
If the Spurs need some motivation for playoffs, maybe Tony Parker can spark some motivation in the team.
“I think my role is even bigger on the leadership thing, making sure that the Spurs mentality and the way we play — unselfish, sharing the ball, only caring about winning — stays the same. That was the best thing about Timmy when I first came in, showing all of us how to do it.”
Parker thinks playoffs are the best time of year. He says playoffs should be every players’ biggest motivation in any sport.
According to Mills, the Spurs are switching up strategies for the postseason in case they need to adjust on the fly. The playoffs are a whole new level, and LaMarcus Aldridge says it’s time for them to step their game up. Who wouldn’t be excited to see what the Spurs have up their sleeves?
For now, the Spurs are preparing for their last regular season home game against the Jazz. Dejounte Murray will be playing again, after being out for the past 17 games with a groin injury. Leonard wants to make sure that everyone really has their head in this last game – “just being sharp, making gradual steps to being sharper.” Coach Pop says he is planning to approach the final regular season game the same way he did in this past game against Portland.
The final game of the Spurs’ regular season will be in Utah tomorrow against the Jazz at 8 p.m. Playoffs kick off this weekend, and we’ve already got your tickets reserved. Grab them before everyone else does. Get your San Antonio Spurs tickets here!