Posted on March 4, 2018, by Travis Pulver
This has not been the kind of year fans of the San Antonio Spurs had hoped their team would have. After going 61-21 and making it to the Western Conference Finals last season they expected to do something similar this year. But much like the Conference Finals, they’ve had to try and get by without their superstar, Kawhi Leonard.
They acquired Rudy Gay and worked with LaMarcus Aldridge during the offseason to get his game back on track to make the team less reliant on Kawhi Leonard. With Leonard out for most of the season, it is good they did.
However, when they faced one of the youngest teams in the NBA, the Los Angeles Lakers, without Aldridge or Leonard and with Rudy Gay still working his way back from injury, it became easy to see one thing—the future may not be very bright for the Spurs.
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They got off to a good start Saturday night and took a 30-23 lead after the first quarter. When halftime rolled around, they still lead by seven points, 60-53. After three, with an 11-point lead, you’d think a team with the Spurs pedigree and reputation would be in good shape.
With less than six minutes to play and up 103-91, the Spurs should have been in good shape. Against most teams, maybe they would have been.
But they were facing a young, talented Lakers team that has been on a role in recent weeks. While they weren’t expected to beat even the injury-depleted Spurs, they wanted to keep the good times rolling. A 15-2 run that gave them a 106-105 lead with 1:59 to play gave them an opportunity to do just that.
The Lakers went on to outscore the Spurs 10-7 down the stretch to secure win No. 28 on the season, 116-112.
After the game, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich gave credit where he felt it was due.
“Ball was amazing,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said (ESPN). “He just got them back in the game, and at that same period we didn’t make shots.”
Ball helped the Lakers overcome a 17-point second half deficit with some clutch three-point shooting including three in the final 2:46 of the game. He finished the night with 18 points and 11 assists. Julius Randle led the Lakers in scoring with 25 points followed by Isaiah Thomas with 21 off the bench. Ball and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope each chipped in 18.
The win is their fifth in a row, but with 2o games left they are 6.5 games behind the current No. 8 seed, the Denver Nuggets.
As for San Antonio, without Aldridge or Leonard, the Spur didn’t have a go-to guy. That has always been their M.O. since they play a team-oriented style of game. But they have also always had a superstar or two they could lean on when times got tough.
Right now, they have no one they can lean on. There are several good players on the roster. But they are all complimentary guys; none of them are dynamic leaders. They’ve barely been able to lean on Aldridge when he’s healthy.
With the loss, the Spurs record drops to 36-27. The loss also gave them their first four-game losing streak at home since 2002 and dropped them down to the No. 6 seed. With 19 games to play, they are far from a lock to make the playoffs with just a two-game lead on the No. 9 seed, the Los Angeles Clippers.
Kawhi Leonard is finally working out with the team and is said to be looking to return sometime in March. They could certainly use his defensive prowess back in the lineup. But with how the Spurs have looked in recent days, even Leonard may not be able to save the season for San Antonio.
As of Saturday night’s game, they are the only team in the NBA not allowing 100+ points a game (99.4). But they have given up over 100 in eight of their last ten, all losses. So, that is likely going to change soon.
Every dynasty has to fall eventually. Maybe the time has finally come for the San Antonio Spurs.