1. Pop's Culture Lays Groundwork For No. 19
SAN ANTONIO -- Gregg Popovich doesn't care much for records, accolades and things of that nature. The San Antonio Spurs picked up their 19th consecutive win by beating the Golden State Warriors 111-90 on Wednesday night, continuing a franchise-record streak. The Spurs also logged their 31st straight home victory over the Warriors. Despite those milestones, Popovich would rather focus on the teachable moments.
"Strings, records, they don't mean anything," Popovich said before the game. "What we care about each game is how well we play.
"And if that's your goal and your focus, usually that will bring more wins than losses, considering everything else to be equal."
Facing a Warriors team on the second night of a back-to-back and without big men Andrew Bogut and David Lee, and defensive force Andre Iguodala, the Spurs relentlessly attacked Golden State inside. San Antonio finished with 52 points in the paint and shot 53 percent from the field, despite hitting just 4 of 19 3-point attempts.
"It wasn't a fair fight," Popovich said later.
Golden State started 35-year-old Jermaine O'Neal at center, but O'Neal -- who played 33 minutes on Tuesday night in the win over Dallas -- logged just more than four minutes of action in the first quarter before sitting out the rest of the contest.
"He could've played," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said after the game. "We're just being smart."
With O'Neal out, and Marreese Speights and Hilton Armstrong the only other Warriors taller than 6-foot-8 available, Tim Duncan scored 12 points on 6-for-7 shooting in the first quarter. Meanwhile, San Antonio's guards drove to the rim with little in the way of a deterrents. The Spurs hit 12 of 18 shots inside the arc in the first quarter.
"We were aggressive the entire night. The 3s didn't drop, but I thought we got inside pretty well," Popovich said.
After falling behind by 19 points early in the third quarter, Golden State chipped away at the Spurs' lead and got it down to seven points with 4:30 remaining in the period. From there, the Spurs reeled off a 20-2 run spanning the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter to make the score 94-69 and take any wind out of the sails of a Golden State comeback.
"We knew they were going to fight and claw back; they're a playoff team," Spurs big man Jeff Ayres said. "This is the type of thing we have to get ready for come playoff time. Teams aren't going to just let you run them over."
It was the type of run that has been all too common during San Antonio's 19-game winning streak.
While there may not have been a lot in the way of talking points for Popovich, he can't argue much with the results his team is seeing.
The Spurs' last loss came on Feb. 21 at the Phoenix Suns. The following game, Kawhi Leonard returned to the lineup from a broken hand and San Antonio kicked into gear. Over the past 19 games, the Spurs have outscored their opponents by 16.2 points per 100 possessions and held opponents to less than 43 percent shooting from the floor.
"We've always used these regular-season 82 games to turn our team into the kind of team we want it to be. We've done just that, added some pieces, but incorporated them really well and our system's working," Duncan said.
Along the way, the Spurs picked up their 50th win of the regular season, the 15th straight season San Antonio has achieved that milestone.
These are heights that so few teams in the league's storied history have matched, but they are not the type of details that give Popovich any noticeable sense of accomplishment. The chips will fall as they may, and Popovich will be there to make sure his team learns from it.
Andrew McNeill's work appears regularly on 48 Minutes Of Hell, part of the TrueHoop Network
2. Around the Association
MVP: Kenneth Faried. Before the game, it was thought Faried might struggle against Anthony Davis. Well, Davis wasn't himself tonight, and Faried went insane. Active early and often, the Manimal posted 34 points and snagged 13 rebounds. He brought the house down more than a few times with his vicious dunks.
X factor: Aaron Brooks might be one the top "random-scoring-outbursts" players in the league, and tonight was a perfect example. The rim was an ocean for Brooks, who had 24 points, including an improbable step-back-falling-away 3-pointer. Just for good measure, Brooks (listed generously at 6-1) had a nice chase-down block. .
That was ... disappointing. Anthony Davis had been on absolute tear this season, destroying everything in his path. More of the same was expected tonight. Unfortunately, Davis left the game with back spasms and never returned. .
MVP: With Kyle Lowry (knee) out, DeMar DeRozan picked up the slack and matched James Harden's offensive production. He finished with 29 points on 10-of-19 shooting from the floor, and single-handedly kept the Raptors afloat by scoring 15 points in the second quarter.
X factor: Greivis Vasquez stepped into Lowry's shoes and came through with one of his best performances of the season. In 40 minutes of play, he chipped in with 15 points and eight assists without committing a single turnover. Most importantly, he kept the Raptors' offense humming without its most pivotal player.
LVP: With Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones and Patrick Beverley out due to injury, Jeremy Lin needed to make up the deficit with his offense, and failed to deliver. Sixteen points scored is nice, but he took 18 field goals to get his points despite playing against a weak defender in Greivis Vasquez, who reasonably kept him in check.
MVP: With several Warriors big men injured and Jermaine O'Neal limited to less than five minutes of action, Tim Duncan went to work early and started the San Antonio trend of inside scoring. Duncan finished with 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting and eight rebounds.
Turning point: After the Warriors cut the Spurs' 19-point lead to seven in the third quarter, the Spurs unloaded a 20-2 run to go up 25 and end any hope for a Golden State comeback.
X factor: Interior defense. San Antonio hit just 4-of-19 3-pointers, but got 52 points in the paint and shot nearly 63 percent from 2-point range against a Warriors defense missing any and all rim protectors.
MVP: Chris Paul hit a go-ahead 3-point shot at the end of a shot clock to give the Clippers a 108-106 lead with less than two minutes to play. He finished with 20 points and nine assists to help his team overcome a 17-point third-quarter deficit.
X factor: Led by Paul, the Clippers' defense on Goran Dragic put the Suns point guard on the foul line quite a bit, but it also battered the point guard into a 2-for-11 shooting night.
That was ... achy: Blake Griffin gutted out a 23-point outing but his back injury that listed him as a game-time decision heading into the game clearly bothered him. He struggled to finish through contact and to move laterally, but he did get in a spectacular put-back dunk over teammate DeAndre Jordan and two Suns.
MVP: Spencer Hawes (20 points, eight rebounds, five assists) set the tone in the first half by eviscerating the Magic's defense with his passing and 3-point shooting. That helped the Cavaliers jump out to a 70-47 lead at halftime.
X factor: In his first game back from a left bicep injury, after missing the previous eight games, Kyrie Irving looked healthy as he dropped 17 points (7-for-8 shooting), eight assists and six rebounds. That's good news for Cavs fans.
Defining moment: The Cavaliers' 21-5 scoring run to end the second quarter turned a competitive game into a lopsided blowout. The Cavs' 70 first-half points were the most points scored in a half by a Magic opponent this season.
MVP: Paul George put up 27 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and two steals. He also hit some monster shots in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer from almost half court during some shot-clock confusion. Simply put, he was dominant.
X factor: The Pacers were down in the middle of the second quarter until Lance Stephenson started a 10-0 run with a dunk and finished it with a skip-through-the-legs pass to a cutting teammate to help the Pacers take a halftime lead.
That was ... a step in the right direction: The Pistons aren't world beaters, but a win is a win and for the Pacers it was very much needed. To score more than 100 points for the first time since March 15 was a nice sign as well.
MVP: Marcin Gortat jumped on an undersized Celtics frontline from the opening tip, scoring 12 of his team-high 22 points in the first quarter. The big man's early outburst led to a rout and enabled the Wizards to clinch their first playoff berth since the 2007-08 season.
LVP: After exploding for 39 points during Boston's last visit to Washington, Jeff Green looked to be mailing it in for most of Wednesday's blowout loss. The small forward misfired on 10 of his 13 shots and snagged just one rebound in 32 minutes.
That was ... some hot shooting: The Wizards shot a season-best 62.5 percent from the field. That impressive mark was the highest field goal percentage by a Celtics opponent in a game since the 2003-04 season.
MVP: J.R. Smith put forth as in-control and complete a game as we've seen from him in a long time, operating for stretches as the de-facto point guard. He scored 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting, including 6-of-12 from 3-point territory, and added eight assists and six rebounds.
X factor: The Knicks' bench. Tim Hardaway was deadly from outside and converted beautifully in transition, Iman Shumpert shut down Deron Williams and snagged five steals and Pablo Prigioni ran the offense with aplomb.
Defining moment: After Brooklyn had whittled a 27-point the third-quarter lead down to 14, the Knicks went with a small-ball unit featuring Carmelo Anthony at center and four guards. Over the final 1:38, that quintet closed with an 8-1 run that took whatever wind was left out of the Nets' sails.
MVP: LeBron James tallied an efficient 17 points, eight assists and four rebounds in an outing of supreme endings. He finished the first quarter with a soaring dunk, closed the second quarter with a reverse dunk, and barely beat the third-quarter buzzer with a 3-pointer. For the fourth quarter, LeBron rested.
LVP: Brandon Knight repeatedly dribbled right into the teeth of the defense and coughed up possession of the ball. He missed seven of his first nine shots and posted two assists against five turnovers. Khris Middleton was equally bad on offense but had the excuse of exerting a ton of energy to do a passable job of guarding LeBron.
That was ... a breathtaking play: In the second quarter, Giannis Antetokounmpo caught a short outlet pass on the far free throw line. He quickly amped up to full speed and gently placed in a soft layup -- having traveled nearly 80 feet in three dribbles.
MVP: D.J. Augustin, who was an absolute monster off of the bench, led all scorers with 23 points and was 4-for-8 from 3-point range, which included a critical buzzer beater at the end of the second quarter.
X factor: Chicago's defense, which dialed up the intensity after allowing 31 points in the first quarter, forced 16 turnovers in the game, 13 of which were steals. Chicago converted those turnovers into 21 points.
That was ... significant: With the Knicks' win, the Hawks are now in a virtual tie with New York for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Currently the Hawks hold the tiebreaker over the Knicks.
MVP: Al Jefferson was his usual force against the struggling Sixers, and he gave the Bobcats all the boost they needed to get a win. Philadelphia had no one to match up with him physically. He posted a double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds in 31 minutes of action.
LVP: James Anderson went oh-fer in 25 minutes of action. He posted zero points while shooting 0-for-4 from the floor. The Sixers needed more production from their starting shooting guard if they wanted any chance of beating the Bobcats. They didn't get it, and they lost.
X factor: Gary Neal provided some production off the bench for the Bobcats, who had more than enough offensive options to beat the Sixers. Neal put up 15 points and added three assists, as he continue to show that he was a good pickup for Charlotte.
MVP: For the second time in the past four games, Kevin Love amassed a triple-double. He led the Wolves with 24 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists.
Defining moment: Ricky Rubio began the second half on fire, scoring six points in just more than a minute and 13 in the quarter before being slowed with a twisted ankle.
LVP: In what should've been a terrific battle of bruising power forwards, Zach Randolph couldn't get going. He finished with just four points (on 1-of-8 shooting) and five rebounds.
MVP: The Lakers let a rookie second-round pick torch them Wednesday night. Just one game removed after having a career night, Ray McCallum did it again. Playing big minutes once again because of an injury to Isaiah Thomas, the 22-year-old guard finished with a career-high 27 points while dishing out five assists.
X factor: Led by McCallum, the Kings found a way to limit their turnovers. The Kings, who averaged just about 17 turnovers per game in the month of March, had just eight miscues on the night. McCallum, himself, had just three turnovers in 46 minutes of action.
That was ... another California barnburner: The Kings and Lakers may be both at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, but they know how keep things entertaining when playing each other. The Lakers made things interesting, outscoring the Kings 11-9 and limiting Sacramento to just 1-of-4 shooting from the field in the final four minutes of the game. Despite the scare, the Kings found away to escape with the narrow victory.
3. Wednesday's Best
Kenneth Faried, Nuggets: Limited to 27 minutes by foul trouble, The Manimal made every minute count. Faried went 14-of-19 from the field, registering a career-high 34 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots to lead the Denver Nuggets to a 137-107 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
4. Wednesday's Worst
Zach Randolph, Grizzlies: Z-Bo had just four points on 1-for-8 shooting and Memphis lost to Minnesota 102-88 in a game that Memphis coach Dave Joerger called a must-win before tipoff. Now the Grizzlies, Suns and Mavs are in a three-way tie for the last two Western Conference playoff spots.
5. NBA Video Channel
6. Tweet Of The Night
7. Quote Of The Night
"There's no way in hell we're going to try and lose games to match up against anybody."
-- Bulls center Joakim Noah, on whether it would be better for his team to lose to get a better playoff matchup.
8. Kyrie's Back
9. Stat Check
The San Antonio Spurs beat the Golden State Warriors 111-90 on Wednesday night. It's the Spurs 31st consecutive home win against the Warriors, the second-longest team-versus-team home winning streak in NBA history. The Los Angeles Lakers won 43 consecutive home games against the Sacramento Kings from 1975 to 1992. The Warriors' last victory in San Antonio was on Valentine's Day in 1997, during Gregg Popovich's rookie season as an NBA head coach.
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