SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich finished an interview and turned to reach the door handle after uttering three words in response to a question about whether his team would qualify for season 21 Consecutive
"Aww, it's wonderful," he said.
Press conference, more.
But what starts now for San Antonio after Monday's victory 98-85 over the Sacramento Kings is a final push to improve the playoff sowing on Wednesday when the Spurs face the New Orleans Pelicans at Smoothie King Arena. As it stands, the Spurs can finish fourth through eighth in the Western Conference standings with a game remaining in the regular season.
Which games were the most important? Monday night for postseason spots and planting? The race to reach the playoffs, especially in the West, gave us some answers.
"It feels good," said Rudy Gay, who came off the bench to record a high-18 team as one of five Spurs to score in double figures. "In fact, it feels great."
Currently, the Spurs are in sixth place in the standings and, with a win over New Orleans, they have at least the No. 5 seed, but could go up to fourth depending on the results. of other games in the conference.
For a franchise that tied the Portland Trail Blazers on the all-time NBA list for the second longest streak of consecutive postseason appearances, and had captured consecutive seasons of 60 consecutive victories in the previous two years , the Spurs expressed their sincere relief to finally achieve the last position. Normally, at this time of the season, the Spurs are resting players in preparation for the playoffs.
Current circumstances no longer allow that luxury.
"Sometimes you have to adjust your goals in relation to your potential and the way you've been playing, the way the season is going," said Manu Ginobili, who contributed 17 points and five assists. "We have to be realistic, maybe we are not the favorites this year, or it was not going to be a season of 60 victories like the previous ones." After what happened in February and early March, we had to change our expectations, and we mentioned it The goal was to reach the playoffs, once we closed, we could talk about the positions, because of the way the West is this year, it's crazy, everything is so clogged, so tight that at this point, we're happy to have it insured. "
The Spurs have played 25 different lineups this season, including a new one against the Kings. Spurs players have lost a total of 196 games due to an injury, with star striker Kawhi Leonard leading the way with 71.
In fact, San Antonio has played with all their lineup available in a single game at all season
"As we mentioned many times, we had a very hard season with many injuries and rotations," said Ginobili. "I do not know what the number is, but the number of fives we've had is crazy.
" It's been a roller coaster. Some games make you feel good and [feel] that you surpassed. Then you go to L.A. and you lose two bad games, "Ginobili said, referring to the Spurs' consecutive losses to the Clippers and the Lakers on April 3 and 4." Then we come back and bloom again or fight again. It's been a difficult season. "
All the wear and tear and constant change seemed to be taking its toll on Monday night with 6:05 to play and the Spurs losing by 14 points to a team of Kings with problems. He took his first advantage of the game until 10:18 remained in the contest.
"Forty-eight minutes is a long time," said Popovich. "And in an NBA game, things go back and forth. Sometimes, one of the most frightening things for a team is to go up quickly in the first quarter because it often changes again. But our defense went into action, [the Kings] scored 35 in the second half and that's what we have to be. Sometimes we will have offensive droughts, but our defense has to keep us in the ball games. In the second half we played a very good defense and, besides that, we made some shots. So, I thought they dug deep, they kept their composure and they did a good job. It's a great victory for them. "
The season, meanwhile, has emerged as one of the most rewarding of Popovich's career, despite the adversity and the fact that San Antonio found himself in little position. "We have not been in that type of position very often. But all the same things apply: being humble in victories, learning from losses and moving forward, not thinking about things, just trying to improve. It's like we've said in any other year: we want to be the best team we can reach in the playoffs. I think that at this moment, apart from our street game, we have reached the point where we know our team well enough. We are as good as we can get. We have many types that have really progressed. We have all been frustrated because we wanted to continue where we left off last year, and that did not happen for all the reasons we know. But life goes on. I think that given the circumstances, they have done a wonderful job in being in this position. Let's hope we finish the right way. "