This season the NBA world has been mesmerized with the Golden State Warriors, and rightfully so. They have been smashing records that we never thought would be broken, and have redefined the way the game has been played with their explosive offense. With all eyes on the Dubs, the San Antonio Spurs have been quietly going about their business and are right there in the Warriors’ shadow, waiting for their chance to pounce.
In any other season, if a team put up more than 65 wins in a season, they would be a key talking point for the media, but this isn’t any other season. Thursday night marked the the first time in NBA history that two teams with at least 65 wins met in the regular season – and there’s still one week to go!
San Antonio have set their own NBA record with 39 consecutive home wins to start a season, leaving them two victories from the first perfect home regular-season record in league history. The Spurs final two home games are Sunday against the Warriors, and Tuesday against Oklahoma City. Overall, this season the Spurs have won 48 straight home regular-season games, the second-longest streak in NBA history behind, guess who, the Warriors’ epic 54 win run which ended when the Celtics played the Warriors for fools on April 1st.
On Wednesday night, San Antonio headed to Oracle Arena for their second last match-up with the Warriors this season. Only a handful of games remain in the season, and with both teams’ standings all but finalized, and again, in any other season you’d expect coaches from both teams to rest their players.
This isn’t any other season.
Both teams fielded near full strength teams, with the exception of Boris Diaw – who didn’t make the trip for the Spurs – both teams are looking to assert their dominance and take the mental edge heading into the playoffs.
“It’s just another opportunity for us to try to work on some stuff and try to get a rhythm and some confidence going into the playoffs with the whole squad,” said Patty Mills. “Obviously you’re going to be playing the whole squad in the playoffs so it’s good to be able to get some games with that team on the floor.”
After another heavy loss in the Bay Area, San Antonio will head home with their tail between their legs. However, when the two teams meet in Texas this weekend, it will be a different story. The Spurs have already taken care of the Dubs on their home floor once this season, and take their game to another level once again.
“They’ve done a great job of being able to create an atmosphere here that’s a very tough environment to play in,” said Mills about the Warriors’ rabid crowd. “Credit to them, they’re the best team, and we’re trying to get to their level and they showed tonight just how good they are.”
It’s been suggested by some that perhaps the attention the Warriors have been getting from the media this season has worn them down, that perhaps focusing on the 73-win record is distracting the team from the bigger picture. Even though San Antonio are sitting just behind Golden State, they have managed to avoid the spotlight and as usual, have managed to fly under the radar while the Dubs receive all the attention.
Mills says that being able to avoid those distractions is the key for the Spurs.
“We don’t buy into that stuff, we just go about our business,” he said. “I think that’s the best way as a team to be able to grow and develop. We take care of business on the floor no matter what happens outside of that, for us it hasn’t been important. We understand that they are the best team and we’re trying to get to their status. They’ve set a very high bar for us to compete. Coming in here tonight we know that we have to be able to play our best game to be able to beat them here.”
The playoffs are where the Spurs thrive. It’s not even a question whether they will make it to the post-season anymore (that’s a given during the Tim Duncan era), and they will be out to prove a point. Don’t expect things to be any different this season.
“An NBA season is very long and a lot of things can go either way, and last year was a great example of that,” added Mills. “We had a numerous amount of injuries, guys had to step up and put their body on the line. We were in a position where we were fighting for a 2 seed and ended up getting a 6 seed, so you never know walking into a season what you’re going to get. You try to keep everyone as fresh and healthy as you can, but to be a part of this organization, I’m very proud and fortunate to be a part of this organization. It’s something now that’s been growing on me to become a big part, and proud of representing the Spurs, going around this country and also when I go back home.”
With the way the standings are shaping up at the moment, this year could be a huge year for Australians in the playoffs. As things stand at the moment, the Warriors (Andrew Bogut), Spurs (Patty Mills), Cleveland Cavaliers (Matt Dellavedova), Detroit Pistons (Aron Baynes) and the Utah Jazz (Joe Ingles and Dante Exum) are all looking like they will be competing in the post season, meaning that all of the Australian players in the league, with the exception of Cam Bairstow and the Chicago Bulls, will be taking part in this year’s playoffs.
On competing against his fellow countrymen for the championship Mills added: “It’s really good for Australian basketball. It’s hard because we are out of the Australian public eye so you just hope come playoff time that everyone understands how much of a big deal it is to have Aussies in playoff basketball. I hope they get behind it and understand what a big deal it is because it’s something Australia has never had before. We all represent Australia very well over here and hope that they can all get behind us.”
The final showdown between these two teams takes place this Sunday in San Antonio – that is, until the Western Conference Finals.
Featured Image – Express News