HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – There are some things you can always count on:
— The sun will rise in the east.
— Gravity will work when you roll out of bed and put your feet on the floor.
— The Spurs will win 50 games.
Tim Duncan and his pals made it official last night with a first-over-worst 109-99 win at The Q in Cleveland, which is starting to look like a battlefield triage site.
Never mind that Antawn Jamison (broken pinkie finger) joined the injured Anderson Varejao and Daniel Gibson on the shelf. The underplayed and under-appreciated story of the season in the Association continues to be San Antonio rolling through the schedule.
With their string now at an even dozen, the Spurs have tied the NBA record held by Magic Johnson’s Lakers (1979-80 to 1990-91) for most consecutive 50-win seasons.
The Spurs do not seem to be getting older, just better, having reached the 50-win plateau faster than ever — in their 61st game. Their 2005-06 team, which ultimately won a franchise-best 63 games, had a mark of 48-13 at the same point. That ’05-06 Spurs team lost in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals to the Mavericks.
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|A quick look at the most consecutive 50-win seasons in NBA history:|
San Antonio put six different players in double-figure scoring, never trailed in the second half and eventually built a 25-point lead, which was a marked change from 24 hours earlier when the Spurs practically sleepwalked through a miserable loss in Memphis. After that lack of performance, coach Gregg Popovich’s post-game remarks to the media lasted all of 38 seconds.
“I think in general the whole group played to win the game as opposed to last night where they played just expecting something to happen without a focus,” he said.
But the most significant difference was the play of backup point guard George Hill, who’ll be at the helm of the offense for 2 to 4 weeks while Tony Parker recovers from a calf injury. Our main man Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News tells us that Hill went so far as to try to apologize to Duncan after a tentative effort in the loss to the Grizzlies. But the Big Fundamental wasn’t having any of it:
“He just told me to just play basketball like I normally do and not to worry about turning the ball over and missing shots,” Hill said.
“You take the shots you take and be aggressive, and that’s what I tried to do today.”
Filling in for Parker, the Spurs’ assists leader and No. 2 scorer, isn’t easy. Duncan believed Hill forgot how well he had done in similar circumstances last season after Parker suffered a broken bone in his right hand and missed 16 games.
“He kind of got tossed into the fire there in Memphis, not being in that role in a long time,” Duncan said. “He was a little rusty; didn’t know what to do.
“He came out tonight and looked more comfortable and more aggressive and played a lot better.”
San Antonio will need Hill to stay on top of his game for the big weekend ahead. As they hit the homestretch and try to stay ahead of the field for the best record in the league, the quiet, unassuming, somehow-below-the-radar Spurs now have back-to-back home dates with the glamour teams of the NBA.
They’ll host LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and the Heat on ESPN Friday night, then square off in a continuation of their blood feud against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers on ABC Sunday afternoon at the AT&T Center.
Like the sun rising in the east and gravity continuing to work, all the 50-win Spurs keep doing is what they do. Maybe by Monday morning the world outside San Antonio will have noticed.