I hope y’all like Tex Mex, because the road to the NBA finals in the West runs through San Antonio.
Sure, the two seed Lakers and top seed Spurs play next Tuesday, but now people will want to see that game about as much as they want to listen to a new Go-Go’s album. Or a watch regular season Kansas City Royals game.
Mathmatically the Lakers are still alive, but the Spurs all but wrapped up the top spot in the West they beat the Atlanta Hawks 97-90 in a pretty sloppy game Tuesday. The win kept the Spurs (59-19) two games up on the Lakers in loss column — and three of San Antonio’s four remaining games are against lottery teams. They weren’t likely to lose those if they put out much effort, so even if the Spurs fell to the Lakers (and the Lakers won out) it wouldn’t matter if they won the other three.
Then the Lakers went out and played a sloppy, disinterested game against the Jazz and lost.
The Jazz were one of those lottery teams expected to roll over at the end of the season, but to quote Apollo Creed’s trainer from Rocky, “He doesn’t know it’s a damn show! He thinks it’s a damn fight!” Gordon Hayward hit a game winning free throw, then Kobe Bryant fumbled the ball out of bounds on the last play and walked off the court staring at his hands in disbelief.
That puts the Lakers at 55-22, 3.5 back with four to play and three back in the loss column.
The Spurs magic number is 2 (any combination of Spurs wins and Lakers losses to reach that number and San Antonio clinches the West). Look for the Lakers to start resting guys as they realize they are the two seed (third seed Dallas is two full games back of Los Angeles and is not going to catch them).
San Antonio does have Chicago just 1.5 games back and the Spurs magic number for the best record in the NBA is 4. Meaning the Spurs still need to get some wins to lock up home court throughout (Chicago still plays Boston, Orlando and has a New York/New Jersey back-to-back left, so there may be losses in their future).
All hail the Spurs. They won the regular season prize. Which is not the big prize they covet, but it does come with home-court advantage. And Tex Mex.
Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver
That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.
Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.
What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.
Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.
By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.
Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.
How’s that going?
(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.
Byron Scott says they just have to get Kobe Bryant better looks
Kobe Bryant is averaging 15.2 points a game at age 37. It’s just taking him 16.4 shots per game to get there. After his 1-of-14 shooting performance against the Warriors the other night — with too much isolation and too many plays run just for him — there has been a lot of talk about his shot. With reason, this is his shot chart so far this season.
So what do the Lakers’ do? Get Kobe to shoot less and get the ball in the hands of the young stars they supposed to be developing more? Nah.
“I know his mentality is that he can still play in this league,” Scott said. “And we feel the same way….
“Obviously he’s struggling right now with his shot, and I think everybody can see that,” Scott said. “So it’s trying to get him in better position to be able to have an opportunity to knock those shots down on a consistent basis. That’s No. 1.
“I don’t know if it’s his legs. I don’t think so. Again, our conversations are pretty blunt. … He tells me when he is tired and he tells me when he’s not tired. And the last few days, he said he feels great. So, I don’t think it’s a matter of him being tired or his legs being tired. I think it’s a matter of his timing being a little off.”
Yes, how could it be his legs? It’s not like he’s a 37-year-old with more than 55,000 NBA minutes played, and coming off an Achilles rupture and major knee surgery.
Honestly, I hope the Lakers and Kobe find a balance soon, because they have become just hard to watch. And I don’t want Kobe to go out this way.