Posted on March 16, 2018, by Travis Pulver
Fans of the San Antonio Spurs were hoping they could see their team’s superstar back on the court Thursday night against the New Orleans Pelicans. Earlier in the week, a rumor briefly floated around the internet that Kawhi Leonard could see action Thursday night. He didn’t play, of course, which means the wait continues.
But the Spurs did get something else they needed Thursday night—a win.
San Antonio got off to a good start and led by 11 points, 37-26, after the first. But they struggle a little in the second and New Orleans was able to close the gap to two-points, 60-58, by halftime. They led by as much as 13-points in the third quarter. But the Pelicans were able to pull within five, 78-73, heading into the fourth.
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Things were looking up for San Antonio—and a little familiar. They had a lead, one that got up to 10-points early in the fourth. But could they hold onto it or would they do like they have been and completely fold down the stretch and lose again?
For a time, it looked like they were going fold down the stretch once again. Jrue Holliday pulled the Pelicans within one-point, 91-90, with 3:26 to play. But then the Spurs defense held, LaMarcus Aldridge bumped the lead back up to three with a couple free throws, and San Antonio held on.
New Orleans stayed within reach for the rest of the game but were unable to make a shot when they needed to most. A pair of free throws by Patty Mills closed out the scoring with 3.5 seconds left and secured the win, 98-93.
After winning the other night against the Orlando Magic, this victory gave the Spurs their first win streak since late January. Since the Rockets did them a favor and beat the Clippers, they were able to slide into the No. 8 seed.
So, for now, the Spurs are back in the playoffs. They face the Minnesota Timberwolves at home Saturday night.
“Yeah, it’s a live or die for us right now,” Aldridge said after the game (ESPN). “So, you know, you’ve got to bring it every game. And these teams that we’re going to play, they’re fighting for their position, and their lives too. So tonight, was tough, but guys competed and just made plays.”
This time, the Spurs got what they needed to win the game. LaMarcus Aldridge made enough shots from the floor (11 of 27) to lead the team with 25 points. But unlike many of their losses, he got some help this time. Dejounte Murray chipped in a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds along with four steals.
San Antonio is capable of playing good basketball without Leonard on the floor, but the team is too inconsistent without him. If they are going to have even a slim shot of making some noise in the playoffs, they will need him to come back.
But he has yet to get cleared by his medical team. At this point in the season, you almost have to wonder if he should even bother making a return. Maybe it would be better for him and the team if he were to remain out and be completely healed for next season.
At this point, the best-case scenario for the Spurs is probably going to be a No. 8 or No. 7 seed. That means playing the Houston Rockets or Golden State Warriors in the first round. Even with Leonard, they aren’t making it past the first round.