San Antonio saw their seven game win streak come to an end in the Big Apple on Thursday night after taking a beating from the New York Knicks 100-83.
The Spurs came in looking to avenge a Dec. 15 loss to the Knicks in San Antonio that saw the Knicks slip past them by shooting 42 percent from three point range while holding the Spurs to 27 percent from beyond the arc. The Spurs held the advantage in nearly every other department, but in the end the Knicks had too much fire power.
Coming into this game, the Spurs would have to deal with Amar’e Stoudemire in his second appearance of the season and the red hot scoring duo of Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith. But, having come off a stint in which they had scored 100 or more points in six of the last seven games, the Gregg Popavich would have felt more comfortable had the game turned into a shootout.
Instead, the Knicks found their footing in an area they’ve struggled in over their last few games, defensive rotations. Mike Woodson made it a point to address the issue over the past few days in film and practice sessions and it paid off. The Knicks came out and held the Spurs to 19 first quarter points and didn’t require a big effort offensively before halftime as they managed to get one stop after another on the defensive end.
San Antonio is normally one of the best shooting teams in the league. Coming into the game, they were second overall in field goal percentage and third in three point shooting, but the Knicks were so active in getting in San Antonio players’ faces that they held the Spurs to 36 percent from the field and 26 percent from three point range. The result was a season low 83 points and their worst loss since falling to the Clippers on Nov. 7.
The key to this one was simple: fatigue. The Spurs came in playing their fifth game in six days and were clearly unable to find the strength in their aging legs to put up another highly offensive performance. On the night, the Spurs were outrebounded by one of the weakest rebounding teams in the league 48-35 and relied too heavily on perimeter shooting as they got outscored in the paint 36-12.
Stars Tony Parker and Tim Duncan would combine for just 22 points in this game, but perhaps the most telling sign that the Spurs just couldn’t handle the second night of a back-to-back was the fourth quarter. In the opening moments of the final period, the Knicks went on a 10-0 run that saw them take a 17 point lead and never look back.
Normally, the fourth quarter is the best period for the Spurs as they comfortably lead the league in fourth quarter scoring. On Thursday, the team simply ran out of gas as Duncan and Parker sat nearly the entire fourth quarter and the rest of the team pumped in a below average 23 points as the Knicks emphatically finished them off.
Thursday night was certainly a tough way for Spurs fans to see the team’s winning streak come to an end, but those fans shouldn’t place too much meaning in this loss. Every aspect of this game, from the rebounds and points in the paint to their poor shooting and casual defending, was unusual. The Spurs will rebound quick and face a three game stretch against sub .500 teams that holds nothing but promise for the team to spark a fresh winning streak. In an 82 game campaign there will be nights like the one the Spurs endured on Thursday, but if there is one thing that the last 16 years of Popavich and Duncan being together has taught us, it’s that there won’t be too many more of them as the season goes on.