Get familiar with the date of February 14, 1997, because chances are that day will be brought up time and time again as the Warriors prepare for their second-round playoff matchup with the Spurs. No Valentine’s Day romance here, far from it actually. Rather, the significance of that date, at least for the sake of this blog entry, is that it marks the last time the Warriors won in San Antonio. Assuming you watch television, read the newspaper or scour the Web and or social media sites for basketball news, this won’t be your last time hearing about this factual nugget.
Going 16-plus years without a win in San Antonio truly is an eye-opener. But at the same time, it’s not exactly relevant in this series. It’s more of a statistical anomaly than anything else. The Warriors’ drought in San Antonio goes 29 games deep, but this series is still tied 0-0 heading into the Round 2 opener on Monday.
Richard Jefferson, the elder statesman on the Warriors, was a junior at Phoenix’s Moon Valley High School on February 14, 2007, and Harrison Barnes, the youngest player on the roster, was just a 4-year-old in Ames, Iowa. Neither of those players, nor anybody else on the roster, will take a look at that streak and be intimidated by it.
After all, the team already did something that it wasn’t supposed to do. The sixth-seeded Warriors took down the favored Nuggets in Round 1. Denver, the same team that went a jaw-dropping 38-3 at home in the regular season, was beaten in its mile-high altitude by the Warriors once in three playoff games, and the other two games went right down to the wire.
More worthy of concern is the Spurs. Streak or not, San Antonio is once again a title contender, and that has been true more often than not since February 14, 1997. The Spurs, under the brilliant guidance of Gregg Popovich, are built around a trio of three stars with a championship pedigree (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have won three NBA titles together and Duncan won another in '99), plus several productive role players. San Antonio plays faster than their collective veteran status would indicate, and they were the top team in the Western Conference for the majority of the season.
While injuries to key players slowed their progress in March and April, they lost eight of their last 13 regular season games, the Spurs looked to be in top form in their first-round series as they made a quick work out of the Lakers in a four-game sweep.
“It's a model organization and it's going to be a tough task,” Warriors Head Coach Mark Jackson said after Thursday’s series-clinching win over the Nuggets. “They are clearly the favorite, but it's going to be a lot of fun.”
Jackson is well aware of the Warriors’ history in San Antonio, but it’s not his own and nor does it belong to his team. The Warriors cannot go back in time and change history, nor can they learn from it in this particular scenario. This team is different than past Warriors teams, and quite frankly, better.
So yes, the Warriors haven’t won in San Antonio in the Tim Duncan era, nor have they won since the construction of the AT&T Center. That’s true and cannot be debated, and we’ll likely be reminded of that quite frequently from local and national pundits alike. February 14, 1997; 29-straight losses in Alamo City.
Stephen Curry’s response? “What better time to change that.”