POSTED: Mar 13, 2016 9:19 AM ET
SAN ANTONIO — In a game when Danny Green took 10 shots and missed nine of them, it was the only one that mattered.
There was only one thing to do and Green did it.
"He's a pro and we made it very clear to him there's only two outcomes," said coach Gregg Popovich. "It goes in or it doesn't, but he still gets his paycheck, his family still loves him. So screw it, let 'em fly. And he did."
The Spurs won 93-85 on Saturday night in part because Green's shot broke the last tie and broke the Thunder, but on the whole because the Spurs keep learning more and more about exactly who they can become.
Five months ago in the season opener at Oklahoma City, Aldridge, the new free-agent addition, might as well have been a lost puppy chasing his tail.
"I didn't know my role, I was trying to find shots," Aldridge said. "I think I took (12) shots that game. So it was very uncomfortable. I thought tonight was night and day [different] for sure."
On the other hand, the Spurs are night and day the same, week after week, month after month, season after season.
They don't get rocked, they roll. They don't get shaken, only stirred.
This is how you keep doing what they do, pushing, grinding, forging an identity as the most solid, the most consistent, the best professional franchise in sports over the past two decades.
The win pushed the Spurs to a perfect 32-0 at the AT&T Center this season and they have now won 41 consecutive regular-season home games dating back exactly a year to March 12, 2015. They had already wrapped up a 55-win season for the 19th time in club history, trailing only the Lakers franchise (20) on the all-time NBA list. By beating the Thunder, they clinched another Southwest Division title and officially clinched home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The advanced learning process continues, of course, because for all they have accomplished, the Spurs are still somehow looking up at Golden State in the standings.
We are a humble ball club. We just want to get better as each game goes on and as the season goes on.
– Kawhi Leonard
It's not the sheer numbers or the volume of pages they continue to fill up in the history books that keeps impressing. It's the way they keep right on doing it as they evolve.
Here was a night when Tony Parker (0-for-4) went without a field goal for the first time in eight years, when Manu Ginobili (0-for-3) only scratched with a pair of free throws and Tim Duncan made just two shots after the first quarter. And yet the Spurs pulled it out and pulled away down the stretch.
Now they are Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard's team offensively, but remain the same team with the same sense of purpose and will and commitment to the task. Never mind shooting just 40 percent from the field or getting hammered 56-44 by the jumping jack Thunder on the backboards.
These are the games and the nights when the Spurs stay the course, stay firm to the defensive task and have faith that it will be enough.
This was the start of a grueling eight-day stretch that will have the Spurs facing many of the top teams in the Western Conference with the Clippers, Trail Blazers and league-leading, mind-boggling Warriors coming in to follow OKC. In fact, the schedule keeps getting more daunting as San Antonio doesn't face a team with a losing record until March 28.
"I think it's important to be playing teams you're probably going to be playing in the playoffs at some point," Popovich said. "It's kind of like a final exam in a way, where you still have time to improve some things.
"But it's about how you play, it's not about the win or the loss, really. If we win, we won't be that excited, and if we lose, we won't be that depressed. It's the same for every team, you're going to go back to the film and see what you want to get better at, and look at players -- who you really trust, who is going to be on the floor at the end of games come playoff time.
"Win or lose, it's a matter of improving. That's the deal."
Green's shot made it 79-76 with 7:19 left in the game and when Leonard followed it up with his only 3-pointer of the night, the Spurs had what they needed to take down the two-headed beast of Westbrook and Kevin Durant.
"We are a humble ball club," Leonard said. "We just want to get better as each game goes on and as the season goes on. So it doesn't matter who were are playing, it's just about us. Are we going to execute? Are we going to go out and have energy and play defense?"
Another night, another game, another test of who the Spurs are. It's who they can be that they still want to find out.
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