The Spurs’ reaction to the news they can make NBA history tonight with a win in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals can best be summed up in one word: Whatever.
With their 101-98 victory over the Thunder on Sunday, the Spurs claimed their 19th straight win, matching the 2001 Lakers for the longest winning streak in NBA history that includes regular season and playoff triumphs.
That Lakers team went on to capture a title, which is all the Spurs care about.
“If it doesn’t turn out the way we want it to turn out, with us winning the championship, nobody is going to talk about the streak or even care about the streak,” guard Gary Neal said Monday. “Maybe after we complete our goals people will talk about the streak.”
Said forward Stephen Jackson: “If we lose tomorrow, then all that goes down the drain. … What we’ve done up to this point doesn’t matter. We have to be ready to win Game 2.”
The Spurs’ streak includes 10 games to cap the regular season. It’s also the longest in team history and is tied with the 1999-2000 Lakers for the fourth-longest in NBA history. With a win tonight, the Spurs will become just the fourth team to win 20 or more in a row.
But winning the franchise’s fifth title, not etching their names in the record book, is what matters most to the Spurs.
“None,” guard Manu Ginobili said when asked if he and his teammates had any awareness of the historical aspects of their scintillating run.
“When we are asked, we remember we are on a great streak, but we really don’t care,” he added. “We are close — seven games away — from accomplishing something way bigger than a streak.
“So, if it is happening, it’s fine. But we always think about the next game and how tough it’s going to be. The things we’ve got to do are beat (the Thunder) and improve.”
Only two teams have a longer streak than the Spurs’ nine to start the postseason. The Lakers won their first 11 games during the 1989 and 2001 playoffs. Both those teams reached the Finals, but only the 2001 crew won the title.
Green-light Gary: Neal said he’s “living his dream” in the playoffs. A more accurate statement is he’s living his dream with a hot hand.
Over his last two playoff games, Neal is hitting 62.5 percent from the field, including 57.1 percent from 3-point territory, while averaging 13 points. He scored seven of his 12 points in Game 1 in the fourth quarter on 3-of-4 shooting from the field. His biggest bucket was a 3-pointer to cap an 18-3 run.
Neal said his comfort with playoff basketball has a lot to do with Gregg Popovich.
“Coach Pop has given me the green light to come into the game and be aggressive,” Neal said. “When you have that kind of green light, you don’t really have a choice but to play with confidence.”