San Antonio Spurs clinch record 21st consecutive playoff berth

By @saihoops on
San Antonio Spurs, Rudy Gay, Dejounte Murray
Mar 29, 2018; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs point guard Dejounte Murray (right) talks with teammate Rudy Gay (22) during the first half against the Oklahoma City Thunder at AT&T Center. USA TODAY Sports / Soobum Im

The San Antonio Spurs (47-34) have overcome adversity to extend their run of consecutive playoff appearances to 21. The Spurs, playing without star forward Kawhi Leonard for most of the season, were in legitimate danger of missing the postseason for the first time since the 1996-97 NBA season.

Spurs, the standard-bearers of the NBA for over two decades, could finish as high as the fourth seed if they can defeat the New Orleans Pelicans during the final game of the regular season on Wednesday (Thursday AEDT). Despite making the playoffs, Gregg Popovich's team was unable to extend its streak of 18 consecutive seasons of 50+ victories, dating back to the 1999-00 season, when Tim Duncan was their best player.

Popovich's squad clinched a playoff berth on Monday (Tuesday AEDT) courtesy of a 98-85 victory over the Sacramento Kings. While Rudy Gay top-scored with 18 points, veteran guards Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills combined for 32. All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge endured a rough shooting night, going 6/19 for his 15 points.

In a low-scoring affair, the Kings entered the fourth-quarter with a 66-60 lead. However, the Spurs outscored the Kings 38-19 in the final period to complete a comfortable victory.

"It feels good, it feels great actually. This is what the regular season is for, to get to where we are now. This is a good feeling, something that I'm anxious for something I've been looking forward to for a long time. It'll be fun," said Gay, who joined the Spurs as a free agent last year.

Ginobili, a Spurs-lifer, acknowledged that he had never seen a Spurs team endure this many hardships through this illustrious career. Ginobili was drafted in the second round by the Spurs back in 1999.

"We have to be realistic. Maybe we are not the favorites this year, or it was not going to be a 60-win season like the previous ones. After what happened in February and early March, we had to shift our expectations, and we mentioned it many times. The goal was to make the playoffs. Once we clinched, then we could talk about standings. The way the West is this year, it's crazy. Everything is so clogged, so tight that at this point, we are happy to have it clinched," the 40-year-old guard said, via ESPN.

The San Antonio Spurs aren't expected to make much noise in the 2018 NBA Playoffs, which get underway on Saturday, April 15. The Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are viewed as the three top contenders to win the NBA championship in June.