Spurs Clinch Playoff Berth for 21st Season in a Row with Win vs. Kings

DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 12:  Head coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs talks with LaMarcus Aldridge #12 during play against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center on December 12, 2017 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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It was far from easy this season, but the end result is what it seemingly always is—the San Antonio Spurs are going to the playoffs.

San Antonio clinched a spot in the postseason for the 21st year in a row and 28th time in the last 29 years Monday with a 98-85 victory over the Sacramento Kings at AT&T Center.

It would have been anything but a surprise entering the season for the five-time champions to merely reach the postseason, even in a challenging Western Conference, but the 2017-18 campaign was far from ordinary in San Antonio.

Superstar Kawhi Leonard has missed all but nine games as he recovers from a quadriceps ailment, which has led to a number of headlines. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com reported on March 23 that point guard Tony Parker led a players-only meeting that saw some of Leonard’s teammates “implore” him to return.

“The conversation was described as tense and emotional at times,” Wojnarowski wrote. “Several teammates spoke up, expressing frustration and confusion over a growing divide that has created significant tension between Leonard and the Spurs.”

Parker even said he recovered from a quadriceps injury that was “a hundred times worse” than Leonard’s, per Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News.

To the Spurs’ credit, they did what they always do even without their two-way leader and won enough games to qualify for the playoffs. Now they will look to build on last season’s Western Conference Finals appearance—when they lost four straight to the Golden State Warriors after Leonard suffered an injury—after dealing with adversity during the season.

Head coach Gregg Popovich receives much of the deserved credit for the well-oiled San Antonio machine, but big man LaMarcus Aldridge was a critical component in this postseason berth.

He filled the role of go-to playmaker during Leonard’s absence and made his sixth All-Star Game while making statistical strides in his third season with the Spurs. After scoring 17.3 points per game last season—his lowest mark since he was a rookie in 2006-07—Aldridge was posting 23.4 points and 8.4 rebounds a night in 2017-18 entering play Monday behind his smooth mid-range jumpers and impressive work around the rim.

That, along with timely contributions from the likes of Pau Gasol, Rudy Gay, Patty Mills, Parker, Manu Ginobili, Kyle Anderson, Danny Green and Dejounte Murray, was enough to propel the Spurs into the playoffs yet again.

The question now is how far San Antonio will advance after battling for middle seeding in the playoff picture for much of the season instead of on the top where it so frequently found itself during this run of success.

The Spurs have a mix of playoff-tested veterans and one of the best coaches in NBA history leading the way, but it is difficult to imagine them challenging the likes of the Warriors and Houston Rockets without Leonard playing as a defensive stopper and go-to playmaker on offense.

For now, though, they will celebrate yet another playoff appearance as a model of consistency in the often unpredictable NBA.

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