The reigning NBA champions were brought down a peg by the league’s worst team with what San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich called a “pathetic performance”.
After winning seven of their previous eight games and appearing to find their rhythm just in time for a late season push, the Spurs suffered a setback with their 104-100 overtime loss to the New York Knicks.
Not only were San Antonio playing arguably their best basketball of the season heading into the matchup, but they were taking on a team which had lost 12 of their last 15 and had the dubious honour of holding the worst record in the league.
Instead, the Knicks out-played the Spurs and the result marked the first time a team with a winning percentage below .200 at the 60- game mark or later beat a defending champion.
“We didn’t respect the game,” Popovich said. “We didn’t respect our opponent. It was a pathetic performance, and I hope every player is embarrassed. Not because we’re supposed to win the game, quote unquote, but it’s about how you play the game.”
Gregg Popovich after Spurs loss to the worst team in NBA…the Knicks… http://t.co/monZT7lRqH
— His And Hers (@HisAndHers) March 18, 2015
New York only had 10 players in uniform, with key players like Tim Hardaway Jr. out and star Carmelo Anthony done for the season.
The team are on pace for a high lottery draft pick – potentially the top overall pick – and essentially have no motivation to win. San Antonio, meanwhile, are on the opposite spectrum, fighting to secure their playoff spot in the loaded Western Conference.
But it felt like the two teams’ situations were reversed as the Knicks played with more desperation and desire as if their postseason fate was on the line.
“I thought their movement and unselfishness was great,” Popovich said of New York. “Their juice and competitiveness was better than ours. They respected the game. They got rewarded for it. So I am happy for them. It will help them get through the rest of the year.”
It’s been a relatively difficult year for the Spurs, who are going against history as it is having never repeated as champions before.
San Antonio’s current winning percentage of .621 is their lowest since the 2009-10 season and the second lowest since 1996-97. After earning one of the top two seeds the past four years, the Spurs seem unlikely to shoot up to the top of the conference standings, meaning they’ll likely land a mid-seed with no assurance of home-court advantage.
Playing on the road has been one of San Antonio’s kryptonite, as their 16-17 record away from home pales in comparison to their 25-8 mark at AT&T Center.
The loss to the Knicks also came without sixth man Manu Ginobili, who is expected to be out a week to 10 days with a sprained right ankle which he suffered on Sunday.
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