The San Antonio Spurs surprisingly blew a 23-point lead and fell 91-88 to the Charlotte Hornets in a remarkable game at the Time Warner Cable Arena on Monday.
The rare defeat and collapse represented the biggest blown lead in a loss for the Spurs in the Tim Duncan era and dealt a blow to their slim chances of catching the Golden State Warriors for the number one spot in the Western Conference.
A stat of this nature hardly occurs when Duncan is in the Spurs line up, which shows how consistent he and his teams have been over the last 19 years. Once San Antonio capture a double digit lead, it has almost become second nature and the norm for them to close the game out, which makes Charlotte's comeback even more impressive because it doesn't happen to the Spurs, it doesn't happen to Tim Duncan.
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Even though they hold a strong 59-11 record, Duncan will not want to be associated with any more negative stats in the final stages of his career. Like the leader he is, he will no doubt want to ensure this collapse doesn't happen again and will remind his team of the task at hand and the bigger picture.
Duncan put the loss down to complacency by the team but wants to quickly forget it and move on.
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"We turned the ball over a little too much -- just inconsistency throughout," Duncan said, via ESPN. "It was an unfortunate loss, but we will move on from it and hopefully become better from it."
Coming off the back of an impressive win against the Warriors on Saturday, Greg Popovich's team seemed to pick up where they left off, outscoring the Hornets 28-7 in the first quarter.
But somehow the Spurs uncharacteristically capitulated and the Hornets took advantage. Jeremy Lin was the hero for the home team, scoring a game-high 29 points off the bench in a performance reminiscent of his 'Linsanity' days in New York. Lin outscored the entire Spurs bench on his own 29-18.
The loss and the manner of it for the Spurs had the statisticians busy post-game. San Antonio held a 21-point lead in the first quarter and prior to last night's game, they were 22-0 in team history when leading by at least 20 points after the first quarter.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com's advanced stats writer, also revealed that Spurs' streak of never losing a game after leading by 15+ points ends at 72.
The Spurs shot just 15-41 from the floor in the second half and 2-12 from the three-point line, all stats you wouldn't associate with a Popovich team who pride themselves on efficiency on the court.
The franchise has been near-perfect since drafting Duncan in 1997 and hold many more positive stats because of the power forward. On a better note, he passed Gary Payton for 10th place on the NBA's list for most minutes played in the regular season; at 47,117.
Despite another two games against the Warriors to come in April before the season's end, San Antonio may give up their pursuit of the top seed in the west. It's coming to the point in the season when Popovich rests his veteran stars and allows them to recharge their batteries for the post-season, so it won't come as a surprise if he shuts players down soon. But make no mistake about it, he'll be smarting from this result.