San Antonio Spurs clinch record tying 21st consecutive playoff berth

San Antonio Spurs v Washington Wizards

In a season which has undoubtedly been one of the more tumultuous in San Antonio under Gregg Popovich, the Spurs still clinched a playoff berth on Monday with a 98-95 win over the Kings. 

Though their run of 18 consecutive seasons posting 50 wins or more will come to an end, Monday's victory brought up another significant milestone for a franchise that has epitomised consistency over the past two decades. The 2018 NBA playoffs will mark the 21st postseason in a row that has featured the Popovich-led Spurs.

That ties the 1983-2003 Portland Trailblazers for second on the all-time list of consecutive postseason appearances; only trailing the Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers' 22 straight playoff trips between 1950-1971.

'Pop's' ability to get the most out of a cast that counts ageing Manu Ginobili and Lamarcus Aldridge as it's pivotal pieces has been extraordinary this season. The mysterious absence of Kawhi Leonard has left the cerebral head coach without an elite level player in his starting lineup, arguably for the first time in his tenure in San Antonio. 

He's been blessed with the talents of David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Ginobili throughout his time in charge of the team, but nobody can doubt his coaching ability after watching the likes of Patty Mills, Dejounte Murray and Kyle Anderson grind out 47 wins in 81 games so far this campaign. 

The three-time NBA coach of the year knows this season is different though. Lacking the star power to truly challenge for a title the Spurs have had to grind hard just make the playoffs, but that has made it one of the most satisfying campaigns of his storied career: 

"It is a different position," Popovich said. "We haven't really been in that kind of a position very often. But all the same things apply: being humble in wins, learning from losses and moving on, not dwelling on things, just trying to improve. It's like we've said in any other year: We want to be the best team we can be come playoff time. I think at this point, other than our road play, we've gotten to the point where we know our team pretty well. We're as good as we can get. We've got a lot of guys that have really progressed. We all have been frustrated because we wanted to pick up where we left off last year, and that didn't happen for all the reasons we know. But life goes on. I think under the circumstances, they've done a wonderful job of being in this position. Hopefully we'll finish it the right way."

Ginobili in particular has turned back time in 2018 often stepping up in clutch moments, adding to his legendary status in the game. The 40-year-old scored or assisted on 14 of the Spurs’ final 23 points over the last 6 1/2 minutes on Monday, taking the reins when in the clutch and guiding his young teammates to a vital win. 

Leonard appeared in just nine games this season, yet the Spurs are still in with a chance at snagging the four-seed in the West. The defense ranks in the top five in points allowed per possession, they've gone 33-8 at home, and have yet again gone against the grain in terms of how they win. 

In a three-point centric culture, the Spurs are one of the least efficient and least reliant upon the deep shot. Only five teams shoot a worse percentage from beyond the arc than San Antonio's 35.5% and they're one of only six teams to attempt less than 25 three-pointers per game. 

Popovich's methods, and the culture he's built in San Antonio, are primed for sustainability at the top of the game. He's proven over a long period of time that he is the best coach in the league and it might not be close. 

The last time Pop's Spurs missed the playoffs was 1997; Tim Duncan was a rookie and Manu Ginobili was still plying his trade in Argentina. The 69-year-old's first season in San Antonio remains the only one in which he failed to lead them to the postseason. 

In all likelihood, they'll tie the Sixers longtime record in 2019, and surpass it in 2020. 

True to his no nonsense style, Popovich simply said "Aww, it's wonderful" when asked for an opinion on his team's phenomenal achievement. 

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