The Associated PressSAN ANTONIO (AP) — The Spurs seemed like a perfect free-agent destination as Rudy Gay searched for a guaranteed playoff berth after just one postseason appearance in 11 previous seasons.
That assurance was eroded by injuries this season, but Gay made sure two decades of success didn’t come to an end in his first year in San Antonio.
Gay scored 18 points, Manu Ginobili had 17 and the Spurs rallied late to beat the Sacramento Kings 98-85 on Monday night and clinch their 21st straight postseason appearance.
“It feels good, it feels great actually,” Gay said. “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.”
San Antonio is fifth in the Western Conference despite only having star forward Kawhi Leonard available for nine games this season. The Spurs still have a slim chance of finishing fourth and earning home-court advantage in the first round with one game remaining. For now, they are just happy to make the playoffs.
“For moments we felt like the worst team in the NBA,” Ginobili said, “but we still managed to go close to 50 games and make it to the payoffs in a conference that is tough and talented and young and athletics. So, we managed to compete.”
San Antonio’s streak of playoff appearances is the longest active streak in the four major professional sports. The Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL are second with 12 followed by the NFL’s New England Patriots with nine and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the MLB with five.
Meanwhile, for the Oklahoma City Thunder, clinching night was reminiscent of their season. Really bad start. Really good finish.
Paul George scored 27 points, Russell Westbrook got his 25th triple-double of the season and the Thunder ran wild in the fourth quarter on the way to wrapping up a Western Conference playoff berth with a 115-93 win over the host Miami Heat.
Westbrook finished with 23 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists.
In Los Angeles, Anthony Davis scored 28 points, Nikola Mirotic had a double-double and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Clippers to clinch their first playoff berth in three years.
Mirotic had 24 points and 16 rebounds in the Pelicans’ fourth straight victory. It will be just their second playoff appearance in seven years and they made it without big man DeMarcus Cousins, who sustained a season-ending Achilles injury on Jan. 28.Speech