Two Teams Played a Basketball Game Last Night?

Somewhere in San Antonio, ten dudes played hoops

Damned if you do, damned if you don't
Damned if you do, damned if you don't (by Chase Hoffberger)

It’s just before I-35’s exit 201 that you see your first billboard: black, and grey, and “Go Spurs Go.” The support sits right before the San Marcos outlets and the Ingram Readymix Plant, the first sign that you’re in Spurs country, the first sign that there was actually going to be a basketball game in San Antonio last night.

That drive from Austin down the highway turned out to be an eerie one. It rained a bit. The traffic swelled intermittently. I made it all the way to AT&T Center Parkway before seeing another semblance of Spurs support: one black SUV adorned with two small Spurs flags atop each side window. San Antonio’s only professional squad would tip off to Game Three of its sport’s championship event in 90 minutes; this was how the city got amped?

Even the parking proved peculiar: a mere $8 for Lot Six, where you roped up next to mothers and fathers there to celebrate their kid’s high school graduation down the street. Lot Six was empty – again, merely 90 minutes. I parked as close to the exit as I could and made my way east to find a friend, who, after venturing down to San Antone last year for a second round game against the Clippers (at $15 per ticket), had some intel on the only worthwhile watering hole in the entire AT&T Center metroplex.

Located directly across the street from the main entrance into the arena, the Willow Springs Golf Course lives on as the oldest golf course in the entire Texas city. It opened June 1923 and has since played host to “several Texas Opens.” From what we saw, it looked nice – flat, green, golf. We cut around a green and ducked into the clubhouse, where a few Spurs fans had already gathered.

“This is the best secret in San Antonio,” my buddy Zach relayed as we walked up to the counter. “I can’t believe it’s not crawling right now.”

A few minutes in the clubhouse justified Zach’s sentiment. The clubhouse at Willow Springs Golf Course is ridonkulously cheap, with a Tuesday burger & beer option running eaters up, no joke, $7, just $1 more than a souvenir cup coke would cost you inside the stadium. We sat at a shaky table and watched ESPN’s College Football Live on a TV. The few Spurs fans surrounding us, decked in jerseys belonging to the Texas Big Three – Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker – made no efforts to change the channel. Thirty minutes before tipoff, we settled up and split for the Center.

The dearth of activity surrounding AT&T Center last night could be explained by the madhouse riot happening inside the venue. Damn near everybody got decked out in black and silver. Damn near everybody around the concourse got busy with hooting and hollering. The Spurs are most certainly San Antonio’s squad; so much, in fact, that they must get to their seats more than an hour-and-a-half before tipoff.

Zach and I cruised up to our seats and settled down within a section full of Spurs fans. Only two Heat fans challenged the contingency: one was docile, the other a friendly asshole. He traded barbs with the Spurs crowd before eventually succumbing to the fact that he held no argument last night: the Spurs would go on to kick the living tar out of the Heat, miring LeBron into an off night (for him, 15 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists is an off night) and reminding everybody who watched that the best work is often straight teamwork. Winger Danny Green went off, scoring 27 points thanks to seven different 3-pointers. And Gary Neal, a personal favorite thanks to his matriculation to Towson University, a Patriot League school situated just up the road from my childhood home, he scored 24 on his own, going 6-10 from beyond the arc. Surely Heat coach Erik Spoelstra didn’t game plan for that.

Faced with the long drive back to Austin, I ditched post after Spurs coach Gregg Popovich rolled out human victory cigar Tracy McGrady some time around the fourth quarter’s six minute mark. I turned left, walked through and exit, and made my way down the steps towards my car. The AT&T Center’s parking lot still filled up with cars; few inside the madhouse chose to leave before the buzzer.

Once in my car, I made a quick left out the stadium and jumped onto the highway. I never saw any more of San Antonio – just the golf course and the AT&T Center. One of those venues had a Spurs game going on. The other, you’d hardly know there was a team in town.

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Spurs, Miami Heat, Gary Neal, Danny Green, Willow Springs Golf Course, AT&T Center, San Antonio

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