Ugh, that was an ugly game.
I was not on the game threads during the game, and purposefully stayed away from PtR before writing this so that my opinions are not colored by other comments. So apologies if I write something that was either already said or already proven wrong.
Back to the point. That was an ugly ugly game. Timmy looked totally lost out there, providing poor defense along with some ill-advised shots. Tony knew he could take Jameer and took it to him early, unfortunately with great success the first few times, which just encouraged him to keep doing it even when he did not have a shot. Even Manu made some very Tonyesque drives, i.e. drive into heavy traffic and put up a bad shot. The bench was also disappointing, except for Ime where the bar is set too low to disappoint. If he manages to turn oxygen into carbon dioxide I am content.
The biggest story, of course, was the same as the last few games. Defense. Or rather, lack of defense. Guys wide open at the three point line with plenty of time to take some yoga breaths and relax before shooting. Over and over and over again, and it actually got to the point where Quinn started running towards someone at the three line, then remembered halfway that he was not supposed to play defense so ran back the other way. Twice!!!
Honestly though, this was not a bad thing. More after the jump.
LatinD had a great point the other day about sadness and personal tragedy producing the best writing. I have long felt this, but would add stronger words like despair, oppression, mental anguish, and would add say that is true for life in general, not just the masterpieces that are PtR fanposts.
I remember realizing one day that some of the best dancers and musicians came from poverty and oppression within the Soviet Union and Cuba. I don't mean just the top artists - a lot of the regular people I meet from the Soviet era or similar countries are great dancers. Even many of the top business people had spectacular failures before arising from the ashes to become great.
I did find out last year that anger triggers my writing hormones as well. I can be a bit of a hothead sometimes, so Ghostown, Yucca and the other attackers last year would trigger a furious few hours of keyboard bashing, where my agitated hands would pound out characters like machine gun fire aimed at the imaginary electronic heads of my antagonists. But this year has been peaceful thanks to masterful control by our fearless moderators as well as the winning ways of our Spurs. Losing leads to sadness, anger, infighting and passionate writing. But consistent winning makes me watch the sunset with a lovely glass of Centavale cabernet Franc instead of trying to hone my writing skills.
Now, finally, we get a loss. Not just a loss, but a sloppy, ugly, listless loss perfectly designed to make us sad and produce a slew of new fanposts.
One problem. This loss did not make me sad *at all*. It should have, but I am strangely satisfied with it, in fact more satisfied than with the last two wins. Why?
Honestly, I did not like the last couple of wins. Sure, ugly wins are better than pretty losses, but for me that holds true only in the playoffs. The regular season is where you work out your problems, work on your weaknesses, build up your strength, build team chemistry, all that good stuff that people talk about but few teams really do. The regular season is to the playoffs what practice is to regular games.
What bothered me was that the defense was getting worse and worse, and the shot selection was getting worse and worse, and that the ball movement was getting worse and worse, and discipline in general was getting, well, you know.
And we are talking about the Big Three here, not just the newbies. Manu was clutch at the end of games, but made some bad decisions earlier in every game. Tony was "bad Tony" too often, not the good Tony we saw at the beginning of the season. Even Duncan got into it, mixing up his solid fundamental play with defensive lapses and poor shot selection. Sure, all three can tighten up their game in the fourth quarter and in the playoffs, but there is a bigger problem. The Newbies. The newbies have started out playing great, but like all newbies, take their cues from the veterans. if the core gets sloppy about defense, ball movement and shot selection then what do you think the newbies will start doing over time. It starts at the top.
So the last two games bothered me a little as it seemed we were rewarding bad play with wins. And the more we win despite listless complacent undisciplined play, the more Pavlov's dogs will keep playing listless and complacent and undisciplined. The bandaid of Manuness at the end of games, ironically, could have hurt us in the long run.
We needed this game. A showing so pathetic that the team cannot help but notice that they have to improve. Will it be enough? I don't know. But one can hope.
There were other things that bothered me, not just about the team, but about our fans. We were starting to take the wins for granted, throwing out talk of our upcoming finals appearance and the lack of respect from the national media for the best team in the country. Is that really what we want? A team so glorified that they take the championship for granted, just like Cleveland last year? A fanbase that expects wins instead of truly savoring and enjoying every moment ? (edited to say that PtR has been pretty good about it in general but the trend was here as well).
This is not a team that stands head and shoulders above the rest of the league like the Showtime Lakers or MJ's Bulls. This is a team that needs to stay hungry, to stay focused, to realize the need for at least a modicum of defense and a lot of discliplined ball movement.
This brings me back to LatinD's statement about sadness and art. His statement is much more profound than you may think. It holds not just for writing, but for all walks in life, from art to music to business, and most importantly for us, basketball. A team needs a few losses to keep them humble. It needs to see things go wrong so they do not get complacent. It needs just a little adversity so they band together and practice, play, and win like a team.