Yesterday our Spurs lost a regular season game to Utah Jazz, and what I saw in that game made me worry. Let me clarify: I liked most of the game. I liked that Pop left our Big 3 to get rest at home. I liked our staring five, with three out of the five who were not even in the Spurs uniform until recently. I liked that the game was close all the way. I liked our run in the 4th, which was almost enough to put the game out of the Jazz's reach. I didn't like the refs, but I don't worry about them. I don't worry about out interior D that often looked like crap without Timmy. I don't worry about Patty's or Gary's shot selection. I don't worry about Boris's fouls. I don't worry about our bigs, Sexplots, deBeast, Coach B and the FatMan. I don't worry whether RJ would disappear in the playoffs again, because he disappeared already before the trade deadline. But I do worry about this line:
Stephen Jackson @DaTrillStak5
Sorry fans I played like sh*t. I owe y'all one. Gotta play better.
So, he is gonna play better. Case closed. Or is it? I know, this is just one game, and everyone can have an off game. But let me put this crappy game in the perspective. When Cap'n Jack replaced RJ, a nice guy who never fit in, most of the PtR including myself expected that this move makes us more dangerous in the playoffs. Cap'n will help us. He will make a play or two in the clutch. He will make a three-pointer when we'll need it. He will help us to get over the top.
Pop rested Jackson in the home game against Utah. We didn't miss him too much, and he could focus on the road game against the same team. None of our Big 3 made the trip. Jax was the highest paid of the remaining Spurs. He was the most experienced. He was the only one who knew from the experience how to win the Championship. Pop put him in the starting lineup. It was quite naturally to expect that Cap'n Jack would be the leader of the depleted team. But instead of being the leader he was the worst player on the court. He took his shots, 13 of them, but he just scored 5 points. He committed a team-high 3 turnovers (tied with G.Neal). Worst of all, his team-worst +/- was -15, while we only lost by 7. It seems fair to conclude that Jax's play made the difference between a win and the loss. One game is still just one game, but that game was just kind of a game when we needed Cap'n to step up, make critical plays, put the team on his back and snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat. The bitter truth is that we probably would be better off if Pop left Jax at San Antonio. Other players did step up. Matt Bonner may lack talent and got no soul, but he repeatedly made plays on both ends of the court. Tiago was a monster on offense. Leonard, the rookie, looked like a seasoned vet. The undersized and much maligned center Blair, playing in limutes and without ACLs against much taller opposition, was 13(6-9) and 8. But our prodigal son Steven Jackson had his worst game for the Spurs just when we needed him the most.
I don't care much that we lost #1 seed again, a day after getting it. I don't care if it will make a difference for HCA in WCF. Even though I do care about HCA in the Finals, if we get there, I can leave with big L on the road, on the SEGABABA without the Big 3. But can we trust Cap'n Jack in the playoffs after a game like that? Will he play better? Will he help us to get over the top or will he disappear again just when we'd need him the most? Will he ever again make love to pressure when pressure comes? We'll find out the answers soon enough. For now I am worried.