What are "signature wins" and do they matter? Do they matter more late in the regular season than the beginning? How much should we weigh the context, such as injuries, fatigue, travel schedule, when discussing these things?
For example, was this a "signature win" for the Clippers considering that they were at home, versus an old-as-dirt team playing their FIGASENI and with their star point guard injured midway through the third quarter? I'm sure many Clippers fans will say, "Hell, yes." Every win over the Spurs is a big deal in the Duncan Era, without exception.
Conversely, how disappointed should Spurs fans be, considering the same factors? Obviously I think it's inarguable that it was an acceptable loss, but when taken in the context of the entire regular season so far and the Spurs now 0-5 against the cream-of-the-crop competition, doesn't that sound like a legitimate reason for concern? At what point should fans say, "We don't care about the BABAs, the injuries, the fatigue, the doctor fees or the labor pains, just show us the win, baby?" Wouldn't we feel at least incrementally better with the same 19-5 record if three of those wins came against the Pacers, Rockets and Clippers and the team lost those three extra games to the Hawks, Cavs and Raptors or whoever?
Finally, does how the losses come about factor in to the debate? Would it have felt better to lose to the Clippers in some tidy, 101-97 "they played hard but ran out gas/didn't get the bounces/got a couple of bad calls from the refs," fashion rather than this sloppy mess, where they turned it over 22 times for 37 Clippers points and got run out of the building late? How should we feel about the role Parker's injury played in the loss, considering that he wasn't playing particularly well anyway when he got hurt and that the Spurs didn't look all that likely to win at any point in the second half?
All of these are rhetorical questions, but I'll just answer them personally, so you know where I stand. Your opinions may vary wildly, which is fine. I'm not sure there is a right or wrong answer.
Yes, I believe in signature wins, especially in February and March. I can point to specific regular season games in 2005 and 2007 that fueled title runs, though of course I'm sure there were plenty of big wins in all the non-title years to refute that argument. I don't look so much at April because teams are throttling it down, getting ready for the playoffs. Occasionally you'll see two top teams go at it tooth-and-nail in April battling for seeding, but that's incredibly rare and I can't remember the last time the Spurs were in that spot. Anytime before the All-Star break is too soon to get excited or worry about any one win or loss.
The Clippers game is certainly an acceptable loss, and I predicted that they would lose, but there is never an excuse for that level of sloppiness, no matter how tired the team is and how good the opponents are. So in that sense it's concerning, but hopefully just a blip. The 0-5 record doesn't ring alarm bells yet, but 0-10 would, for sure. As I've stated before, I'll be much more worried if they start losing to bad teams.
I'd probably be more upset with a close loss, even a well-played one, than a blowout one, to be honest. That's just my mentality as a fan. I know it goes against everything the analytic community represents and thousands of hours of documented research. I know. But blowout losses just roll off my back while the close ones gnaw at me for days, even years, depending on circumstance. I know it should be the other way around and I should shrug at the coin flip games and be freaking out at the blowouts, but I just can't.
Parker's injury is the
biggest only thing worth taking away from the game in the long run. It's a lot more important for him not to be seriously dinged than any thrilling comeback win would've been. Hopefully it's just a bruise and not too big of a deal or nothing that lingers. At times like this having a quality third point guard becomes really important and I'm guessing Parker will miss the remainder of the road trip, which might cause a three-game losing streak and start even more Twitter debates than Monday's loss did. We might have a "Should we fire Pop" thread by Friday. Okay, probably not.
But I've got four words for you to think about before you completely dismiss the idea for a change up top: Kawhi Leonard: Player-coach
Standard Duncan Quote:
"We turned the ball over way too much (22 times) and went through bad stretches. We just can't put games together like that and expect to win," Duncan said. "But it's early in the season, and we're going to learn (from) every one of these losses and continue to grow as a team. Hopefully at the end of the year, we're a better ballclub because of it."
By The Numbers:
19,253: The attendance at the Staples Center
19,252: People in attendance who don't look like the crypt keeper from "Tales From the Crypt" wearing a cowboy outfit.
39:40: The assist-to-turnover ratio in this game. In the NBA, they call it a sloppy trainwreck. In college they call it a competitive masterpiece. Except a college game would never feature as many as 39 assists.
6: Layups/dunks by Ginobili.
21: The difference in points off turnovers between the two teams, which was the key to the game. In actual turnovers it was only 22-18, Spurs, but the scoring off them was 37-16.
6: Free-throw attempts by DeAndre Jordan. Maybe if the number was closer to 26 the Spurs would've had a shot.
+21: Stephen Jackson, in 17 minutes. Just shoot me.
-20: Kawhi Leonard in 32 minutes. Hey! We should trade our starting small forward for Jackson, you guys.
0: Games the Spurs defended the NBA Regular Season Championship Belt. :-/
Sequence of the Game:
Some guy on the Spurs turned the ball over, the Clippers raced it down the other end and scored and then the same exact thing happened 4,525 more times.
Tweets of the Night:
Danny Green with the first put back slam in Spurs franchise history.— 210pros (@210pros) December 17, 2013
Pregame Pop was diagramming all sorts of PnR coverages on CP3, thought "F- it, I'll just put Kawhi on him," then took a nap.— Jesse Blanchard (@blanchardJRB) December 17, 2013
Lemme know when he wakes up.
Little wonder #Spurs-Clippers game has been ragged; Spurs playing 5th game in 7 nights, Clips just back off 7-game, 2-week roadie— Mike Monroe (@Monroe_SA) December 17, 2013
Are we sure he didn't mean "rigged".
It's honestly surprising when Belinelli misses.— Matthew R Tynan (@Matthew_Tynan) December 17, 2013
By this measure, last night was filled with a bit too much wonder and mystery for my taste.
The Spurs should be going to Boris on Antawn Jamison every single time.— Matthew R Tynan (@Matthew_Tynan) December 17, 2013
Or really whoever Jamison is "guarding."
@Matthew_Tynan Lob Del Boca Vista— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) December 17, 2013
After a while all alley-oop dunks look the same. Alley-oop layups require some artistry.
Y'know, the Spurs could lose this game, and they'd still be on a whole other level than the Clippers.— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballSource) December 17, 2013
Yup. The plan is to get them overconfident for those playoff match-ups and then surprise them with the ol' "not turning the ball over every other possession," trick.
Tim Duncan is still better now than Blake Griffin will ever be.— Jesse Blanchard (@blanchardJRB) December 17, 2013
I'd be far more interested in a serious, back-and-forth debate about their acting chops than their basketball ability. I could do like a 30 minute podcast with J.R. Wilco on that.
"It’ll sound crazy since I booted him before the playoffs, but I love the guy. ..He lives in my neighborhood." - Popovich on S. Jackson— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) December 17, 2013
Let that be a lesson, it doesn't matter how many times you bake him a pie or water his lawn when he's out of town, if you tell Pop you're better than Manu, you're off the team.
The next evolution of Stephen Jackson's career is to eat his way into being a PF #TheDiawMethod— Jesse Blanchard (@blanchardJRB) December 17, 2013
The next evolution of his career is China.
Jared Dudley is not a starting player in the NBA. I'm going to start calling him Chris.— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballSource) December 17, 2013
You need to see some Eastern Conference games, my friend.
Spurs offense right now http://t.co/jrFbM4MBbW— Andrew A. McNeill (@drew_48moh) December 17, 2013
He's pounding that rock.
It makes it look super easy for the Clippers to run and dunk and score when the Spurs turn the ball over to them. They should probably make a note to not do that so much next time. Also, all of the Clippers players are (this colorful, disturbingly descriptive and not entirely inaccurate description of the Clippers has been self-edited because I know it'd never make it past JRW) and JRW knows I'm right!
Your Three Stars:
3. Danny Green (19 pts): Still mostly bad, but he showed some signs of life at least and it's not like there were many other candidates.
2. Manu Ginobili (36 pts): Yeah, yeah, the four turnovers. Settle down with the comparisons to Games 6 and 7 of the Finals. The team as a whole had 22 giveaways so it's not like he was the only one. He played kinda awesome when he wasn't passing.
1. Tim Duncan (49 pts): Two straight first stars for Duncan and he's been on the podium in 10 of the last 12 games. I vote we keep him on the team.
@Phoenix Suns (14-9), Wednesday, Dec. 18:
Not exactly what the doctor ordered coming off a blowout loss to the Clippers. The Spurs will have a day to lick their wounds before starting yet another infernal BABA against a surprising Suns team that I didn't think would win 14 games all year. Instead they're the hottest club in the league, winners of five straight, including a nice one in their last game against the Warriors on Sunday (so they'll be the more rested team too, hooray) where their backcourt of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe played the more celebrated "Splash Brothers," Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, to a draw, allowing the superior Suns bench, led by the Morris brothers --- actual ones, with the same parents and everything -- to be the difference. The Spurs won the first meeting between the teams way early in the season on Nov. 6, 99-96 at home, in a game in which Parker saved them with a bonkers fourth quarter and Dragic was out injured. Now it's likely the shoe will be on the other foot, with Parker nursing a shin contusion and the Suns healthy. It's gonna be tough to win unless the Spurs bench really goes nuts. Ironically, they had one of their worst collective performances in that first game, totaling just 24 points. I'm gonna give the Spurs a win but only because I'm a total homer and don't quite believe in the Suns just yet.