Almost two years ago when Pop first made headlines for benching his top players for a big TNT primetime Thursday night game there was outrage all around. The NBA, TNT, "fans" going to that game and non-Spurs followers were appalled that Pop would make such a move. Everyone was excited to watch a possible Finals preview and it was the only game being played at that time. People felt they were robbed by not seeing the Spurs put their best team on the floor. Ironically the Spurs were still competitive in the game and almost won, but the league wrongly decided that they could fine Pop and the Spurs for the way they were managing their team.
Here we are, not long removed from all that outrage, and once again Pop decided that on a back-to-back he would rest his guys in another TNT game. The minute the news was announced it seemed to be just a matter of time before the blowback and complaining would start. Minutes and then hours went by and it became clear that nobody was mad. Everybody, even the usually unreasonable critics, were fine with it. Actually, the only people getting any criticism were the folks over at the league office and TNT. Rightfully, the question being asked was why even bother scheduling the Spurs for these primetime games when they're playing the second game of a back-to-back. It's like breaking up with your girlfriend and then being shocked when she starts seeing other people. There's no sense being surprised when the same things happens over and over.
Spurs fans understand that this is part of the process. It doesn't matter that this was only the fourth game of the season. It could be game four or game seventy-four -- it doesn't matter. Pop isn't going to let winning one regular season game become more important than the long-term goal. I actually think Spurs fans secretly love the games without the stars. They get to watch Matt Bonner jack up threes and whether or not Austin Daye can manage to put the ball through the hoop.
I believe that Pop's strategy is suddenly being accepted because the Spurs have finally gained the appreciation of the entire basketball community. The diehards and smart basketball people have always respected the Spurs. The criticism had mainly come from the loud minority that refused to allow that Pop perhaps knew what was best for his team better than the league office.
they were never the ones saying ridiculous statements like that the Spurs are boring. That was only the loud minority that didn't watch closely and only looked at the Spurs' roster, seeing names that weren't glamorous enough for them. Now, after the Spurs have had success against a flashy team like the Heat on the biggest stage possible, even those critics just have to accept the way that things are done in San Antonio.
Just because we all accept the strategy that the Spurs have implemented, with last night being a prime example, doesn't mean that we have to enjoy watching it. Even Pop seemed bored with the game when he gave a very bland and matter of fact interview with absolutely no humor or snark. That might have actually been the most disappointing performance of the night. Never mind the ugliness of what the Spurs did. The Rockets can't exactly pop any champagne considering that they committed 21 turnovers. Though, with no other games besides a lopsided Browns win over the Bengals on, I hope America was as excited about the debut of Kyle Anderson as the Pounders in the game thread were.
Even as the Spurs struggled tremendously from the field and were utterly dominated by Howard, no one complained or worried. This is all part of the process. No one ever wants to lose a game by 17 points, and the final score doesn't do justice to just how badly the Spurs lost this one. But at this point, it's about the health of Marco Belinelli, Tiago Splitter, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and the team come April. It's about the valuable playing time given to Cory Joseph and Aron Baynes that will only help the team grow.
Considering the success of Pop's strategy, it wouldn't be surprising to see other teams follow suit and there has already been talk of LeBron resting more this season. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and we've already seen many of the tactics used by the Spurs being implemented around the league. TNT should be worried because they could start seeing a lot more games starring the likes of Jeff Ayres and Baynes as teams become more invested in health than playoff seeding.
Cory Joseph- 18 pts, 1 reb, 0 assists, 3 turnovers
Just look at that line. When those numbers equal Game MVP then something clearly went wrong.
Every Spur not named Cory Joseph
Matt Bonner almost had this sewn up all to himself until he hit a late 3. Before that shot he had played 15 minutes and somehow had only 2 points, 1 rebound and 1 assist.
Quote of the Night
"Well if he wants to be Diaw then he better start eating some barbecue"
-Kevin Harlan responding to Reggie Miller about Kyle Anderson becoming a 'Boris Diaw' in a few years.
Tweets of the Night
Kyle Anderson looks like Stephen Curry if he had drank a gallon of milk every day as a kid.— Taco Trey Kerby (@treykerby) November 7, 2014
Spurs: 24 points Dwight Howard: 20 points CLOSE GAME!— SportsNation (@SportsNation) November 7, 2014
I'd toss in $50 for them to air Pop's halftime speech live and unedited.— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) November 7, 2014
You guys, this is what it’s like to watch the Lakers!— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) November 7, 2014
With Duncan and Ginobili sitting and Parker scoreless, #Spurs fans getting a peek at team's future in, oh, about 4 more years— Mike Monroe (@Monroe_SA) November 7, 2014
By the Numbers
- 27-24: Spurs record over the last 10 seasons when playing with one or none of the big three.
- 0: Amount of wins that the Spurs had over the Rockets last season.
- 57: Total points per-game missing from the line-up last night between Duncan, Ginobili, Mills, Belinelli and Splitter.
- 9: Current position in the Western conference standings for the Spurs. I would bet all the money I have that they won't get any lower than that all season.
- 12: Misses from 3-point range in the first half which is the most a Spurs team has gone without a make in any half under Pop.
- The Spurs resting their stars will prove to be valuable with four of their next five games being on the road .including a back-to-back in Golden State and L.A. to face the Clippers. I fully expect to see another line-up similar to last night's in one of those games.
- Dwight Howard is a real problem for the Spurs. They will obviously fare much better against him with Duncan and Splitter in the line-up, but even then, they will have problems with him. The hope with those guys back in there against Howard has to be to get him in foul trouble. If they can do that ,then they should be in good position because it's beyond bleak behind him with the likes of Tarik Black and Clint Capela.
- Tony Parker ended with a +/- of -27, which was by far the worst of any player in the game. He never looked very aggressive and almost seemed like he wouldn't have minded hanging out on the bench with his buddies.