Game 52 @Detroit: Pistons 109, Spurs 100 Record: 37-15 1st in Southwest, 2nd in West Streak: L-1
Well, it's not like you couldn't see this coming.
The Spurs ran into a buzzsaw Monday night and it was a perfect combination of unrelated circumstances that contributed to their soulless curb-stomping at the Palace.
Not to go all "30 for 30," on you here, but what if I told you that a veteran, creaky Spurs team taking on water fast and desperately in need of the All-Star break to recharge their batteries was facing a young, hungry Pistons squad the first game after they replaced their coach?
What if I told you that Tiago Splitter would miss the game, against one of the biggest, most physical squads in the league?
What if I told you that the Spurs would be missing their emotional talisman in Manu Ginobili and their long, athletic, do-everything 22-year-old in Kawhi Leonard?
What if I told you that Tony Parker was nursing ten different injuries and that his backup, Patty Mills, would sprain an ankle?
So yeah, maybe Pop doesn't want to hear about excuses, but in his position having the blinders on and forging ahead despite all obstacles is absolutely mandatory. In our position, caring almost as much but on the outside looking in, we have the benefit of living in the real world, free to use logic and reason and common sense.
Common sense was that the only way --repeat the ONLY way-- this game has an interesting narrative is if the Spurs pulled off the win.
I mean, don't get me wrong, I understand that the game story had a twist in that it was interim coach John Loyer's first game, but was anyone at all surprised that game unfolded the way it did? The Spurs were just too undermanned to compete. You can only get so many heroic performances from a Danny Green, or Patty Thrills or even the likes of Cory Joseph and Nando De Colo. Eventually the percentages catch up to you and the role players start playing like role players. It's silly to think the Spurs can win consistently, even against so-so competition, without Ginobili, Leonard and Splitter, and with Parker in such a compromised state. If those other guys were healthy, Pop would've probably shelved Parker two weeks ago.
Duncan and Green disagreed slightly in the postmortem. Green echoed Pop's sentiments that the energy and passion were lacking, while Duncan said that the team tried hard, but lacked focus. The sparse crowd didn't help the visitors at all, but if ever the Spurs missed Ginobili's passion and Leonard's energy, it was on Monday, where both teams started sloppily but only the Pistons found their footing from the second quarter on. Eventually they exploited their size advantage and the Spurs, shooting just 5-of-17 from deep and sorely missing Parker's penetration and Splitter's ability to prevent the same, had no counters left.
It's cool that Pop refuses to make excuses. Honestly, I'd probably be annoyed with him if he had. It's okay if we make 'em though so don't mind if I do. Just get to the All-Star break already, Spurs.
Standard Pop quote:
"It was a very disappointing game. Mentally and physically, we didn't bring it. And they brought it. They kicked our ass."
By the numbers:
13,628: The paid attendance at The Palace of Auburn Hills, where you can buy a courtside seat for the same price as a house in downtown Detroit.
5: Made threes by the Spurs.
5: Made threes by the Pistons. (Not a good sign when these numbers are the same.)
18: Offensive rebounds by the Pistons.
19: Turnovers by the Spurs. (A worse sign both of these numbers are so similar.)
18: Made free throws by the Pistons.
11: Free throws attempted by the Spurs. (Another bad sign.)
21:43: Playing time for Duncan.
20:23: Playing time for Baynes. (Uh, guys, I'm starting to suspect the Spurs didn't win this game.)
17: Points combined by Parker and Mills. (Oh dammit so much.)
0: Games the Spurs successfully retained the regular season championship belt. (So lame. Remember when that was a thing?)
1: Games until the All-Star break. COME ON ALREADY.
Sequence of the Game:
With a minute to go in a lost cause, Duncan was patiently explaining some of the finer nuances of the plays and signals for relative newcomer Shannon Brown. Just about anybody else in this situation would be spacing out or checking out the women in the stands or whatever, but Duncan, who's not just some veteran on the roster to provide leadership and an example to the young guys but also still happens to be the team's best player, cared enough about "the program" and Brown, a guy who may well be shown the door in a day or two, to be the one to walk him the plays even though he had to have been frustrated about another loss to an inferior opponent and his own relatively poor performance. To me, that sequence illustrated better who Duncan is as a player better than any well-researched profile of him could.
Tweets of the Night:
CIA Pop, indeed MT @JMcDonald_SAEN In light of Cheeks firing, Pop asked about secret to his longevity: "I have information on everybody."— Dan McCarney (@danmccarneysaen) February 11, 2014
I really wouldn't be surprised if this was a "ha-ha I'm joking but it's totally true," kind of deal.
It’s probably too kind to say that Josh Smith "freelances" in the Pistons’ defensive schemes.— Mike Prada (@MikePradaSBN) February 11, 2014
It may be kind to say they have defensive schemes.
oh Nando…— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) February 11, 2014
I will be happy when we can go one game without an "oh Nando" tweet, especially since I also root for Chelsea in the EPL.
Tim Duncan has a sneakily good "do you know who I am" referee face.— Jesse Blanchard (@blanchardJRB) February 11, 2014
If Duncan really wants to intimidate a ref, he just has to start laughing at his calls while on the bench.
Twitter was more fun than the Spurs game, I'm not gonna lie.
Things I Remember Not Missing from 2005: DEEEE-TROOYYTT BASKET-BALLLL— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) February 11, 2014
Things I also remember not missing from that time: The Spurs getting slaughtered up there except for that one Horry game.
/simulates rest of season— Project Spurs (@projectspurs) February 11, 2014
I don't want to simulate it but I sure do want to turn the injury setting to "off."
And you get a turnover! And YOU get a turnover!— Aaron (@DukeOfBexar) February 11, 2014
Okay. That was my line before anybody's. I wrote it about Ginobili after one of the playoff games last year.
Pretty sure this rotation is Pop pulling the plug— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) February 11, 2014
Either that or this is just our bench at this point.— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) February 11, 2014
That's the thing: We can't even tell anymore. WE CAN'T EVEN TELL ANYMORE.
You guys just wanna stop watching and talk about the Lego Movie now?— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) February 11, 2014
Since you asked, I saw it and kinda liked it, but the ending was very "Arlington Road" to me, and that analogy will totally make sense if you're one of the ten other people on the planet who saw both movies.
Weird Things: Spurs are shooting 52.7% from the field… and are losing by 23.— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) February 11, 2014
I feel like that stat describes the last month-and-a-half.
This is the first game since Michael Sam, a defensive end from Missouri, made headlines around the country by coming out, a few months before he will be drafted into the NFL to become the first active, openly gay male athlete in a major American sport (not really counting Robbie Rogers of the MLS here).
Unlike Jason Collins, who came out last season after 12 seasons in the league as a middling journeyman, Sam's pro career hasn't even begun yet and as a unanimous All-American selection and the Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC last year, he is projected to be a pretty decent player whose exclusion from the draft would be a PR nightmare for the league and even grounds for a lawsuit.
I always figured that the NBA would be well ahead of the other sports in this issue, not only because of the international nature of the league but also David Stern's leadership on this issue, but it never happened for Collins this season, so I wonder if Stern and even new commissioner Adam Silver feel any degree of embarrassment that the rough-and-tumble, supposedly "meathead" NFL beat them to the punch on this one.
Ironically, I think that while the Spurs would be the absolute perfect organization for a gay player to thrive, with total incident-free acceptance from teammates and the coaching staff, they're also the last team I can ever see it happening for because Pop would absolutely not want the national media attention that will come with that story. I guess he'd be a bit hypocritical in that regard, in that "we love you, we just don't want the attention you bring," kind of way, but I've read a few articles about current and former personnel people predicting that Sam will face that exact dilemma in the NFL too.
I don't know what the answer is, but I'm indeed hopeful that Sam gets drafted and plays in a progressive city and organization and has a long and productive career, opening the door for many more homosexuals to play pro sports openly and without any issues.
I'm just surprised the NBA dropped the ball on this one. You would've thought that teams like the Mavericks, Knicks or Lakers would've all been ideal environments for Collins and maybe they will be for the next guy brave enough to come out.
Your Three Stars:
3) Boris Diaw (40 pts): Hit 6-of-9 shots, chipped in a bit on the boards and in creating for others and looked interested, at times, defensively, and not as clueless as the other backup bigs.
2) Marco Belinelli (29 pts): A team-high 20 points and he hit 4-of-8 from downtown, which should give him some confidence going into the weekend's three-point contest.
1) Cory Joseph (14 pts): 11 points and a career-high nine assists for Joseph, whose critics allege that he doesn't have the floor vision to ever stick in the league as a point guard. He fought to the bitter end, which I admired.
Up Next: @Boston Celtics (19-34), Wednesday, Feb. 12: The final game before the All-Star break has the Spurs heading back to the east coast to take on a Celtics team that doesn't have a very impressive record but are --say it with me-- playing their best basketball of the season prior to the Spurs' arrival. Boston, which is supposedly tanking, have won five of their past ten, including Monday night's thumping of the pathetic Bucks in Milwaukee. Jeff Green led the way with 29 points while reigning Eastern Conference Player-of-the-Week Jared Sullinger and rookie Kelly Olynyk both had double-doubles. Rajon Rondo, meanwhile, still working his way back from that ACL tear, was rested so he could go full tilt against the Spurs, hooray! The two teams met early in the season in San Antonio, and the Spurs won 104-93 with Tony Parker pacing six Spurs in double figures with 19 and Kawhi Leonard adding 16 points, eight boards and five steals. Your guess about which Spurs will suit up for this one is as good as mine, but my guess is that Pop won't want the team to go into break riding two losses, so I'd expect both Parker and Duncan to play.