Now the questions that come to mind: "Where is this place and when is it?" "What kind of world where ugliness is the norm and beauty, the deviation from that norm?" You want an answer? The answer is it doesn't make any difference, because the old saying happens to be true. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In this year or a hundred years hence. On this planet or wherever there is human life - perhaps out amongst the stars - beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Lesson to be learned in the Twilight Zone.
The Spurs played one of their sloppiest games of the year against the Sacramento Kings, who weren't exactly tidy themselves. But the Spurs' ugly is just a lot better looking than the Kings' ugly. About 20 points more attractive, to be exact. Even though the Spurs had their second worst shooting night of the season*, the game was never in doubt. It was one of those nights where the ball bounced everywhere but in the basket. At the end of the first quarter, Isiah Thomas heaved the ball high towards the opposite basket, but it bounced off the scoreboard and caromed straight down towards Boris Diaw, who did not even seem to notice as it spun past him.
The Kings have a lot of talented players, which makes their record a little hard to understand. Unlike the Lakers, there are more than two guys on the team which could make the Spurs roster, but their win/loss record isn't that much better than the Lakers. Their basic problem is they don't play well together. And Rudy Gay is fighting a career-long trend of making any team he plays on worse.
Tiago Splitter had a gorgeous first half, and he played DeMarcus Cousins to a standstill. After Tiago scored his 11th point on a reverse layup with 3:15 left in the second quarter, Spurs announcer Bill Land shouted "Game Over!" because the Spurs haven't lost a single game that Splitter's scored in double figures this season. Bill was right (as the Spurs eventually won) but also in the dual sense that the watchable part of the game was just about done.
Kawhi's rebounding and defense made a big difference. His three point jumper in the first quarter was San Antonio's only made three of the first half. As terrible as the Spurs were on offense, their defense was typically Spursian, the Kings did not get any clean shots, except for Travis Outlaw, who hit 2 three pointers when he was left open. The Spurs limped into the halftime break with just 47 points, but the anemic Kings only had 37. Leading all scorers at the half was ... Tiago Splitter.
We couldn't throw it in the ocean. -Pop
The good thing is they couldn't either. -Manu
Every NBA quarter is officially 12 minutes long, but this third quarter seemed to last for several hours, as both teams slogged through an unappealing stretch of bad shooting, endless whistles and bizarre sequences. On one inbounds play, the Spurs started running their motion and a chaos of colliding bodies erupted in the lane for nearly 10 seconds, and the referee hadn't even handed the ball to Parker to inbound it. But there were a few pretty plays for the Spurs. After Rudy Gay rejected a Splitter dunk attempt (Rudy Gay blocked a shot?), the ball came back out to Tony and he drove past three Kings to lay a soft shot off the top of the glass, just past Cousins' outstretched arm. There were just occasional flashes of brilliance, but those flashes were enough for the Spurs to outscore the Kings. At the end of the quarter, Isaiah Thomas heaved a deep three point shot that gently swished through the net, but the ball was still on his fingertips as the clock expired. The Kings' best play of the quarter did not count.
As both teams staggered into the fourth quarter, there were a few sequences where the Spurs managed to get their boots partially out of the mire and play a beautiful game for a few moments at a time. Travis Outlaw, who had been killing the Spurs with his 3 point shots, had some embarrassing defensive lapses. He turned his head to watch the ball as Marco cut behind him for easy scores ... twice. Parker hit a three with 2:37 left and it was over. Pop inserted Joseph and Ayres, and Malone inserted Royce White, who after a few years of difficulties finally made it onto the floor in an NBA game. The only remaining drama was whether White would touch the ball. He didn't. There was no change--no change at all.
*They shot worse against Phoenix on February 21, 2014, and lost 106-85.
Be sure to read Stephen Shepperd's recap if you haven't already.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
"I just need to move" -- Marco Belinelli, explaining how he knows he will get the ball if he takes the effort to get open.
Marco Belinelli: 13 points in the 4th quarter, icing the game. He also delivered the first Italian cooking lesson ever in a post-game Spurs interview.
Royce White: he had no impact in his 56 seconds of garbage time, but the 2012 first round pick finally saw his first action in the NBA.
ODDS AND ENDS
Baynes didn't have a huge impact on the game, but he looks comfortable out there. He's not rushing, he's setting good screens, and he seems to have completely replaced Ayres in the rotation.
Boris Diaw didn't have a great game, he's going to have to do more against the Warriors if the Spurs are going to win.
Isaiah Thomas is really good. I can't believe he was the last pick in the draft.
DeMarcus Cousins is learning to block like Old Man Duncan. He barely jumps, while he stops the ball in his hands, either recovering it or getting a jump ball.
Kawhi just doesn't get enough credit for how good he is because he's just so consistent. You almost don't notice him stopping the other team's best player on almost every play.
Sean called one of Boris Diaw's off target floaters a ‘stale croissant.'
Reggie Evans is just a terrible shooter. After 12 years in the league, you would think he would have improved some.
BY THE NUMBERS
[Did the Spurs big 3 pass the Lakers big 3 this game? I'm pretty confused about this.]
Spurs shot 5-25 (20%) from 3.
The Spurs outscored the Kings in all 4 periods. "If you win every quarter, you will win the game."--Magic Johnson
The Spurs have scored more than 100 points in almost 80% of their games this year. Last year, they only topped 100 points 63% of the time. The offense is so efficient this year that 99 points feels like a wretched failure.
THE GAME IN SONG
GOING FORWARD, THE SPURS NEED TO...
"Play better," as Pop says. The Spurs were able to get past a sloppy Kings team with a sloppy effort of their own, but the Warriors are a much better team, and they won't be able to shoot 20% from the three point line and win in Oakland. It's a back-to-back game, so Pop is probably going to rest some players. Manu in the post game said he was going to try to convince Pop to let him play, but we all know who's going to win that battle. Honestly, I don't think that Pop likes really long winning streaks during the regular season, and he might just choose this game to end it.