I'm writing this at my university's library, as my laptop is broken. By the time I finish, it'll be about 4:00 AM eastern time. Considering the time, I'm surprised at how many people are in here. One of the library workers just came around to check my student ID to see if I should even be in here.
I'm telling you all this because late-night library sessions are a habit with me, and sometimes I question why I put myself through it all. Some games are harder to write about than others, and it can be a chore to stay up late at night and then have to go to class or work the next day while suffering from sleep deprivation. But as I write now, there's no question as to why I choose to do this.
This game between the Spurs and the Cleveland Cavaliers was incredible. The way the Spurs' ball-movement and the Cavs' isolation heavy offenses contrasted each other, the fashion in which Kawhi Leonard seemed to perfectly counter everything LeBron James did on the court, how Tony Parker and Kyrie Irving kept going back-and-forth against each other, how Irving got in a zone late where nothing could even slow him down; it was all breathtakingly beautiful. It was more performance art than basketball.
Games like Thursday night's classic are what I stay up until the wee hours in the morning to write about. Just the potential of something like this happening is enough for me. When one of those games actually happens? It is pure bliss, and I'm thankful that I got to witness it. As fans of the game, it's what we hope for: both teams playing lights out, and maybe some sort of crazy finish, or one player rising above it all to claim the game. That's exactly what we got tonight with Irving going off for 57. Everybody played well, he just played a little better.
After last season's championship, individual wins and losses don't matter as much to me as they used to. As long as the basketball is good all around, the outcome of the game doesn't matter too much. Of course I'd like for the Spurs to win every time they go out, but if they don't, it doesn't send me spiraling into a depression like it used to. Even with games that are heart-breakers like this one, I end up feeling at least partially satisfied.
Watching the Spurs for nearly my entire life is undoubtedly the reason for this. They don't get too high after wins, or too low after losses. No matter the result, they give the opponent their due credit. They seem unflappable, and after so much success, its made me aspire to be more even-keeled. And I've come to appreciate the way the game is played over everything. The process is more important than the results, as Pop would put it.
I won't say that Spurs fans shouldn't be upset about the loss. It was a big game, against a great team, and they came up short when they should have won the game. Whether you want to blame it on Kawhi's missed free throws, or San Antonio just not being able to do something about Kyrie, the game was more than winnable. It was practically in hand. And if you invest most of your emotions about the game on the outcome, it's going to hurt a lot.
I'm not going to tell another fan how to cheer for a team. Fandom is a way to express yourself, and that shouldn't be limited by anyone. Whether you stay in bed all day after a loss, or are just satisfied with how your team played, that's your prerogative. But after a game like Thursday's overtime barn-burner, I'd like to acknowledge that something truly great has happened. After all, instant classics like that Spurs-Cavs matchup don't come around too often.
MVP OF THE GAME
Tony Parker - 31 points on 15-23 shooting, 6 assists, 5 rebounds
Parker had another great performance. Up until overtime, he nearly matched Kyrie Irving basket for basket. He was able to find his teammates for some nice baskets as well, getting to the rim and then dumping it off for uncontested layups.
QUOTE OF THE GAME
Pop on Kyrie: "He was unstoppable. I don't know how to guard that. We all know how talented he is, but he went to a new level tonight."— Dan McCarney (@danmccarneySAEN) March 13, 2015
Kyrie went nuts, scoring 57 points on 20-32 shooting. About a month ago he dropped 55 in a game, and everyone thought that would be his best performance of the year. Whelp. He's such an incredible scorer, and he's only 22 years old. The sky is the limit for him on the offensive side of the ball. I can't wait to watch him tear up the Eastern Conference in the playoffs.
NUMBERS ON THE BOARD
88: Total combined points for Kyrie and LeBron. For those of you keeping track at home, that's just over 68% of their team's points. It was truly a masterful performance from them.
56: The amount of points the Spurs had in the paint. The middle was wide open for the taking, as San Antonio's crisp ball-movement forced the Cavaliers' defense to scramble all around, opening up driving lanes for Tony Parker, and creating mismatches for Kawhi Leonard.
7: Attempted threes by Kyrie.
7: Made threes by Kyrie. Yup, every single one.
- Although Kyrie went for 57 and shot a ridiculous percentage from the field, San Antonio actually didn't play him too poorly. Of his 32 shots on the night, 30 were contested by the Spurs. But he hit 19 shots anyway. They did a solid job of staying in front of him, but he'd just unleash one deadly crossover after another and eventually find a sliver of space all the same. They crowded him when he'd gather to shoot a jumper, but he'd nail it anyways. It was simply his night.
- It was difficult to watch Kevin Love. It seemed like the Cavaliers were trying to post him up early in the game, but as soon as he missed a shot they went away from him. After that, he spaced out beyond the arc for most of the game, and finished with only 8 points. In fact, in what has become usual for Cleveland, Love wasn't even in the game when it was close in the 4th quarter, and only played a few minutes in overtime. I'm not sure how much of his struggles are because of his own issues or Coach David Blatt's, but he simply does not seem to fit into what Cleveland is trying to do.
- After having a couple sub-par games, Tim Duncan rose to the occasion. He recorded 18 points on 7-11 shooting, along with 11 boards, 8 assists, and 4 blocks. He looked like his old self again, and even showed some emotion when the game was nearing its end. It was yet another wonderful performance from the franchise player.
Without question the loudest this building has been this season. Playoffs are near...— Matthew R Tynan (@Matthew_Tynan) March 13, 2015
Every time you see the phrase "Finals preview" tonight, take a drink. I work for an ambulance company— David McGinnis (@dav_mcg) March 13, 2015
I think you mean Ex-Heat fans. RT @Matthew_Tynan There are a LOT of Cavs fans here.— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) March 13, 2015
I don’t know if Kawhi is a top ten player but he sure as hell is when he plays LeBron.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) March 13, 2015
Next season I might just get a shock collar that forces me to say "THE SPURS" whenever anyone asks me for a title/west champ pick.— Sean Highkin (@highkin) March 13, 2015
Spurs Gon' Kawhild— Luke Bonner (@LukeyBonner) March 13, 2015
All of San Antonio tonight. pic.twitter.com/OQQ1q0GAPE— Caleb Saenz (@calebjsaenz) March 13, 2015
Ok so maybe not. RT @poundingtherock: KAWHI REBOUNDAGGER— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) March 13, 2015
Kyrie with the FLICKA DA WRISSSSST.— Ian Dougherty (@IanDougherty) March 13, 2015
Kevin Love leaps off the bench like Blatt said he could finally build a LEGO spaceship— David McGinnis (@dav_mcg) March 13, 2015
hahaha RT @mcten: Kevin Love was just in the tunnel when Blatt tried to sub him in. Mike Miller had to sprint to go fetch him.— netw3rk (@netw3rk) March 13, 2015
"ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?"--Kyrie, probably.— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) March 13, 2015
"If Kawhi hits *one* free throw..." This is a quote from: A) The 2013 Finals B) Tonight's game C) My nightmares D) All of the above.— Caleb Saenz (@calebjsaenz) March 13, 2015