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What did we learn from the Spurs’ blowout of the Nets?

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On the surface, the 29 point victory was an overcorrection to the Spurs recent home struggles. But the details reveal what can hopefully become a positive trend.

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

In sports, as in the stockmarket or in driver’s ed, we’re warned about the “over-correction.” This is what occurs when something unexpected or undesirable happens, perhaps over a protracted period of time, and efforts taken to correct the occurrence are meted out a bit more aggressively than what is usual under ideal circumstances. In the stock market, this can result in the overinflation or deflation of stocks; in sports, it tends to manifest itself in abnormal usage percentage or counting stats on an individual basis and in effort or effectiveness on a team basis.

The Spurs, after a fluky, unexpected, and undesirable start to their home schedule in 2016-17, and after a tongue-lashing from coach Gregg Popovich following their 918th consecutive game with a double-digit deficit, were overdue for an overcorrection. They were returning home from snowy Chicago, they were healthy, and they were playing a bad team in the Brooklyn Nets.

Conceptually, you might have known that the Nets are a bad team. They give up the most points per game (a hair under 115) and have the 29th worst defensive rating. They play at the fastest pace in the league which, when combined with their relative youth, allows for plenty of turnovers. They also derive the 2nd highest percentage of their points from 2nd round draft picks, so they aren’t exactly playing with the cream of the crop, talent-wise.

How much should this matter in the context of the Spurs’ 130-101 victory? I’m not sure. The team set a season-high in points, scored 103 points in three quarters, hit almost 54% of its threes, and got pretty much any shot it wanted. On the other hand, when a team follows up a 32 point first half with a 41 point first quarter, you know the truth about them lies somewhere in the middle. They scored a bunch of points on the Nets, but everybody scores a bunch of points on the Nets. As the league’s #6 offense, wouldn’t it have been more of a surprise if the Spurs couldn’t score?

This is the same Spurs team that put up a sub-90 offensive rating against the Magic on the very same floor where they waxed the Nets. Again, the truth is somewhere in between. Nights like the Magic game will happen over an 82 game sample size, and nights like Saturday will happen when a team gets tired of trying to climb out of all the holes they’ve dug.

The Spurs responded to the Chicago loss with six players in double figures, led by Kawhi Leonard’s 30 (in three quarters).

The response, and Patty’s rallying cry, are certainly encouraging. The Spurs assisted on 38 of their 50 made baskets, a result of the ball rotating more quickly and decisively than it has in several games. Even when the Spurs were down a man, they still found ways to score on the Nets.

But it’s December, and there’s still the potential for plenty more messing around as the season grinds on. There’s still the potential for overcorrection. A novice driver often gets into an accident not when he or she loses traction, but in trying to reverse the skid. As individuals, the Spurs are not novices, but as a team with three rookies and several new faces, they are still in driver’s ed.

And as they learn, we learn about them. We learn that the most consistent thing about the Spurs so far this season has been the very thing they eschewed culturally for so long:

Perhaps it’s best to view this entire team as an overcorrection, with Jonathon Simmons as its leading indicator. If that’s the case, then it means the Spurs have amassed a 19-5 record while transforming themselves on the fly. So far, that record has been bolstered by unsustainable good luck in tight games. But if, as Manu suggests, the Spurs can keep playing like “big boys”, nights like Saturday will look less like an overcorrection and closer to a new normal.