It’s impossible to know what the future holds for this Spurs team. Will they be able to keep up their two-decade-long steak of playoffs appearances? Could they possibly emerge as a real contender in the West? It’s just too early to know. It’s even too early to make a guess.
If these are the goals they’re trying to achieve, then games like this have to become the norm. I’m not saying they need to win every game by 30, but they need to make easy work of teams like the Suns. Young teams. Teams missing their best players. These games are a gift and the way the Western Conference playoff race is shaping up, it’s hard to look down the schedule and pick out too many gifts at the moment.
The Spurs now sit at 5-2 on the season, which is great. However, there’s a Sliding Doors version of this season where things aren’t quite as rosy. Before tonight, each win the Spurs had logged came down to the wire. A couple of made LeBron James free throws here, a Minnesota Timberwolves team not going through an existential crisis there, and all of a sudden maybe the Spurs are hanging out with the dregs of the 1 win teams like the Rockets and the Wizards. We’re seeing a few more “I Know We Said Last Year Was the End of the Spurs, but Actually Maybe This is the End of the Spurs” articles. There was Woj on Zach Lowe’s podcast talking about how DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge’s styles just weren’t meshing and how he’d heard chatter around the league about teams reaching out to see if anyone is on the block. Things could be pretty grim!
Obviously, this isn’t what’s happened and the Spurs have actually turned into a bit of a feel good story so far. But their margin for error has been pretty thin. Teams that look to be playoff locks were beating the Spurs handily and fringe teams were taking them to the wire. Those aren’t exactly promising trends and, frankly, beating the brakes off the lowly Phoenix Suns doesn’t necessarily put that particular narrative to bed.
But blowing out the teams you’re supposed to blow out is a good start, and the Spurs need to make it a habit.
- DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge were absurdly efficient, missing only 5 shots between the two of them and out-classing the porous Suns defense almost from the get go. DeRozan was his usual self, but it was great to see Aldridge really get into a rhythm after having a rough couple nights shooting-wise to start the season. In the 3rd quarter he seemed to take a particular pleasure in tutoring Phoenix rookie Deandre Ayton in the multitude of ways it’s possible to get buckets in the post. When both LMA and DmDr have it going, it really opens up a lot of doors for the offense. Not that they’ve needed too much help with that this season.
- A number of people pointed it out on twitter Wednesday night, but Aldridge and DeRozan were apparently leading the league in minutes played heading into this game. Among the many weird Spurs things happening this year, go ahead and add our two star players getting excessive amounts of playing time to the top of the list. I’m sure this will taper off as the season grinds along and Pop feels like everyone, especially DeRozan, have had time to properly gel in the system, but boy was it nice to see them get to take a seat for the whole 4th quarter tonight.
- Rudy Gay continues to be the . . . hottest three point shooter in the league? He currently sits at the top of the NBA in three point percentage at .667. That’s a cool 11 spots ahead of some guy named Steph Curry. Has Steph taken 81 more attempts than Rudy? IRRELEVANT! The point is that Gay has developed into a very nice offensive weapon for the Spurs, and with the way the offense is shaping up this season, the chances of him having a ton of wide open, easy three point opportunities at his disposal are pretty high. If he can continue to shoot for a relatively high percentage from out there then we just might have a very exciting development on our hands.
- For the most part, the defense was pretty good Wednesday night. They even held a team under 100 points for the first time all season! We should hang a banner or something. Now, this was a team missing their offensive centerpiece in Devin Booker, so holding the Suns in check should definitely be a routine affair. Still, we should take a small moment to celebrate incremental bits of progress when we do happen to see them. This is group of players and coaches that are always going to be putting in work behind the scenes when we’re not there to witness it. Progress isn’t always going to look like something we can see on the telecast but, hey, tonight looked an awful lot like progress. I’ll take it.
- It’s easy to take someone like Pau Gasol for granted these days. I know I do. He comes off the bench, makes a few plays, and quietly goes about his business. But every once in a while he’ll do something, and it just hits me like a lightning bolt that he’s probably one of the best big men to ever play the game and we have the luxury of watching him play here in the twilight of his great career. He’s never been a defensive savant or anything, but he’s sneakily been pretty solid anchoring our second units rotations and protecting the rim. He’s particularly good and sagging off on pick and rolls just enough to where opposing players think they can sneak a lob dunk over his head. He doesn’t even jump usually. He just stays in position, sticks up his arms, and disrupts the whole enterprise. He did it to DeAndre Jordan a few times last game and he did it to Deandre Ayton tonight. Maybe he’s just secretly holding a grudge against dudes named Deandre.
- One more quick Pau thing, look at these passes! He’s like a tall, Spanish Ginobili! That give and go with Belinelli in particular is such a treat that I want to put it on a loop, frame it, and hang it in my living room.