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What we learned from the Spurs loss to the Clippers

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The Spurs looked better but couldn’t get the win

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The final stretch of this game was maddening because, for a second there, it really seemed like the Spurs could pull it off. They fought their way back from 14 down in the 2nd quarter and 10 in the 4th. There were multiple times where it would’ve been easy for them to throw in the towel and move on, but they didn’t. It was honestly a pretty impressive display of fortitude and it put the team in a position where, with 27 seconds left, it was a one possession game and they had the ball. All the hard work had paid off and now it was time to finish the job.

They didn’t even get a shot off.

I don’t know. After two disappointing losses in a row, this performance was either a positive indication that things are getting better or confirmation that, in spite of their best efforts, things might be getting worse. It sort of depends on what side of the bed you woke up on.

On his podcast Wednesday, Espn’s Zach Lowe started off his analysis of the Spurs season so far by saying, “I have no idea what the Spurs are, no matter how many times I watch them, I have zero idea.” We should honestly put that quote as the subhead for every article we post on this website for the foreseeable future because it really cuts to the core of how weird this team is.

The likely truth is that the guys in uniform don’t quite know who they are yet either and that uncertainty is showing up on the court. There are a lot of young guys trying to learn the ropes of an NBA season and there are a lot of veteran guys trying to adjust to different ways of doing things. They are a very strange brew and it’s unreasonable to assume that they would have everything ironed out 14 games into the season, so we’re going to have to be patient.

If that possession with DeMar had gone differently, if he had been able to drive down the baseline, draw some defenders and find Forbes open for a game tying three at the elbow, then maybe we would all feel a little better about the direction the Spurs were heading in. Maybe they would’ve gone to overtime and maybe they would’ve pulled out a win. It wouldn’t really have changed things though. The game was still the game and the Spurs are still trying to work things out.

That being said, if the Spurs could manage to log a win here pretty soon I’d really appreciate it.

Takeaways:

  • Until it stops being true, I might just start having to copy and paste the stat about how the Spurs have only won one game this year in which LaMarcus Aldridge has scored less than 20 points. We knew this before the season, but the biggest challenge facing the Spurs coaching staff right now is figuring out a way for DeRozan and Aldridge to both have big offensive nights. They tried feeding Aldridge the ball a lot early to get him going, but that’s not going to be the answer long term. Those two can’t just come down the court and alternate possessions. There has to be a flow to the offense and, even when the offense does roar to life like it did at times in this game, Aldridge continues to look more like a fancy utility part instead of a key cog in the machine. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that this is the most important problem facing the Spurs right now and whether or not they can fix it has implications far beyond this current season.
  • The killer 4th quarter turnover aside, DeMar was amazing tonight. He really just makes offense out of nothing by probing the defense, finding holes and generally creating chaos for the other team. I hate that that it seems to be happening more an more recently, but it is sort of exhilarating when the Spurs start to fall behind and he puts on his action movie glasses, says a cool catchphrase, and just takes the team on his motorcycle and rides them out through the raging inferno to safety. I worry about a lot of things with this Spurs team, but it’s comforting that we have at least one constant. DeMar DeRozan is going to get buckets or die trying.
  • Was there any doubt when the ball went to Lou Williams with the game tied in the fourth that he was going to drain it? Everyone in the building knew exactly how that play was going to turn out and it was still terrible to watch. Poor Bryn Forbes actually did a decent job on him, doing everything in his power to stop the inevitable other than magically growing his arms out a foot longer. Lou Williams is a lot of fun and I’m excited to watch him more when he’s not dumping cold water on the hopes of my favorite team
  • I was in attendance for this game and this is going to sound crazy, but I’m 95% sure the outcome may have been lost because of a Chick-Fil-A promotion. The Clippers do this thing where if an opposing player misses two consecutive free throws in the 4th quarter then everyone in attendance get’s a free Chick-Fil-A sandwich. In spite of this being a pretty amazing game, the home crowd had honestly been fairly lukewarm the whole night. The cheers were pretty mellow and no one seemed particularly locked in to what was happening on the court. Then they announced this stupid promotion and, I promise you, it was like someone lit a fire. With about eight minutes left, DeMar went to the foul line and I was feeling pretty confidant because he’s easily the best free throw shooter on the team, but the crowd was in a frenzy. They have the Chick-Fil-A cow mascots out on the baseline, the fans are slamming away with their blue thunder sticks, and people are just going wild. I know this sounds silly, but this chaotic change in tone was legitimately pretty unsettling. DeMar bricked the first free throw. Now all of a sudden it’s my turn to sweat. No way he misses two right? The noise is building and it’s as loud as it’s been all night. I’m nervous but confidant because, again, this is DeMar’s specialty and he’s been on fire. I say to myself, “The city of Los Angeles is going to have to buy it’s own chicken sandwiches tomorrow.” Then his shot clangs of the side of the rim and the place just erupts. I thought they were going to drop streamers or something. From that moment on, it felt like a playoff atmosphere inside the Staples Center. People were loud and standing up and engaged with the action, almost like someone had flipped a switch. It was crazy. Those free throws would’ve made it a one possession game and, more importantly, ruined the home crowd’s chances for a free lunch. It’s easy to focus on DeMar’s turnover in the final seconds, but these foul shots were probably the biggest missed opportunity to really put a dagger in the hearts of the Clippers and their fans. Extremely disappointing stuff.