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What we learned from the Spurs win over the Suns

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San Antonio avenges their worst loss of the season by taking care of business at home against Phoenix

NBA: Phoenix Suns at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

This was the definition of a no-win situation.

Win a game against the worst team in the league (one that’s missing two of its best players, no less) and no one cares. It’s what you’re supposed to do. Lose against them? Well, now you’ve got a problem on your hands.

The Spurs 20-point loss to the Suns back in November came near the beginning of a pretty rough stretch. It seemed the surest sign yet that all was not right in Spursland and that we were all in for a bit of a bumpy ride this season. The Spurs went on to lose 8 of their next 12 games and found themselves in an unfamiliar position near the bottom of the league’s standings. Y’all, it was a swoon. The Spurs were swooning.

Heading into their rematch with the Suns Tuesday night, things have seemed to level out a bit. Hot off the heels of two nice wins, it felt like the Spurs were, at the very least, doing their best to project the air of a grizzled airline captain reassuring his passengers about a bumpy stretch. “Sorry ladies and gentlemen, just a few pockets of turbulence back there, nothing to worry about. We will be keeping the fasten seat belts light on for the remainder of the journey, but our flight attendants have been cleared to resume our complimentary beverage service.”

Have things really stabilized for the Spurs? It’s just insanely too soon to say. All we can do is look at what’s in front of us though, and the last three games have certainly looked better. In spite of the downright medieval approach the Spurs have taken to deploying a modern NBA offense, they’ve still managed to pretty consistently produce game after game on that end. The offense maybe isn’t the best in the league, but it’s never really been the problem. The defense has...shown signs of improvement? There’s endless amounts of work still to be done there, but if you squint you can start to see them peeking around the corner towards starting to figure it out. At the very least, they’ve now held two consecutive opponents under 100 points, and that’s not nothing.

When the Spurs lost by 20 points to the worst team in the league a month ago, it was clear that they had a problem. On Tuesday night they beat that same team by 25. It would be folly to read too much into this win, but it would be just as foolish not to recognize it for what it is.

Progress.

Takeaways:

  • All these people who are calling Gregg Popovich a philistine for being averse to the three-point shot continue to miss the larger point that the Spurs personnel just isn’t conducive to being a high volume three-point team. If Steph Curry and Klay Thompson were on the roster, I doubt Pop would be sitting them down in the locker room, drawing up mid-range jump shot plays, and threatening to send them to bed with no dessert if they take one more dang three. He’s working with what’s available to him. The Spurs offense right now requires their guys not named DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge to be hyper efficient from beyond the arc and that’s a really tough margin of error to work with, but when it does work it looks really good. They shot 62% from 3 in this game, making 13 of their 21 attempts. The offense provides open looks to guys like Patty Mills, Bryn Forbes, Davis Bertans, and Dante Cunningham all the time. They just have to knock them down. Sounds simple enough, right?
  • Speaking of Bertans, our favorite Latvian three-point specialist missed his 2nd consecutive game in order to be with his wife, who just gave birth to their first child. This is absolutely the right choice for him and I hope he takes as much time as he needs to be with his new daughter. Congratulations, Davis! I also can’t wait to get him back out on the court. His performance in the Lakers game felt like it had all the makings of being a turning point for him. When he’s confident and his shot is falling, he adds an extra dimension to the Spurs offense that could be invaluable this season. Honestly, I just miss seeing him out there.
  • A hearty round of applause for Forbes, who is great and continues to, night after night, prove that I was dumb for ever doubting him. 24 points and 11 rebounds, even against the lowly Suns, is still pretty awesome.
  • MARCO WATCH: at the end of the 3rd quarter, Marco Belinelli took this totally normal looking shot as the clock ran out and drained it. Honestly, I think we should just have him on the floor at the end of close games no matter what because he’s clearly built himself into an ELITE, absurd shot-taker, and that kind of asset is invaluable in crunch time.