It sometimes doesn’t feel like we’re even watching the same team that was getting run out of the gym against the Rockets two weeks ago. That was a sullen crew. Devoid of inspiration and ideas, those Spurs drifted around the court barely even participating in the events in front of them.
These Spurs? There’s a lot of smiles on their faces. The guys on the court Thursday night were doing that fun thing where they refuse to miss shots. Instead of taking mid-range jumpers as a last resort, they came naturally within the flow of the offense. The ball whipped around the perimeter until people got open, or it was forced inside with a purpose to take advantage of a mismatch. They were flying around on defense, too. They still maybe don’t quite know what they’re doing down there, but they’re trying right now, and that sure makes a difference. I mean, holding three straight opponents under 100 points in 2018 practically makes them superheroes.
Again, it’s hard to reconcile that these are the same guys. Maybe the coaches have made some adjustments that are coming to fruition, or maybe simply being home for an extended spell has re-energized everyone. Maybe they’re all just relieved the Pop looks like he’s growing his beard back. I’m willing to believe anything as long as it works.
It’s still unclear whether this momentum is sustainable or not. We could just as easily be sitting here two weeks from now talking about how the Spurs have regressed again defensively, or the offense has stagnated, or some other calamity that I don’t have the energy to dream up right now. The narrative in this league is a cruel master and it will flip on you as soon as you think you have a handle on it.
But at least for the moment, life is good. The schedule gods handed the Spurs an exhausted Clippers team Thursday night and the Spurs didn’t ask questions. They just took care of business.
I like this version of the Spurs, and I sure do hope they stick around for a while.
- LaMarcus Aldridge was great tonight, scoring 27 points on 12-14 shooting and repeatedly taking advantage of the Clippers inside. I think LaMarcus sometimes becomes enamored with the fact that he’s “known” for his mid-range jump shot. He has such a strong desire to really get it going in games that he maybe focuses too much on it. He’ll linger out in his favorite spots instead of establishing himself down low and just getting easy buckets. Because of that, it’s fun to watch him seemingly remember that he’s huge every once in a while, you know? At least, it’s fun in the abstract. When I’m scaring my dog every four minutes by yelling, “GET IN THE POST, LAMARCUS!” it’s maybe not as cool.
- It’s comforting to know that the Spurs can win without DeMar DeRozan having to go ballistic every night. When the Spurs were rattling off a few wins to start the season, it sometimes felt like the offense was leaning so hard on his play-making abilities that it was bound to collapse in on itself at some point, and that’s exactly what it did. The wins were nice, sure, but they were a little bit of fools gold. During this recent stretch, the offense has appeared to flow through him as opposed to around him. He’s such a threat that his mere presence creates a gravitational pull that allows for guys like Rudy Gay to casually go off for 21 points. He lead the team in assists Thursday and, even though he only scored 14 points, he was always integral to what was happening on that end of the floor. It feels healthy that the Spurs best offensive player can only score 14 and the team can still put up 125.
- Hey speaking of DeMar going ballistic, how about that technical he got at the end of the 1st half? That was really something, huh? He’s generally so mild mannered on the court and watching him get steadily more frustrated with the refs was kind of thrilling in it’s own way. He was all ready to deploy his ‘draw contact and get to the line’ strategy early on and the refs just were not having it. Sometimes you just don’t get the calls, and I think DeMar knows that, but as the 2nd quarter went on it did seem like the Clippers defenders were emboldened to the point where he was just getting beat up every time he went in the lane. Right after he finally did get that tech, he went right back into the lane and was hacked again. At first, I’m pretty sure he didn’t hear the whistle and I literally thought he might try and fight the ref. Whatever you do, do NOT get in between DeMar and his free throws.
- MARCO WATCH: Our favorite Italian continued his war on the concept of traditional shooting form. Near the end of the first, he came around a screen and took a three that started out looking super normal and then somehow finished with him starfishing and almost falling to the floor. The next time he got the ball he did the same thing and drew a foul from Patrick Beverley. This earned him three shots at the line and also generated this exchange between the refs, Beverly, and Doc Rivers:
Clippers complaining about Marco Belinelli kicking his leg to draw a foul on that 3. "Every time, he kicks his leg," says Patrick Beverly. Doc tells refs: "And you gotta know that."— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) December 14, 2018
Listen here Doc, if I have my say, the whole world is going to know about his wonderful leg kicks. Stay beautiful, Marco. Don’t ever let anyone tell you how to be you.
- I’m not much of a sneaker-head or anything, but I was really feeling Rudy’s shoes tonight. They were mostly grey with little Fiesta color accents and they looked extremely fly (they were also Nikes and, I’m like semi-sure that he started the season as a Puma guy so...not sure what happened with that). A couple of the Spurs, particularly DeMar and Patty Mills, have been playing around with using their kicks as a palate for bringing the Fiesta colors into the fold and I really love it, especially since Management still REFUSES to give in to our demands and let the team wear Fiesta anywhere else on the uniform.