I’m still having a hard time believing the Spurs lost Saturday night’s game.
I mean . . . they were up by 21 . . . in the 2nd half . . . at home . . . against the Bulls . . . how? Regardless of the progress shown by this group in recent games, this is a ridiculous result. If you’re up 21 at home against anyone in the league outside of the Warriors then you have to be able to finish the job. It’s not that complicated.
What a weird loss. The Dr. Jekyll first half was some of the most beautiful basketball this team has played all season. LaMarcus Aldridge was firing on all cylinders, the ball movement was resulting in great looks, and Marco Belinelli almost literally couldn’t do anything wrong. The Bulls are not a juggernaut on offense or anything, but they were still held in check by a disciplined and aggressive performance by the Spurs defense. Everything was easy. This was the type of game that the old Spurs used to play all the time. In control from wire to wire and never really breaking a sweat.
The Mr. Hyde 2nd half was a slow motion nightmare. It wasn’t really a case of the team dramatically careening off a cliff, but more of an inevitable descent into madness. The Bulls didn’t change their strategy or anything, the Spurs just couldn’t seem to replicate anything about their first half success. As the shots stopped bouncing their way on offense, all of a sudden the beautiful ball-movement fell by the wayside. Possessions stagnated and everyone on the court seemed like they couldn’t be bothered. Why should they be? After all, they had a double digit lead on one of the worst teams in the league! What could happen?
Little by little, the Bulls chipped away at that lead. The defense wasn’t bad, per se, but it felt unfocused. It was as if they couldn’t be bothered to worry about giving up a quick two points here and there because they just wanted to hurry up and get back to the other end of the floor and try to kick start the offense. Before you knew it, the Bulls had the deficit under 5 and it was very much a game.
By the time the the 3rd quarter ended, the Spurs were locked in a battle that they were unprepared to fight. I don’t think ‘sense of urgency’ is something that you can get back once you’ve decided to put it away for the night. Everything down the stretch was forced and strained and, frankly, they were lucky to even be in a position to tie the game back up on the final possession.
No two ways about it, this was a bad loss. It doesn’t erase the good that came before it, but it does serve as a wake up call. This team has a long way to go and is still frustratingly capable of showcasing the best and worst versions of themselves.
Sometimes they even do it on the same night.
- I think I really nailed the first part of this write up so, in honor of the Spurs’ performance, I think I’m going to go ahead and just mail in the 2nd part. I just want to warn you in advance so you don’t expect any particularly illuminating nuggets of wisdom from here on out.
- The loss was frustrating on a number of levels, but probably the worst part is that it robbed all of us the opportunity to marvel in the beauty of Marco Belinelli practically levitating up and down the court in the first half. He was showcasing every tool in his arsenal: off-balance threes, off-balance twos, shots where he looks like he was balanced when he started but then finishes in a full Warrior One yoga pose . . . it was a thing of beauty and I never wanted it to stop. It will be maybe a full month before I forgive Pop for not drawing up a play at the end of the game for him.
- If you really want to look for a bright side here, the Spurs did hold their 4th straight opponent under 100 points which . . . is something, I guess. There are signs of life on that end, but it was particularly distressing down the stretch when it seemed like the only person who could get in the way of the Bulls scoring were the Bulls themselves. The Spurs look like they are getting better at executing concepts and playing team defense, but they still don’t have one guy that you can stick on someone (say a piping hot Lauri Markkanen) who’ll just get a stop no matter what. I really like Dante Cunningham and what he brings to the table, but I think if you’re turning to him in a crisis then you’ve probably already lost. Sorry. I know this was supposed to be the bright side segment, but I’m doing my best to mail this part in.
- Ok, here’s another bright side attempt. Aldridge really does look like he’s figured something out. He’s being aggressive down low and racking up easy buckets which takes the pressure off him to hit every. single. jumper. His whole game looks a bit more relaxed now and that can only mean good things for the Spurs moving forward.
- Back to the bad stuff. I don’t have any evidence to back this up, but I saw some of the worst missed shots I’ve ever seen in a professional game. Both of these teams had guys tossing out shots that ricocheted off the side of the rim or were just complete airballs. It was bad. This score of this game was close, but this was a bad basketball game. At one point, Chicago took a three from over 27 feet, and it didn’t come within 18 inches of the basket. The final possession of the game (not counting the desperation buzzer heave, which was also terrible) was for Bryn Forbes, only he wound up in the corner, double clutching, and missed everything. What a dispiriting way to end things.