Well, now I’m even more angry about that Bulls game.
It’s almost eerie how much the Spurs Monday night row with the Sixers mirrored their ill-fated matchup with the Bulls from Saturday. Once again, they found themselves sitting on a large lead in the 2nd half of the game, only this time they had to put away one of the league’s contenders instead of one of it’s tankers. I was uneasy. Were you uneasy? I was very uneasy.
It seemed highly improbable that the Spurs could blow consecutive 20 point leads but, then again, it wasn’t very likely that they would blow one against Chicago in the first place. We’re all still trying to figure out what this Spurs team is and isn’t capable of — so Monday night became a test of sorts. Did this team have the ability to dig deep and erase the very fresh memory of a frustrating and humiliating loss? Would they be able to learn from their mistakes the other night and stay focused for a full 48 minutes?
During the 3rd quarter, the Sixers went on a bit of a mini-run. The visitors hit a a few threes and a couple of San Antonio’s shots didn’t drop. All of a sudden the lead of 29 points that the Spurs had built out had dwindled down to an even 20. In a normal world, that’s nothing too crazy, but the energy in the building got obviously tense. This was the test right here. The Spurs needed to stay calm and nip this thing in the bud. The whole point of having a giant lead is that you don’t need to panic just because the other team strings together 3 competent offensive possessions in a row, right?
The Spurs didn’t panic. They kept their defensive intensity up, they didn’t force things on offense and, sure enough, the Sixers ran out of momentum pretty quickly. The 4th quarter breezed by and the Spurs had secured their 16th win of the season. Easy as that.
This win makes the Bulls loss sting a little more. Had the Spurs been able to hold on against, and I can’t stress this enough, one of the worst teams in the league, then right now they would be sitting on six game win streak and a sweep of their home stand. They would’ve held their last 5 opponents under 100 points and everyone would be writing “Here come the Spurs!” takes instead of more “Here’s the real reason the Spurs are middling” takes. The world would be happier place is what I’m saying.
Maybe that’s for the best though. Those of us that are watching this team night in and night out can see them getting better. They’ve got their issues, sure, but little by little they look like they’re getting ironed out. LaMarcus is starting to find his way back into the fold. The defense is beginning to gel a little bit. The bench unit is developing into a group that can come in and change the dynamic of games. There’s real reasons for optimism in San Antonio right now and we shouldn’t need to tie a tidy little narrative bow on it to tell us so.
Blowing that big lead to the Bulls was awful, but maybe it was just another lesson this team needed to learn.
- We probably need to start talking about the fact the the Spurs are a defensive juggernaut now, right? I’m mostly joking, but it really is getting harder to ignore the fact that the Spurs are looking a lot better on that side of the ball. The margin for error is still very thin and, as you can see with what happened against Chicago, any lapse in concentration or intensity and the whole situation can fall apart in a hurry. However, this recent run of games has shown that this group of players is more than capable of being a good NBA defense. They don’t have a defensive specialist or a lockdown guy, but they do have a lot of really athletic dudes capable causing problems for opponents just through sheer effort. Also, everyone seems to be getting more comfortable with each other and the communication is getting better by the game. Guys are able to trust each other to be where they need to be. That’s such an abstract thing that doesn’t show up in the stat sheets, but it’s a tangible difference when watching them play recently. I’m sure there will still be games here and there where the other team goes off because there are a lot of potent offenses in the league, but this is the type of progress we were all clamoring for at the beginning of the season and I’m extremely grateful that it’s finally showed up.
- The trio of DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Rudy Gay all had over 20 points in this game and it remains a winning formula for the Spurs to have their best players play great on the offensive end. Pop is a genius. I was especially proud of LaMarcus for being able to return after getting into foul trouble and get back into the flow of the game. He stayed focused and didn’t shy away from being aggressive once he checked in. It’s been an impressive stretch of games for him and, hopefully, this starts to become the new normal.
- I can’t say enough good things about Davis Bertans. He looks so confidant in his game right now and it makes me absolutely giddy. It’s not just his three point shooting either, although that is certainly a welcome breath of fresh air. His off ball movement and passing have been steadily getting better and he’s even becoming sort of a monster on the glass too. Maybe “monster” is a stretch, but he’s been great at tracking down loose balls and keeping plays alive. The evolution of Davis from Three Point Novelty to Vital Contributor Off the Bench is in the running for the best story of the season for the Spurs.
- MARCO WATCH: The Sixers were the last team Marco played for, so I’m sure there was a lot of emotion for him coming into this game. He had a bit of quiet night though, only six points and no crazy shots. Yep. Nothing too weird. Just kidding, take a look at this step back three. As the defender rushes out to him in the corner, he half heartedly raises the ball into the air and weirdly sticks his right leg out which, to be fair, is a pretty accurate representation of his shooting form. The defender doesn’t totally bite though and now is just sanding all up in Marco’ s business. So, he takes the path of least resistance and decides to begin the process of maybe driving to the basket. This causes his man to fly back almost to the paint which seems to even takes Marco by surprise. Finally free to take the shot he wanted all along, our dude calmly collects himself and drains the corner three finishing, of course, on one leg. Eat your heart out, James Harden.