A friend of mine went to the game Wednesday night and, when I met up with her afterwards, I asked her how it was. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “well, they were good, and then they were bad, and then they were really good again.” If you want to save yourself a few minutes and skip the rest of this then I’ll totally understand because I don’t think I can sum it up much better than that.
Against the Nuggets on Wednesday, the Spurs showed electric flashes of the tantalizing team they’ve been recently. You know the one. They looked like a team that moves the ball around the court at high speed and attacks their opponents on defense in a sort of unrelenting swarm. They looked fast, they looked smart, and they looked dangerous. They opened the game locked in and they finished things off with one of the best stretches of play we’ve seen from them all year. When the Spurs play like this, it feels like they could beat anyone in the league.
Also against the Nuggets on Wednesday, the Spurs showed a few dispiriting dips in form here and there, almost as if to remind us not to get too far ahead of ourselves. For all the good we’ve seen out of the Spurs in the month of December, they are still a flawed group that’s learning how to play together. They have lapses in concentration and focus. They have moments where the look outmatched and flummoxed by certain lineups. The offense can be humming right along and then stall out just as quickly. You can see the coaching staff preaching consistency with their players, and you can tell that the guys on the court crave it just as much as we do watching at home. But consistency isn’t something that happens over night. The Spurs are going to have to earn it, and we’re probably going to have sweat out some nervy moments along the way with them, and that’s okay.
This is fun right now. We’re watching a group of guys start to realize just how good they can be. We’re seeing guys like Bryn Forbes gaining the confidence to hit a step back three and then rapturously howl along with the fans after the other team is forced to call timeout. We’re seeing Jakob Poeltl realize that he’s super athletic and can just catch a ball on the break and fly up for a two handed slam. We’re seeing Derrick White stealing the ball from whoever he wants and running the break like a seasoned vet.
For the longest time, Spurs fans have been blessed with a core group that really knew itself. Tim and Manu and Tony, along with Gregg Popovich and his staff, were as close to a basketball metronome as you could get. Year-in and year-out, they took the floor and knew what they needed to do to win. Guys came into the system and fell in line. It was great and it led to a lot of victories. It was also a little boring at times.
What we have now is new and different. This is a team that’s learning, that’s finding out who it is. That’s sort of invigorating, isn’t it? Look at the standings. Eight games separate 1st place and 14th. There’s no need to worry about making the playoffs really because the truth is that we’re already in them. Every single game we play is important right now, and it’s probably going to stay that way the rest of the season. The AT&T Center came alive during that 4th quarter run Wednesday night in a way that it hasn’t for a regular season game in quite a while. I loved the Old Spurs because they rendered the regular season almost an afterthought with their ruthless efficiency. I might love these New Spurs because they are making the regular season fun again.
The Spurs are good and the Spurs are bad.
The Spurs are really good.
- Forbes is very strong. He’s obviously a very good shooter and that’s an important part of his game, but I’m becoming more and more impressed with the way that he finishes at the rim. He’s doesn’t throw down cool dunks or anything, but he does use his body effectively to create contact and finish. It’s almost more impressive than a dunk. (Almost. dunks are sweet.) Multiple times last night, as the Spurs were bringing the ball down the court, someone would shoot it up to Bryn on the wing, and he would catch it in stride and just sprint toward the basket. His speed creates just enough chaos to where the defense has to brazenly react to him, and he’s in the air shooting before they can even get set. The coaches have talked about how much work he put in in the weight room this offseason, and it’s super fun to see that start to pay off on the court.
- My favorite part of games right now are when the Spurs trot out their weird small ball lineups. Some combination of DeMar DeRozan, Forbes, Marco Belinelli, White, Davis Bertans, Patty Mills and Poeltl. It just seems feisty. These lineups know they can’t just sit around and let the game come to them, so they get moving on both ends of the court. They attack and swarm on defense, and then they get out on the break quickly and fly towards the basket or hit a transition three. It creates a little energy and adds a sense of urgency to the team whenever they look like they’ve maybe run out of ideas and things are going south. Also, we sort of got a look at what happens when the Spurs try and go big tonight and . . . it’s not ideal.
- DeMar somehow had a quiet 30 point night. It’s so impressive how his scoring almost becomes background noise for this team when it’s operating at peak efficiency. Everything the Spurs do well comes back to him serving as a creator, both for himself and others. I could probably write some version of this same paragraph every single game and it wouldn’t be that different. He’s the pulse of this team. In lieu of anything else insightful to say, just look at how pretty this spin move is.
- MARCO WATCH: Marco Belinelli had a couple cool highlights in this game. He had a nice three near the end of the 1st, he had a few good assists, and he even had an incredible little give-and-go with Poeltl that resulted in, of course, a weird sideways fade-away three that he nailed while falling out of bounds. This is all well and good, but these are not the plays I want to talk about. I want to talk about the three he hit at the 6:24 mark of the 4th quarter because I think it gets at the particular weirdness of Marco’s game that seems to delight me so much. The Spurs were in the middle of making their run at this point and things were going great. DeMar makes a nice steal and everyone breaks down the court. He weaves into the middle and throws it over to Derrick. Derrick then turns around and tosses it off to Beli at the wing for a wide open triple. This is a shot that Marco has probably taken thousands of times over the course of his very long NBA Career. It’s an in-rhythm transition three without a soul in sight. This should be absolutely money 9 times out of 10. So tell me, why why why why why do you think Marco ends up way the heck up by the basket by the time the ball falls through hoop? It’s so silly. No one in the world covers more ground after the shot than this dude, and you know what? It really works for me.