Hello darkness, my old friend.
After playing what amounts to a perfect game Sunday night against Portland, the Spurs turned around and did the opposite of that against the Jazz on Tuesday. They shot 49% from the field and 31% from beyond the arc. The defense, after doing a great job of holding Donovan Mitchell to a missed floater on their first possession, took the rest of the night off. Utah lead by as many as 37 points and won by 34.
Probably the most disturbing aspect of this performance was how familiar it all felt. The Spurs got behind by double digits almost immediately and that old instinct in my head that used to say, “don’t stress, they just need to go on a run” never kicked in. I knew they were done. This team doesn’t have the tools to “just go on a run.” The defense isn’t capable of getting the stops needed and the offense, though potent at times, can’t handle the kind of stress a desperate situation like that calls for. As soon as they fall behind, you can see the guys on the court start forcing the issue on offense because they know they need to stop the bleeding. They take rushed shots, they take ill-advised threes. The mistakes start piling up and, meanwhile, they still can’t get a stop on the other end ... so nothing matters anyway.
Again, I don’t think anyone is questioning this team’s heart or desire to win. I don’t think Pop watches the tape and says to his staff, “Hmm, unlucky. We’ll get ‘em next time.” I know they’re working on this and trying to figure out a way to turn things around, but the West is just so brutal and the Spurs don’t have any margin for error. Everyone can beat you on any given night and right now, more often than not, the Spurs have been on the losing end of that equation.
The season is long, but it’s getting shorter by the day.
- If you haven’t had enough Spurs induced existential dread already, please go check out Jesus Gomez’s piece about how the Spurs are fundamentally flawed. It doesn’t make anything better but it always helps when things make more sense.
- Also, go read Tom Petrini’s profile on Lonnie Walker IV getting back in the action. The Spurs might be a black hole of despair right now, but Lonnie is a bright ray of sunshine and I honestly can’t wait to see him on the team so we can all start day dreaming about him and Dejounte Murray doing cool stuff next year.
- If you can’t tell, I’m stalling a little bit here because the actual game....hoo boy, the actual game sort of gave me a stomach ache.
- Jakob Poeltl! He was good! My guy had a career high 20 points in this game and continued his steady march towards becoming something between an evolutionary David Lee and a poor man’s Pau Gasol. Amidst all the carnage, I really do love watching him grow more confident in the offense game by game. He’s got excellent touch around the rim and is developing pretty decent pick & roll chemistry with every one. He works his butt off on the boards and tries his best to be in the right spot on defense (although, with everything falling apart on that end it’s sort of hard to properly evaluate him there, but I’m choosing to give him the benefit of the doubt because ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ). If Spurs games continue in this fashion, then watch out in case the What We Learned space to starts to morph into the Why We Should Tear It Down and Rebuild Around My Close Personal Friend Jakob space.
- LaMarcus hit a nice jumper from the the top of the key for the Spurs first bucket of the game and, truthfully, I thought we were about to be in for a great night. Obviously this didn’t hold up, but it’s clear that the Spurs have realized how important it is to get LaMarcus going early so, at the very least, it’s nice to see them employing that strategy right now. Jeff McDonald had a nice write up the other day in the Express News about how much Aldridge has become the true litmus test for the Spurs success this season.
- Rudy Gay scored zero points over his 18 minutes of play tonight. That’s not really helpful information, but it’s something that it’s probably best that we’re aware of.
- At one point during the game, a bunch of NBA twitter people started talking about the Suns who happened to be losing 46-13 in the 2nd quarter to the Kings. It thought to myself, “hey, at least we’re not the Suns though.” Then I remembered that the Spurs are proud members of the Have Been Beaten by the Suns Recently club. Then I remembered that the Suns are the only team below us in the Western Conference standings. Next thing I knew, the games were over. The Suns only lost by 17. The Spurs lost by 34.