Wednesday night was pretty brutal for Spurs fans.
ESPN’s double header featured a Toronto-Philadelphia matchup in the early game, treating us to a chance at watching a fully armed and operational Kawhi Leonard assert his presence into the MVP race by dropping 36 points and stifling a very good Sixers team down the stretch. As much as I’m trying my level best to not care about what happened last year, sometimes it just hurts more than others. Kawhi is so dang good. He used to play for us and now he plays for them and it’s just a huge bummer that’s hard to ignore. I’m dreading January 3rd.
As the Raptors game ended, the broadcast cut out to Los Angeles to a feed of LaMarcus getting some shots up before the game and you couldn’t help but wonder, which Spurs team was going to show up tonight? The lifeless bunch that was blown out by the Jazz on Tuesday or the guys who couldn’t miss a shot against the Blazers on Sunday?
Turns out, the Spurs refused to play my game and sort of split the difference. They stayed competitive with the Lakers through most of the game, had bursts of offensive brilliance, stretches of decent defense, and ultimately succumbed to a 20 point 4th quarter outburst from the best player on the planet. There’s only so much to be done sometimes.
In spite of the loss, this was a much more encouraging effort from the Silver & Black. I think most of us honestly don’t mind if they lose games. That’s going to happen and, especially in this weird season, I think we’ve resigned ourselves to the idea that we’re going to be losing more than we’re used to. But they can’t make us keep sitting through many more 30 point losses. They just can’t. It’s too sad.
- In my write up of the Jazz game, I casually mentioned that Rudy Gay scored zero points over the course of 18 minutes for no other reason than I thought people should know about it. Is it any coincidence that the very next night he goes out and drops a cool 31? I don’t think so. Hey, Pop, I’m on LinkedIn if you want to get in touch.
- Rudy’s 3rd quarter was legitimately incredible. He had 16 points and seemed like he was in control of every facet of his game. Of all the fun things to witness in basketball, watching a pure scorer catch fire and suddenly become untouchable is maybe the most purely entertaining. The shots start falling and then logic and reason leave the room as confidence grows. Then they get more aggressive and start trying shots they wouldn’t otherwise. I love it so much (I loved it a little less when LeBron did his version of it in the 4th, but still). As we saw while the Spurs were stretching their lead out to 9 in the 3rd, the Spurs are an entirely different team when Rudy Gay is on his game.
- I’m tired of talking about it because it’s a version of the same thing every night, but it’s still shocking how bad the defense continues to be. I know scoring rates are going up all around the league, but every single night it feels like our opponents are putting up something like 120 or 130 points. That’s video game stuff. CharlieOCharles did a great write up yesterday explaining how the Spurs are giving up entirely too many open threes and, guess what, that problem reared it’s head again Wednesday night. The Lakers hit 14 of their 39 attempts and, although that’s not exactly a stellar percentage, I learned just enough math in grade school to know that 42 relatively easy points is a pretty big amount of points to just leave laying around like that.
- Rudy wasn’t the only one feeling it in this game. DeMar came alive in the 2nd half as well and finished the game with 32 in a blatant attempt to steal the spotlight from his friend. Down the stretch he was even holding his own against LeBron there for a a little bit. I hope we all learn and grow from this season and come back next year as a better basketball entity, etc. etc. In the meantime though, I think I’m really going to lean into my base instincts and just encourage DeMar to try and, like, win the scoring title or something. Hey bud, go average 38 points a game and we’ll ignore everything else. It’ll be fun!
- Aldridge quietly looked pretty good tonight too. A lot of the Spurs did. We would’ve gotten away with it if it weren’t for that meddling LeBron kid.
- Brandon Ingram left early in the game with an injury sustained on a play that was eerily similar to Zaza sniping Kawhi’s ankle in the playoffs. I don’t think LaMarcus was trying to hurt Ingram really, but it still gave me white hot flashbacks to sitting on my couch with a 1000 yard stare as the Warriors began chipping away at the Spurs lead and....actually, you know what I changed my mind. I don’t want to talk about it.
- He only had 2 points, but Derrick White orchestrated my favorite Spurs play of the evening. Bringing the ball up the court in the 2nd quarter, he subtly turned and drew the defense towards towards him with a little burst to his left leaving just enough space for Marco to dart behind the defenders from the wing. White then slipped it through for a pretty little reverse layup. It’s the type of play that you wish the Spurs could run almost every time down the court.