Sooner or later, the Spurs were bound to get burned by their weird tendency to not get into rhythm until about the seven minute mark of the first quarter. The Spurs started this game missing most of their shots and continued that trend for the duration. That’s just not going to work.
I’ve always felt a certain disdain for teams that seemed like they were biding their time during the regular season, confident that come playoff time they would be able to flip a switch and be good when they needed to be. Think the early ‘00s Lakers or some of those 2nd era Cleveland LeBron teams or even this year’s Warriors. There is just an infuriating amount of arrogance at play with that strategy which I find entirely annoying. This annoyance is often exacerbated by the fact that those teams are usually right. They could just flip the switch and everything, for the most part, was fine. I would find myself watching them and begging for some type of comeuppance to smack them across the face and teach them the error of their ways and those pleas usually went unanswered.
These Spurs are not one of those teams. They are not arrogantly drifting through the season, confidant in their position in the league and waiting for when the games count. They are locked in a battle with pretty much the entire Western conference for playoff spots and they seem very aware that one little losing streak could drop them back down into the dregs of the standings. Not even a big one. As it stands right now, if the Spurs drop their next 3 games, they are out of the playoff picture before we’ve had time to do a spit take.
I know what you’re thinking. It feels like the Spurs have been riding high for a more than a month now and that’s because, by all accounts, they really have. They’ve been one of the best teams in the league recently and coming into this matchup they were carrying a 5 game win streak. It was almost enough to where we could all let our guards down just a little bit and start thinking about what comes next. Now, all of a sudden, these two upcoming games against the Thunder feel sort of do or die and that’s extremely disorienting.
Wasn’t everything going so well just a second ago?
That’s what made this performance against the Grizzlies so frustrating. It isn’t the end of the world or anything, but I’d be lying if I were to say it wasn’t a bit deflating. It’s a stark reminder of just how fragile this whole operation is. The Spurs had time for exactly one swoon this year and they already had it. In this type of competitive climate, one more swoon might be enough to make it all collapse around our heads. The harsh reality is that, while they don’t have to be perfect from here on out, they sort of have to get close. That’s a lot pressure on these guys and it’s going to be there the rest of the season. We’re not even at the All-Star break yet!
It would be fair to say that I’m being dramatic about all this. It’s one game, Rudy was out, we were due for a stinker, etc, etc. I know this. I understand this. It’s entirely possible that we go out and sweep OKC this weekend and the Narrative will continue marching on unabted. All I’m trying to emphasize is that...well, there’s no version of this season where each game isn’t crucial. If every win is huge then every loss is huge too. That’s sort of the deal.
The Spurs were never going to be perfect the rest of the way and they were about as far away from perfect as they could be Wednesday night. I’m not advocating that any Spurs fans start panicking or anything. In fact, I could probably stand to calm down a little myself. I just think it would be foolish to not acknowledge how precariously this team is tip toeing along the edge of the abyss at the moment.
Know that it’s there but, whatever you do, don’t look down.
- Everyone looked off in this game. At various points LaMarcus looked like he might be heating up and then it was Patty’s turn to hit a few threes and then it looked like Bryn Forbes might shoot us back into it. All of these options petered out pretty quickly. The offense never got into a rhythm and every point felt like it was coming against the flow of the game. A contested mid-range here or a three taken early in the shot clock there. The guys just didn’t have the magic tonight.
- The Spurs have shown that they can adjust lineup wise with one of their key players out of the lineup, like Rudy Gay was in this one. However, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the rotations get fully out of whack when there is more than one big disruption. Derrick White was in foul trouble from the get go and that problem got worse as the night went on. Similarly, NOTED HOTHEAD Davis Bertans picked up a technical foul early and was eventually tossed from the game. On their own, these don’t seem like big deals, but combined it lead to a lot of weird lineups and heavy minutes for guys like Pau Gasol and Dante Cunnigham, decent players who nevertheless have not been big factors in the Spurs recent run of success. I love Marco Belinelli as much as anyone, but if he’s logging 29 minutes for the Spurs then something’s probably gone wrong.
- A fun thing I learned tonight via Paul Garcia over at Project Spurs, the last Spurs player to be ejected from a game was not Tim Duncan. It was not Manu Ginobili. It happened in 2016 during a game against the Milwaukee Bucks and it was as hilarious then as it was in Memphis Wednesday night. Davis “bad to the bone” Bertans got into a heated scuffle with Michael Beasley that fateful night and was sent packing. After getting tossed again here against the Grizzlies, I think we’re left with no choice but to wonder...is Davis our enforcer? Is he the the rough and tumble attitude this team has needed all along? I think that he is and I couldn’t be happier about it. We’ve come a long way since Pop notoriously begged his bench to show him “some nasty” and I can’t imagine a nastier dude than Davis barging in through a side door and taking up the mantle. Dennis Rodman, Stephen Jackson....Davis Bertans. Has a nice ring to it.
- Marco Watch: Marco actually played a pretty normal and sensible game, which honestly should be the BIGGEST clue that something was off about the Spurs tonight. He had 14 points and was making pretty standard little shots here and there. At one point he made an uncontested baseline mid-range jumper and didn’t fall to the floor or kick his leg out or anything. It almost made me sick. He did have one pretty cool three where he kind of stopped, looked down at a defender on the floor, and then drained it. But you know what? I don’t think we deserve to talk about Marco’s greatness after that game. This was not a fun game and we don’t deserve fun things. Instead, what we’re going to do is bask in the glory of this fast break. Coming off a miss, Davis shoots the ball up the court to Patty who sprints towards the foul line and stops on a dime. Marco, sensing an opportunity to do something weird, swoops around from behind and takes a hand off. He then charges toward the hoop, easily beating his defender and fearlessly attacking Marc Gasol at the rim. As Gasol rises up to challenge him, Marco simply glides right under his outstretched arms like a bird. He surfaces on the other side with a clear opening to the hoop and instead of casually dropping it in he.......overshoots everything by about 4 feet. Seems about right.