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What we learned from the Spurs win over the Thunder

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The Spurs bounce back from an ugly loss by outlasting the Thunder in one of the most exciting games of the season.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

One night after only scoring 86 points in Memphis, this Spurs team went ahead and dropped 130 in regulation against the best defense in the league. Like . . . what are we even doing here? Why even try to understand?

Thursday night was about as fun as regular season basketball gets, which makes it even more annoying that I spent pretty much the entire time being haunted by the ghost of the game that came before it. I just couldn’t reconcile how poorly these exact same players had played 24 hours earlier. Three after three, 14 in a row, just waltzing through the net while Kevin Harlen, Reggie Milller, and a fired up AT&T Center just absolutely lost their minds. Meanwhile all I wanted to do was shout “WHERE WERE ALL OF YOU WHEN WE MISSED 53 SHOTS LAST NIGHT?”

Make no mistake, I’m the weird one. This was a joyous occasion and, hopefully, proof that the Memphis nightmare was the aberration and not this double OT thriller. The stats would certainly back that up. The Spurs have been managing to lead the league in three point percentage all year by taking low volume, but high quality, attempts from beyond the arc and making them in bunches. In Memphis they took 27 attempts, a lot of them out of desperation, and against OKC they only took 19. 19! In a double OT game in the year two thousand and nineteen our San Antonio Spurs only took 19 three point attempts! Yet it felt like we were drowning the Thunder in a veritable barrage of them. This is the ideal Spurs production. You may not like it, but this is what peak performance looks like.

What can we take away from a game like this? Surely we can’t expect to get a Hardenesque scoring performance from LaMarcus Aldridge every night, and it’s just as unlikely to picture the Spurs shooting 84.2% from three every time out. Everything about this particular game felt extreme. The scoring was extreme, the atmosphere was extreme, the orange leggings that OKC had on were extreme. It all felt exaggerated to the point of unreality. I saw someone on Twitter say that this game was drunk and like, honestly, I don’t think we can rule it out.

The Spurs were great in this game, but so were the Thunder. It was frustrating to watch our guys play as well as they were and still be unable to quite put this thing away. You just kept wishing the Thunder would yield and they never did. They fought and they battled back and they did everything they could to win this game. Russell Westbrook had 24 points, 24 assists, and 13 rebounds which is just about as ludicrous of a stat line as LaMarcus Aldridge dropping 56. This game counted the same as any other, but you could tell that neither team felt like they could afford a loss. This was, in spite of where it fell on the calendar, a playoff game by any other name.

The Spurs are not as bad as they looked in Memphis on Wednesday night, and they probably aren’t quite as good as they looked at times on Thursday. Their reality sits somewhere in between. What we do know is that these guys can handle the heat. They experienced Westbrook and the Thunder going ballistic in this game and they survived. They have at least one win against every team ahead of them in the standings and couple of notable Eastern conference trophies as well.

The truth is that we didn’t really learn too much on Thursday night that we didn’t already know. The Spurs are good, and they are capable of being really good if the evening calls for it. If anything, this reinforced something else that I think I’d started to forget about after two veritable slogs against Detroit and Memphis.

The Spurs are also fun.

Takeaways:

  • Fifty. Six. Points. I’m so happy for LaMarcus. He’s completely righted the ship after having such a tough start to his season. When he’s struggling, it can sometimes feel like the whole weight of the world is on his shoulders and that kind of breaks my heart. Possibly my least favorite movement from the Spurs Nation as a collective was the year after Duncan retired when it felt like it had become a running joke about how bad LMA was. I think we all know what I’m talking about. That . . . that was just terrible. We all probably need to sit down and do a thousand mea culpas about that particular stretch because at this point Aldridge has proven to be a more than a capable standard bearer for this franchise. This performance was unreal. He didn’t just score a bunch, he scored half a century while being guarded by a seven foot monster from New Zealand. He battled down low and grabbed boards and put up second chance points and nailed every, single, one of his 16 free throws. He was a warrior tonight (a good one, not a Golden State one). This is the LaMarcus we signed in free agency. This is the prince who was promised.
  • Hey, this was adorable:
  • I’m going to keep bringing it up until they stop doing it. WHY DOES IT TAKE THIS TEAM LIKE FIVE MINUTES OF GAME PLAY TO GET WARMED UP? Every single night, I swear, I look up from my notes and the Spurs are down 10-2 before I’ve even had time to get settled and it’s just infuriating. Why? Why are you doing this to me? To us? To yourselves???? I love watching them go on little runs to get back in it, sure, but imagine if they just started out that way? If we didn’t spot them a dozen free points early, then maybe we wouldn’t have had to deal with that double OT mess at the end. Ugh. Pull it together, guys.
  • I’m going to continue to take it as a good sign that the Spurs are capable of playing this well when DeMar DeRozan doesn’t quite have has his shooting stroke working but, uh, go ahead put me in the camp of people who think that if Player A is having a career shooting night and Players B through G are a group of guys who seemingly can’t miss from three and then Player F is 7-22 from the field then maybe . . . just . . . maybe . . . we shouldn’t go with Player F for the final shots of regulation and overtime. Just a thought.
  • This dunk that kind of defied physics was pretty sweet though:

MARCO WATCH: Chris Herring over at FiveThirtyEight published this piece on Thursday that attempts to introduce the world to the Spurs resident “sharpshooter who refuses to shoot straight.” There’s some fun quotes in there, especially from Pop, and it’s a well written piece that gives some shine to a Spurs player that I love for a broader audience than he wouldn’t get normally. That’s not something I could ever be mad at. I will, however, note the irony of a website like FiveThirtyEight, the nerdiest of the nerdy analytical stats sites on all of the Internet, trying to find some explanation for Marco’s incurable Marco-ness. It’s like standing out in the wilderness, looking up at the Aurora Borealis and saying, “oh cool, look, the magnetosphere is being disturbed by the solar wind causing the magnetospheric plasma to precipitate into the upper atmosphere!” instead of “egads, the elder nordic gods have blessed us with a rendering of heaven itself, brought low into the realms of humanity to remind us of the inherent beauty of existence within the cold, ever present darkness.” My point is, don’t try and understand Marco. Try to experience him. He’s here for us to bask in his glow.