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What we learned from the Spurs loss to the Thunder

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San Antonio was unable to repeat the magic of Thursday night’s double OT thriller and fell to the Thunder in the rematch.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Why on earth does the NBA schedule these weird little home and away matchups in the middle of season? Does anybody like this? There’s no way it’s easier for traveling or logistic purposes. It makes for a bad television product. It’s boring for the fans. It defies all logic on a million levels and I don’t know what to do about it. I suppose ‘whine about it on the Internet’ is probably about as good an option as anything.

If it seems like I’m stalling in an effort to not talk about the actual game, that’s because I am. This game was such a comedown from the extreme highs of that double overtime bonanza on Thursday that even the players seemed to be over it. In a way, it’s very humanizing to see these world class athletes exude such a mortal human emotion as “Really? this again?” through every aspect of their body language. We expect these guys to be basketball machines 100% of time and the reality is that they are just like us. People who get tired. Or bored. Or over it.

The NBA: It’s . . . . relatable.

The Spurs did play one pretty good half of basketball, and I guess there’s something to be said for that. Once again, it looked like we might be in for a night of just perpetually keeping the Thunder at arm’s length. But just like the other night, they never looked like a threat to put the game to bed and always seemed like they were a quick run away from taking the lead back and running with it. Unlike the other night, once OKC made their run it was almost like someone turned off the lights. There was no energy. No fire. No threat. Just a bunch of guys who appeared to be going through the motions.

I feel like we’ve talked a lot about how, with the relative tightness of the standings, each regular season game seems to matter more than it ever has. The loss to the Grizzles felt devastating and the first Thunder matchup felt like a playoff game. Maybe the Spurs just needed a night off. I don’t mean a night off in the traditional sense, where they get to sleep in their own bed, watch movies and just chill out or whatever. I think they needed a night off from constantly living on a razor’s edge in the middle of a game. Can you imagine how nice it must’ve felt to just give in to their more base instincts and just let this game wash over them. It probably felt as good as cancelling plans at the last minute. Sweet release.

We still have so much season left and, frankly, the biggest thing that scares me is that the Spurs might be in danger of burning out. These guys have had to spend a lot of energy clawing their way back into contention this year. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. Can’t you just easily imagine a world in which they line up against Dallas on April 10th for the season finale and everyone in Silver & Black has simply just run out of gas? Search your feelings, you know it to be true.

A split isn’t too bad. I can live with a split. If these past two games have taught us anything it’s that the Spurs and the Thunder are veritable equals on the court. Their strengths and weaknesses match up in fascinating ways and they both are more than capable of beating each other on any given night. They seem all but destined to meet up in the Playoffs as the 3-6 matchup, resulting in a highly entertaining series that will delight NBA neutrals as much it will likely destroy my soul from within until I’m nothing more than a burnt out husk of a man sitting in front of a computer trying to make sense of it all.

Can’t wait.

Takeways:

  • Hey, it turns out that shooting 32% from three is way less fun than shooting north of 80%. Weird how that works out. The Spurs took 31 attempts from out there which is actually way above of their average. That might be something worth watching. In both the Memphis loss and Saturday night’s tilt with OKC, the Spurs attempted way more threes and converted at a way lower rate. During the win on Thursday, they only took 19 and all anyone wanted to talk about was how great the Spurs were at threes. The offense right now is designed to get great, easily convertible looks from out there and it sure seems like a higher number of attempts correlates with things not quite going to plan for the good guys.
  • Can we please just let DeMar DeRozan take a nap or something? Early in the season it felt like he was playing so many minutes and running himself ragged trying to keep this team afloat and now, well, it’s getting harder and harder to ignore that he seems tired. I’m not trying to bury him or anything, I promise, but he would probably be the first person to tell you that his jumper has looked a little off recently. He’s not having trouble getting to the basket really, but the mid-range he’s normally so deadly from is a mess. Take a look at his shot chart from this game. That’s a lot of red x’s out there in spots on the court that should literally be re-named DeRozanLand. Shooters always say that when your legs are tired that the first thing to go is your jumper. I love DeMar and I want only good things for him. All I’m saying is just, please, can we let the man have a nap? I think we’d all feel better.
  • That stupid play in the 4th quarter where Dennis Schroder stole the ball off a lazy Derrick White pass and then sent it between his legs to Russell Westbrook on the break for an easy layup? I am eternally annoyed at how often we’re going to see that replay on various things for the rest of our lives. Not even just in like highlight packages either, but for various NBA related ads and what not. Can’t you just see some ad for like, I don’t know, a BBVA credit card that’s just blowing through random highlights while talking about low interest rates and all of a sudden we’re going to be blindsided with a reminder of that dumb night in January when everyone on the Spurs wasn’t feeling it and kept turning the ball over? People doing cool things against the Spurs should be outlawed.
  • MARCO WATCH: Sweet, beautiful Marco. He did his best here. He really did. A season high 24 points on 8-10 shooting? That’s pretty incredible. There were times in the 4th when it felt like he was the only Spur still trying make things happen and that felt very appropriate under the circumstances. Isn’t that sort of the whole code of Marco? The misses don’t matter. The score doesn’t matter. Nothing matters except for the moment. The Spurs could be up 30 or down 30. It could be the 1st quarter or the final play of the game. The universe could crumbling around us and still Marco would be looking for the next shot, the next play, the next chance to find some magic or wonder with whatever tools were at his disposal. It’s his purpose. I know what you’re thinking, “are you even going to talk about when he had to guard Westbrook in the 4th?” No. No, I believe the Ballad of Russ and Marco speaks for itself.