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What we learned from the Spurs win over the Pelicans

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The Spurs rolled into New Orleans and came away with a win and that’s...pretty much it

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs closed this game out with a decent sized lead and the end of their bench mopping up the final minutes in front of a very sparse crowd. In the grand scheme of the NBA, this game was a tree falling in the deep recesses of a forest. Stats were put up. A victory was recorded. Does it still count if no one really cared?

Meanwhile, as this game’s embers were dying out, the Celtics and Warriors were about to spend 48 minutes tossing haymakers at each other in front of a national TV audience. The juxtaposition of atmospheres between these two games was almost more interesting than anything that happened at the Smoothie King Center on Saturday.

The intensity was palpable in Boston. These were two of the best teams in the league trading blows in a very likely finals match up. The Warriors are still testing their strength by comically trying to squeeze yet another All-Star into their starting lineup and the Celtics are burning with a fierce desire to prove they belong in the same conversation as the league’s elite. It was incredibly fun to watch. It felt like a spectacle as much as it felt like a basketball game.

The intensity in New Orleans was...elsewhere. These were two teams in the middle of the pack in the Western conference trying to survive without their best players on the court. Anthony Davis continues to miss time with a finger issue. DeMar DeRozan did not play in this game. The crowd in attendance drifted in and out, sparking to life as much when Saint’s quarterback Drew Brees was shown on the jumbotron as they ever did for any on court action. This game felt like a bunch of guys showing up to work as much as it felt like a basketball game.

There were no late game heroics or highlights we’ll tell our grandkids about. You won’t see a new PtR T-shirt made up to commemorate the time Bryn Forbes lost his shoe on a drive and could’t get it back on before the next play was suddenly upon him. That’s ok though. The game against the Sixers on Wednesday night was plenty exciting and look where that got us.

The NBA regular season is a funny thing. The Warriors-Celtics matchup really did feel like it was happening on a different planet. The stakes felt higher. The narrative felt alive and pumping through every possession like a heartbeat. The winner of that game was going to prove something. It was going to go home with something even more valuable than a win and the loser was just going to have to pick up the pieces. The Spurs have played in games like that this season and it was enthralling. You tune in every night on the off chance that you might get swept up in the majesty of a game like that featuring a bunch of guys with your team’s name on their jersey.

I guess the truth is that we, the people watching these things, have the power to imbue these little contests with as much or as little significance as we want. After all, this is a game being played for our amusement and that’s it. If I decided that the Warriors winning a million basketball games doesn’t matter to me then it doesn’t have to. If I decide that Lonnie Walker IV grabbing the ball and sprinting up the court for a layup with the boundless enthusiasm of youth makes me immeasurably giddy then, guess what? It does just that. The stakes of a regular season game will always be either one win or one loss. The rest is up to us.

Takeaways:

  • Oh man. Say all your prayers to the Greek god of rolled ankles that Rudy Gay is alright. This game was deep into its 4th quarter malaise when Rudy cut across the paint and then dramatically spilled over onto the sidelines clutching his leg. I genuinely thought that I might have a panic attack. It’s been so apparent how important he’s been since returning to the lineup and the thought of losing him for another extended spell is extremely worrisome. He was having another great game in this one too, netting a cool 22 points before getting sniped in the 4th. The X-Rays were negative and supposedly he plans on playing against the Wizards on Sunday but...still. Rolled ankles have the tendency to be one of those injuries that linger. I think we all probably need that All-Star break to get here sooner rather than later.
  • Lonnie Walker IV! Let’s talk about it. He logged about 15 minutes of playing time on the night but, more importantly, he logged a solid chunk of those during a meaningful stretch in the 2nd with the score still pretty close and the Spurs sorely needing a shot of life. The most endearing thing about Lonnie’s game right now, and this actually goes for all of the Spurs young guys to be honest, is how little fear he has. Look at him grab this ball in the corner and just go the entire length of floor without even thinking about it. The most underrated thing about Pop as coach is the way he manages to instill people with the ability to go out there and play with confidence right from the get go. Lonnie, Bryn Forbes, and Derrick White are all prime examples of that skill.
  • LaMarcus Aldridge casually carving up these guys for a double double was actually incredibly satisfying to watch. Maybe it wasn’t as electrifying as Kyrie and Steph trading daggers, but I’m so genuinely thrilled to see LMA brimming with confidence at the moment. There’s a subtle art to his game that’s always been very in line with the Spurs Way. Not every moment of this matchup was worthy getting out of your chair to cheer, but #12 was very fun to watch.
  • MARCO WATCH: Marco Stefano Belinelli commands respect. Well, at the very least, he commands attention which in this league is just about as important as respect. It would be one thing if he was just a guy who came off the bench, did some crazy weird stuff and called it night. Opposing teams can live with that. Marco isn’t about that life though. He converts on those bananas threes. He wanders around aimlessly on the court for 15 seconds, sure, but then his teammates know he’ll eventually be standing by himself under the basket for an easy two. Maybe this is a cliche, but it’s one of my favorite cliches so we’re going to roll with it. There is a method to his madness. Every brazen release point is a warning shot. Every weird cut is a sign of things to come. Teams have to pay attention to Marco because, if they don’t, he’s simply going to burn them. Guess what happens now that teams are paying attention to him? He’s going ahead and burning them anyway.