This had all the makings of a letdown game.
As the Grizzlies shot out to a 12-5 lead early in the first quarter I felt fully prepared to crank up the Excuse Machine. How do you get jacked up for a game against the Grizzlies after whatever that was Thursday night against the Raptors? If the previous game was the NBA equivalent a ritualistic bloodletting ceremony, then this game felt a bit more like an appointment to get a mole removed. You know it’s something that needs to get done, but you just as easily could forget about it and not show up.
It’s a testament to how well the Spurs are playing at the moment that, in spite of how uninspiring their play was in the opening quarter, they still managed to end it with a 2 point advantage. On nights like this **extremely Dr. Ian Malcom voice** good teams, uh, find a way. They scrape some latent motivation out of the corners of their psyche and let their muscle memory kick in. Patty Mills remembers how to shoot, LaMarcus Aldridge spends the night bullying overmatched guys down in the post, and stuff like whatever this is keeps happening...
Once the Spurs took the lead, they never looked back. They held the Grizzlies, who happen to be going through their own little mid-season swoon at the moment, at arms length for the rest of the night. They got good to great performances up and down the roster and Pop even got a fun tech for yelling at a ref.
This was the type of game that only a Spurs fan could love. While Sacramento and Golden State were shattering the spacetime continuum over in California by LITERALLY COMBINING FOR THE MOST THREES BY ANYONE EVER, the Spurs were methodically going about their business of winning by 20 while making only 7. Many of us spent the better part of the this season pining for the days of old when the Spurs would steadily march through the regular season blowing out inferior opponents, racking up wins, and doing it all as under the radar as possible. Good news everyone, we’re kind of there again.
The truth is, after a season in which everyone’s attention was very focused on what was going on in San Antonio, this might be more of our comfort zone. We can watch our team play beautiful basketball night in and night out, delight in a national TV appearance every once in a while, and get all worked up when Colin Cowherd calls us “the vegetables of the NBA.” People will pay attention when it counts. That’s as much of the Spurs way as team basketball and Pop not playing guys unless they play defense.
You know that rush of pride when, like, Zach Lowe has Kevin Arnovitz on his podcast and they lead into a segment about the Western Conference by saying, “I don’t know how the Spurs keep doing it...”? It’s coming back, folks. Spring is just around the corner and vegetables...
Well, vegetables are good for you.
- After the last game, I wrote about how a Patty Mills Reckoning might be on the way. With the emergence of Derrick White and Bryn Forbes, it was getting harder and harder to find reasons for Patty to be out there on the floor when he’s tossing threes off the side of the backboard and getting lost on 85% of his defensive rotations. Of course, just when I think he couldn’t possibly get any worse, he goes out against Memphis...and toooootally redeems himself. This was the quintessential Patty Mills experience. He had 15 points, he was being the kind of defensive pest that was driving other teams crazy, and he was his usual exuberant self pumping up teammates and getting the crowd fired up. He brought a kind of positive chaotic energy to this game, the kind of energy you need when your team isn’t playing against their sworn mortal enemy or something. Patty adds a lot of value even when the stat sheet doesn’t show it, but it was still nice to see him knock some shots down again.
- There was a moment in the 4h quarter tonight where things got a little sweaty and you’re lying if you say you didn’t feel it too. Memphis went on a 14-0 run and the lead quietly dipped back into single digits for a moment, at which point the “we blew a 20 point 2nd half lead to the dang Chicago Bulls” alarm I had installed in my house very much started going off. The good news is that it looks like the Spurs had one of those alarms installed as well. Everyone cleared their heads, focused up, and worked the lead back out into the teens. No one tried to force anything. They just played their game and things settled down. As painful as it was, that loss to Chicago might end up being one of the most important games of the season. It’s a game that’s always there serving as a little reminder to never get too comfortable and, more importantly, never panic.
- LaMarcus Aldridge gets lauded, and rightly so, as a prolific mid-range shooter. However, it’s kind of a shame that he doesn’t seem to get the credit he deserves for his work down low. LaMarcus is a BIG dude and when the game calls for it he can absolutely go to town on people in the post. My favorite example from tonight saw him bullying JaMychal Green into the paint before quickly spinning towards the rim and drawing a foul. This led to Green exclaiming, “MAN, I hate this dude” which, honestly, lit a fire in my soul.
“Man, I hate this dude.”— House of Highlights (@HoHighlights) January 6, 2019
- JaMychal Green after LaMarcus Aldridge drew the foul on him. pic.twitter.com/8Sl3cHtZ1S
- We’re maybe one more great Derrick White game from having to retire the “Wow, can you believe how good Derrick White is playing?” take from our general Spurs Fan Lexicon. It’s just becoming a part of the deal. Outside of Marco perpetually playing a game of H-O-R-S-E in the middle of actual games, White’s lightning quick drives to basket are just about the most exciting part of Spurs games at the moment. He’s doing that Tony Parker thing where he releases the ball on his drives at odd times and angles, always catching his defender off guard. He’s even got the added wrinkle that Tony never had where he sometimes might just keep going up and throw it down in your face. It’s absurd that he’s this good at finishing near the rim this early in his career.
- MARCO WATCH: Marco is going through this phase right now where he isn’t getting a lot of calls. It’s almost like the refs have picked up on the fact that he splays his leg out every time he shoots the ball in order to potentially pick up fouls from unassuming defenders. This has put our close friend Marco into a position now where, instead of the contact coming to him, it is he who must venture out into the world seek the contact for himself. Watch him on this play, like the grand explorers of old, journey inside the three point arc, receive the handoff from Jakob Poeltl, and attempt to take a shot from as close as is humanly possible to inside the jersey of both his teammate and his defender. In the process, he also discovers a new launch angle for his shot that settles somewhere around 45 degrees before collapsing on the floor and rolling back out to beyond the three point line. The Universe is trying to tell Marco what he can and can’t do and Marco is defiantly responding, “not today, Universe.”