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What We Learned from the Spurs loss to the Clippers

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A valiant effort still sees the Spurs come up short against what might be the best team in the league.

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Coming into this game, I really felt like I was in a much healthier place with regards to the Kawhi Leonard of it all. I mean, pretty much the worst case scenario had already happened, right? Not only did he leave, but he left, won a title, and went on ahead and cemented himself as the best player in the league. He did all the things we were hoping he would do, he just didn’t do them in a Spurs jersey. The nightmare has already come to pass. This **gestures wildly** is the bad place.

The Spurs were taught a lesson on Thursday that they, of all people, really didn’t need to learn. The team with Kawhi Leonard on it has the best chance of winning the basketball game. This has been the case for a few years now, and I guess we were fortunate enough that a couple of those seasons happened to coincide with his time in San Antonio. Like I said, coming into this game, I felt like I was in a much healthier place vis-à-vis The Klaw.

The steal in the 3rd quarter got me though. DeMar DeRozan tried to take Kawhi over a Trey Lyles pick just a little bit too casually, and Leonard’s massive hand snuck in there and popped the ball away. In an instant he was off scooping the ball up, sprinting down the court, and gliding up to the rim for an easy dunk. To my undying shame, I have to admit that my immediate reaction was to be excited about it. I did that little self-satisfied mental fist pump that you do when someone you’re rooting for does something cool. It was almost like my lizard brain couldn’t help firing off the joy synapses based on how many times I’d watched Kawhi do this exact same thing in Silver & Black. It was just muscle memory, and I hated it.

As soon as I was done being angry about it though, I drifted back in to being sad about it. I don’t care. I shouldn’t care. I’m upset that I do care. You spend the night watching these two teams play and you can’t help coming to the brilliant conclusion that this Spurs team isn’t as good as this Clippers team, but that fact by itself is not what’s frustrating. There are plenty of teams in the league that are better than the Spurs. The problem is that we have to sit there quietly and watch the main guy responsible for it drop 38 points on us with a blank look on his face

You just feel helpless because, you know, it’s not like this was the plan. The plan was to build around Kawhi. The plan was to surround the best player in the league with the best coach, the best front office, and as much talent as possible, and then simply continue to watch championships roll in over the next decade or so. I think it was a good idea, and I stand by it. Instead, we’re out here just trying to grit our way into the playoffs through this meat grinder of a conference. We didn’t mess up. We didn’t trade away our best player on purpose. We didn’t pick this future. Kawhi did. Now, we just have to figure out how to live with it.

So, yea, I guess I’m not in a better place. I still feel mad, and petty, and frustrated. I’m still whining about the injustice of it all. I’m jealous of everyone who gets to just bask in the glow of all the amazing things Kawhi is doing right now because I’m still stuck pouting over here because he hurt my feelings. It’s a terrible and juvenile attitude to carry into an activity that I, in theory, do for fun but I guess it’s what I’m stuck with it the moment.

Next time though, next time I’ll be better. I’m sure of it.

Takeaways

  • Stepping away from the emotional baggage for a minute, I actually really liked a lot of things about this game for the Spurs. The Clippers are really good, and, more than that, they are an extremely tough team. Playing them feels like an exercise in absorbing punches for 48 minutes, and I thought that, for the most part, the Spurs really hung in there with them. Every time the Clips started to pull away, the Spurs found one answer or another to keep it within striking distance. Even if they never could quite get over the hump in the end, this was as close to one of those mythical “moral” victories that everyone is always talking about.
  • The defense looked good in this game. Obviously Kawhi dropped a pretty impressive number out there, but there’s really only so much you can do about that, and the Spurs did a relatively impressive job of making him work for it. Dejounte Murray took some turns on him, Derrick White got a shot, and we even got a little sneak peak at what happens when you toss Lonnie Walker IV out there at him. What fun! Everyone, for the most part, acquitted themselves nicely. The defensive unit as a whole looked tough, smart and active across the board. I’m optimistic. Are you optimistic? I’m optimistic.
  • Patrick Beverley is so annoying to watch play against your team. It’s like spending your day trying to plant flowers in a garden while a miniature bull dog is just constantly barking at you and trampling around over everything. There were a couple instances last night where he was really getting after Dejounte, and you could see the kid’s eyes get a little big. DJ didn’t have a great night offensively, but it was fun to watch him absorb the Patrick Beverly experience and do his best to give as good as he got in the time he had.
  • It is 100% hyperbole to say that Jakob Poeltl is the Spurs’ secret weapon on offense but...is Jakob Poeltl kind of a secret weapon on offense? Probably not. It’s hard to call a guy averaging just south of 5 points a game a “weapon” of any kind, but I just feel like he has a couple of plays every game that make me sit up a little and go, “oh, hey, I didn’t know he could that.” In the 2nd quarter, he found Derrick with a bullet pass under the basket that legitimately might’ve been the best pass on the team so far this year, and later on he did a nifty little catch-spin-layup in transition that was, if not graceful, then exceedingly useful. This might be a reach, but when Zach Lowe features Jakob’s offensive game in his “10 Things I Like” column later on this season, remember you heard it here first.
  • TIM DUNCAN FIT WATCH: Look, I know that we all want to talk about Gregg Popovich’s truly stunning decision to rock a grey, mock turtleneck under a pinstripe suit last night, but I think we can all agree that it’s going to take some time for everyone to really sort out their feeling on that one. Instead, let’s keep our focus on the only underdog story in the NBA that matters, and that of course is Tim Duncan slowly becoming a Fit God right in front of our eyes. Last time out, I expressed some concern about how Timmy might do on his first road trip, and I’m happy to report that this look did not disappoint. The blazer alone, a light brown, tweedish situation, is some of his best work yet. It was complimented by dark, navy pants and a white shirt for a look that genuinely popped off the screen every time they cut to him. I honestly kept getting distracted by the debonair giant on the Spurs bench whenever the ball swung over that way. We have to deduct at least half a letter grade due to a few an inexplicable wrinkles in the dress shirt, but even with these minor quibbles it was a really great night out on the Tim Duncan fashion beat. A-
San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images