As Charlie Thaddeus so eloquently put it in What We Learned, there are two extreme directions that the Spurs’ 103-96 defeat to the Lakers seems to be pulling the emotions. One is down, with the idea being the Spurs’ ceiling is still limited by their best players, and the other is up: this was a winnable game against what should be a contender that again flashed the potential of the Spurs’ youth to raise that ceiling down the line, be it this season or the next.
Had a few things gone differently — a few more threes bounce in rather than out, maybe one or both of the two borderline goaltending calls in the first half go the Spurs way, players don’t collide on uncontested rebounds, etc — we would be looking at this game very differently.
The Spurs would have beaten the more talented Lakers despite good games from LeBron James and Anthony Davis and bad ones from LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan. We’d be talking about their solid defensive showing, the depth, and how the Spurs’ bench kept it competitive in the first half and led the first part of that 19-point comeback in the second.
Perhaps most of all, we’d be talking about another strong showing from Dejounte Murray, who had 18 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, a block, and countless deflections against his mentor’s squad. Although Derrick White and the bench were the ones who got the comeback in motion, Murray came in after White had to briefly leave the court following a hard foul from Dwight Howard and took over right where he left off: cutting off passing lanes and driving right into the heart of the defense.
Some crunch time mistakes ultimately cost the Spurs the chance to win, but this is a game they will look back at and learn from. They won’t have to wait long for a rematch, as the Lakers will return to the AT&T Center on November 25. Maybe by then, Murray will putting in more minutes and ready to have an even bigger impact than he had in a mere 24 minutes on the first go-round.