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What We Learned from the Spurs loss to the Clippers

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Baby, it’s cold outside

LA Clippers v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

This is one of those games that sort of gets your mind drifting in the middle of plays. You’re watching the action, you’re paying attention and then, all of a sudden, you have no idea what happened in the last five minutes. You may ask yourself, when did the Clippers go up by 20? Has Gregg Popovich alway been wearing a red turtleneck? How did I get here? Where is that large automobile? This is not my beautiful wife!

The action on the court was not very engaging. Even if you are invested in what the Spurs are trying to be at the moment, any hope that there would be a fun little upset brewing against a top team in the West died out pretty quickly. The Clippers looked better than the Spurs because they are better than the Spurs. They are built to contend in the modern in NBA, and they are built to win right now. They have one of the best players in the league in their starting lineup, and then they also have another one of the best players in the league right there next to him. When the Spurs manage to beat a team like this right now, a whole host of factors have to go their way, and that was not in the cards for this one.

Which brings me back to that mind drift. Games like this let you get a little meditative about the whole state of things. I wasn’t paying attention to defensive miscues so much as the fact that Dejounte Murray rolls the waist band of his shorts down and how wild that would’ve looked on the court in like, 2005. 2005 was a long time ago. It doesn’t feel like a long time but, man, it’s almost fifteen years ago! The Spurs 3rd championship is almost old enough to drive.

See? Drift.

This game was on in the background at a holiday party I attended last night. I live in Los Angeles, but for this one I got to be back in San Antonio, and it was so nice to be back where the idea of just having the Spurs game on in the background was a given. Obviously, the game wasn’t really going the good guys’ way, but it was comforting to have it on nonetheless. People were happy. They’d look at the screen, Marco would hit a three, they’d continue their conversation. They’d check the score, shake their head, and go find another glass of wine. Nothing was life or death. The Clippers pulling away on the wings of Kawhi Leonard’s ruthless efficiency was maybe a bummer, but only if you thought too hard about it. So why do that? If you let Kawhi ruin your night, he wins twice.

I don’t think my one anecdotal experience of healthy sports fandom necessarily reflects the overall state of the fanbase in 2019, but it was refreshing to watch the game in an environment that was detached from the Internet where everything feels increasingly frenetic. You watch a game with Twitter pulled up and it feels like we have to trade DeMar DeRozan RIGHT THIS SECOND. Everything happens all at once online and it can be hard to separate that reality out from real life. The Spurs play poorly in the first quarter? Front office needs to be fired. Lose two games in a row? We need to do a full tank. Potentially not make the playoffs? Might as well relegate the team and move them to Seattle. Everything just feels so extreme all the time and that’s just not how it has to be.

Last night a basketball game happened and my favorite team played in it. They didn’t win, but I managed to have a nice time anyway. Sometimes it’s not more complicated than that.

Takeaways

  • It felt weird to have the Clippers back in San Antonio so soon. Didn’t we just play them like three weeks ago? Is that normal? It just feels like bad planning. We had already gone through the motions of having Kawhi come back in another different jersey and we boo him and we feel bad and he feels nothing and so on and so forth. Maybe this changes if the result goes a different way, but it was just hard to feel excited about this matchup.
  • I’d started to feel cautiously optimistic about something the Spurs were doing defensively, which was probably my first mistake. See, I kind of felt like maybe they were starting to figure out how to be above average at protecting the rim. Between Jakob Poeltl and LaMarcus Aldridge, we have two different guys we could have on the court at any given moment who are a threat to swat anything coming their way into the third row of seats. Having a security blanket like that back there can lead to more confidence out on the perimeter and maybe, just maybe, better defense on the whole. Right? Anyway, I’m probably just grasping at straws on that one because the Clippers blew away any and all “rim protection” Saturday night and made it look pretty easy. Ivica Zubac was literally perfect from the field and his shot plot is a hilarious middle finger to my “Spurs are getting better a protecting the rim” theory.
NBA.com
  • Marco Belinelli went 4 of 5 from beyond the arc and the fact that the Spurs wasted a Good Marco night like this practically feels offensive to me on a personal level.
  • The Spurs Twitter account tweeted out a highlight video of Jakob dishing it to a driving Derrick White who finishes nicely up at the rim. In the first part of the video, Jakob throws the ball off his defenders leg. I don’t have any analysis beyond that other than to say it makes a lot of sense.

TIM DUNCAN FIT WATCH: Tim looked pretty clean in this one. In spite of my reservations, he seems determined to solider on with the idea that rocking a long sleeve henley under a sport coat is a good idea and at this point I think I’m just hoping that it’s not like a sartorial gateway drug to something worse. He’s made a lot of progress in the fashion game over the years and I think most nights he looks really sharp out there. The clothes fit, the colors go well together, and it’s all coming together very nicely. This henley business though. I mean, it looked fine tonight and he still looked pretty professional, but let’s not pretend that it isn’t one step away from just rocking a plain white t-shirt out there. I’m sure Tim Duncan owns nicer plain white t-shirts than I do, but that’s besides the point. The plain white t-shirt would probably even look nice, but then how long is it until he’s out there with a $900 blazer over a Punisher shirt? Maybe even that would be fun for a game or two, but then what are we even doing here? Are we going to see Tim in sandals on the bench before the end of the year? IT’S A SLIPPERY SLOPE, MY DUDE. That’s all I’m gonna say. B+

Not from Saturday night, but exactly the kind of henley he’s been wearing.
Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images