About eight hours before the start of the game between the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets, my wife and I were at the airport in New York City. Coincidentally enough, our flight back to San Antonio had a layover in Houston. For those wondering, the flight from Houston to San Antonio was smooth, quick, and enjoyable. The pilot wasn’t doing everything while the rest of the crew stood around watching. The pilot wasn’t flopping the plane around the sky trying to create contact with other planes. The crew didn’t yell at the air traffic controller the entire flight. It was basically the complete opposite of a typical Rockets’ game.
By the time the plane landed in San Antonio, we had just enough time to run home, change, and drive to the AT&T Center. I told my wife before the game that I was struggling to find energy and I didn’t plan on staying until the end unless the Spurs found a way to make the game competitive.
I don’t want to sound like that kind of fan, but even the most optimistic person would have trouble finding hope coming off a 34-point bludgeoning at the hands of the Detroit Pistons the game prior. When the Spurs found themselves down by 23 late in the third quarter against the Rockets, I could hear my bed calling my name, but with Lonnie Walker IV having just entered the game, I ignored the voice inside my head telling me to go home.
It’s hard to put into words the events that transpired once the Spurs began cutting into the Rockets’ seemingly insurmountable lead. Euphoria is the first thing that comes to mind. Madness is another. There’s the whole basketgate fiasco involving a James Harden dunk that was deemed a non-basket. The Rockets’ players and coaches spewed enough whine during that sequence to make even Coach Pop’s cellar jealous. Jakob Poeltl hosted a block party of which only Russell Westbrook and Harden were invited. Walker finally fulfilled his duty as the rightful heir to the Spurs’ throne. The crowd serenaded him with chants of MVP (not premature whatsoever I might add) and continued chanting his name while exiting the arena after the Spurs’ unbelievable (no really, I don’t believe it) double overtime victory. I think Walker even had his jersey retired at some point.
Disclaimer: Some of the events described in this article actually happened while others might of just happened in my head. It’s hard to tell the difference at this point.
The point is that with all the chaos surrounding the events that occurred at the AT&T Center it would have been easy to overlook the performance of Bryn Forbes. I know I did. In the end Forbes scored a season high — and highest since his rookie season — of 25 points on a tidy 10 of 13 shooting. He had gone 11 of 45 from deep over the past seven games, so watching him go 5 of 6 against the Rockets was a welcome sight.
Though some shots may be more pressurized than others, every point is weighted equally. Everybody is going to remember Walker’s burst onto the NBA scene, but it was the steady production of Forbes that kept the Spurs afloat throughout the game.
After scoring the Spurs’ first five points of the game, he was relatively quiet the rest of the first half. In the second quarter he was fouled from beyond the arc but proceeded to miss all three free throws. Somebody had to offset Harden’s 24 for 24 night from the charity stripe I suppose. Let’s hope this isn’t the start of 2017-2018 Bryn Forbes. With a shot as pure as his, missing three straight free throws can only come from between the ears.
After the Rockets got off to a quick start in the third quarter, Forbes hit a couple three point shots to keep the Spurs within reach. He hit another huge three point shot to get the Spurs within six points with two minutes left in the game. Fast forward through some Walker fireworks, and the Spurs found themselves in an improbable overtime. Forbes would score seven more points in the two overtime periods, including a game-tying three point shot with 90 seconds left of double overtime.
It wasn’t flashy — Forbes might be the most paint by numbers player I’ve ever seen — but it was effective and a huge reason the Spurs stole one from the Rockets.
Here’s the problem. Forbes almost has to have performances like this to be a net positive on the court, especially when being given starters minutes. His inability to play defense is one of the many reasons the Spurs’ starters have been unable to find success the past two seasons. He would make an excellent scorer off the bench, but it’s clear to me that a better version of the Spurs does not involve Forbes in the starting lineup.
Whether Walker is ready or not, his athleticism, willingness to shoot from beyond the arc, and ability to defend (even if it needs some fine tuning) makes him the best fit alongside Derrick White and DeMar DeRozan in the starting lineup. This is not something I expect to see anytime soon, but Walker should have at least solidified his place in the rotation moving forward. That’s a step in the right direction.