There have been tough losses too, like the one against Toronto last Friday or against the 76ers or the Nuggets a few weeks ago. The tough ones hurt because you feel like a different bounce here or there and the result goes the other way. You think about about those a lot as the race for a spot in the playoffs winds down to its conclusion and those tough ones loom larger and larger.
This wasn’t a tough loss, though. This was just bad. A lifeless affair that stank from the get go. This felt like the game they lost to the Suns by 20 or the Timberwolves by 39. The Spurs have more of those types of losses this year than I care to think about, and it’s a huge bummer. I can’t remember a season, recently at least, where they have ever looked this discombobulated for such long stretches. Every season has had its off nights and what not, but this . . . I don’t know what this is anymore.
Is it a funk? Are the Spurs in a funk? This seems like the most obvious answer, mostly because we know that this specific group of players has the ability to play at a high level with anyone in the league. We know this, not because we’re biased or simply because we want it to be true, but because we’ve literally seen it. When they’ve been on their game this year, it’s resulted in some truly inspiring basketball, and they’ve done it against the best teams in the league. They should be better than this. They can be better than this. They are better than this.
This team also has the capacity to go missing from time to time. They weren’t ready to play against the Knicks on Sunday, they haven’t been able to find any sort of rhythm or cohesion at all during this road trip, and they pretty much spent the back half of January scrambling for answers against teams like the Grizzlies or Hornets or Clippers that should be bankable wins for a team with the Spurs’ talent. Some nights it just feels like the players are still out there on the court, but the kid with the controller went to go get a snack and left his game on.
The Rodeo Road Trip, historically speaking, has been a really fun time for the team and its fans. Former players talk a lot about how important it is to get out on the road with your teammates for extended periods like this, away from any distractions or responsibilities. They spend a lot of time together, eat all their meals together, and generally just get to know each other better while sharing this weird experience of extended time on road because their home court has been invaded by cows.
I was honestly so excited for this particular team to get to the Rodeo Road Trip part of the season because I was ready for them to write their own chapters of Rodeo lore. I wanted DeMar DeRozan to experience going out for fancy Italian meals in Utah with Gregg Popovich and feel like he was part of the family. I wanted Derrick White and Bryn Forbes and Lonnie Walker IV to watch guys like Patty Mills and LaMarcus Aldridge and Marco Belinelli so they could start building their own version of the Spurs Way.
I thought this trip was going to be the part of the movie where our heroes come together, level up, and march down the final stretch of the season leaving panic and destruction in their wake. Instead, I think this is the part of the movie where our heroes need a mentor from their past to find them skipping rocks down by the old train tracks in order to give them a pep talk or something. I dunno, I’ll have to check the the Heroes’ Journey manual again.
It’s frustrating. I’m frustrated. You’re frustrated. I assume that the guys in the locker room are frustrated. But what next? What comes after the frustration and the team meetings and the reset buttons? What happens now that we’ve all agreed that games like this one in Brooklyn on Monday night simply can. not. happen? What now, guys? We’re all waiting for some sort light bulb to go off like it did in December when the Spurs rattled off about as close to a perfect month as you can get in this league. Until it does, I’m not sure what there is to say about the Spurs at the moment.
The Spurs are currently in 8th place in the Western Conference.
There’s twenty games left in the season.
- The Spurs are clinging to the bottom of the the playoffs seeds right now but the good news, if you can call it that, it that no one else in the race seems able to find their footing at the moment either. A few months ago, the Western Conference was shaping up to be one of the fiercest playoff races we’ve ever seen, and that almost seems laughable now. The standings are just as close as they’ve always been, but none of the fringe teams can figure out how to stop tripping over themselves as we head towards the finish line. The Lakers have LeBron James on their team and can’t stop losing. The Clippers sort of desperately need to miss the playoffs because they’ll lose their pick if they don’t, and now they can’t stop winning. Go down the line and every team looking to secure a playoff berth has their own specific set of calamities that seem to befall them night after night. The Spurs are being dumb right now but so is everyone else so . . . yay . . . I guess.
- Oh, the Nets game, right, right, that’s what we’re talking about here. This game was the pits. DeMar DeRozan looked okay again and LaMarcus Aldridge bounced back from a bad couple games but, overall, none of it ever amounted to any type of momentum. An NBA team scoring 85 total points in 2019 should almost be grounds for the team to be relegated to the G-League for a bit.
- Remember when the Spurs were playing really well and there were all those articles, on this site and others, about how the coaching staff had figured out these really cool rotations where the starters played a certain style full of lethal mid-range jumpers and athletes attacking the rim, then the bench unit would come in and play a completely different style that was full of ball movement and efficient three point shooting? Remember that? It was so fun and innovative. Well, and please correct me if I’m wrong about this, but doesn’t bringing Davis Bertans into the starting lineup and sending Rudy Gay to the bench kind of throw a wrench in that whole strategy? Did Pop decide he just didn’t like the gimmick and is now trying to find a way to get balance out there? Is he really trying to blow it up and start over in the final stretch of the season? Am I asking a bunch of hypothetical questions because I’ve run out of answers? Who’s to say?
- Derrick White had a cool play in the 1st quarter. I remember it very clearly because my optimistic basketball soul hadn’t been bludgeoned into a cave of darkness and despair at this point yet. He catches a pass out near the three point line from Bryn Forbes, and then shakes D’Angelo Russell to his left before charging baseline. He scoops the ball over the outstretched hand of Joe Harris, collects his feet and finishes strong past Jarrett Allen. Derrick wastes no time in his decision making to get to the basket and he finishes with confidence almost every time he’s there, and it’s so thrilling to watch him do it. It’s doubly thrilling because plays like this mean that he doesn’t seem to be favoring his injured foot too much.
- MARCO WATCH: Marco Belinelli went 1 for 7 from the field against the Brooklyn Nets on February 25th, 2019. His one make was a three pointer from the corner. It was fine. This has been Marco Watch. We hope you’ll join us next time when Marco snags a season high 28 points behind 8 of 9 shooting from three while the Spurs completely turn things around against the Pistons. You have only to believe, if you wish to achieve.