Let’s be clear about something right from the jump . . . the win streak doesn’t matter.
It’s fun, sure. We all like talking about the wins more than the losses. It serves as a tidy little anchor for any conversation about the Spurs recent run of form too. When someone questions your hypothesis that the Spurs are good again you can say, “hey, look, they’ve won nine straight games” and people will immediately wilt under the harsh light of this thunderous fact. It’s indisputable: Bad teams don’t win nine straight games, ergo the Spurs are good again.
The win streak doesn’t matter though. The wins are great, the Spurs need the wins to climb up the conference ladder and better position themselves come playoff time, but the order in which they come just doesn’t matter. If they had dropped, say the game against Portland the other night, everything would be fine. We would bemoan the temporary pain but other than that, everything else would keep on moving along. Shoot, even if they had succumbed to the Warriors tonight and settled into a two game losing streak then it would be okay.
The win streak doesn’t matter. Here’s the thing . . . The Spurs have been playing like a different team this month. They look healthy and motivated and completely locked in. They are executing different game plans night after night. They have figured out a way to be effective on defense again and their star players are playing like star players. The streak is a by-product of that. A happenstance. If three more of Klay Thompson or Steph Curry’s combined 17 missed three pointers had gone in this game then the Spurs would’ve lost and it wouldn’t change a single thing about how great the Spurs played.
The win streak doesn’t matter. Every time the Spurs step on the floor right now, they are playing well enough for a win to fall their way. That’s the real impressive thing here. The team that no-showed in Brooklyn last month is gone. The team that had to scrape by against Memphis is gone. These new guys are in every game. They are maximizing every single ounce of potential out of themselves and it would maybe one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen in sports if Popovich hadn’t been doing the same thing year after year right in front of our noses. This what he always does right? The Kawhiless-Spurs weren’t supposed to make the playoffs last year. They did. The 13-14 Spurs weren’t supposed to be able to rebound next season after the Ray Allen game. They did. Go on down the line of Spurs history and you’ll find a new reason every year why the Spurs won’t be able to succeed and then, lo and behold, they do. The team this year is just a new verse of the same song.
Again, and I can’t emphasize this enough, the win streak doesn’t matter. The Spurs have figured out who they are and how they need to play just in time for the games to start mattering. They may not be the best team in the league but, as they showed tonight, they sure can beat the best one.
The win streak doesn’t matter. That being said . . .
- Hey, you know that super cool thing that keeps happening where people continue to tell us to “enjoy DeMar DeRozan now because he’s just going to disappear once the playoffs start”? I sure wish they would take that tidy little narrative, get on a bus, and go literally anywhere else. It’s so satisfying to watch DeMar work his way back into form after a bit of a tough stretch and, if I may be so bold, I think this game was the exclamation mark on that return to form. He was everything you could ask for from a star player tonight. As usual, his offensive stats and highlights were impressive, but his effort on defense blew me away. He was active in passing lanes, he was aggressive on switches, and he stayed in front of some of the most dangerous offensive players in the league. If there were any lingering doubts about whether or not DeMar would buy into the vibe here in San Antonio, I think Monday night was an emphatic showcase for exactly how much he’s bought in. DeMar’s got some playoff demons to slay? Bring ‘em on.
- Derrick White took a little time off from anchoring one of the best defensive performances of the season from the Spurs in order to continue showcasing a fascinating array of offensive weapons. His head is always up, always moving, always searching. Even his running form makes him look like he’s always on his toes and looking for opportunities to test his defenders. He finds angles in unnatural spaces and accelerates with a deceptive amount of speed. It’s crazy, his body language doesn’t change at all but, all of sudden, he’s blown past someone and is at the rim. He also has at least one pass a night that makes my jaw hit the floor. Tonight it was this alley-oop to LaMarcus Aldridge in the 3rd quarter. The vision to see Aldridge making his cut through about four different bodies is one thing, but the strength and skill to flick the ball across the court on a dime right into LMA’s hands for the dunk is incredible. This pass is so freakin’ hard on like 20 levels.
- Davis Bertans didn’t have a particularly great shooting night but he played pretty excellent overall, especially since he apparently drew the short straw of having to try and stay in front of Kevin Durant all night. That has to be zero fun. However, it was pretty fun when he randomly got possessed by DeMar DeRozan’s spirit on this play in the 4th quarter. Look at our big Latvian go between his legs, drive baseline, then draw contact and hit a fadeaway jumper over Shaun Livingston. That’s absurdly impressive. Everyone needs to watch out because Davis is slowly turning into a killer.
- I like Steph Curry a lot. I really do. He does some of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen on a basketball court and I am constantly in awe of what he’s capable of. That 3⁄4 length court shot in the 1st quarter? Magic. What a joy that we get to be around to watch him in his prime. You know what else I liked? When he hit that three in the 4th quarter, turned around to the crowd and put his finger to his lips to shush them. Even though his team was down 4. And he had missed 12 other threes. And they would go on to lose. It was still a very cool thing to do. What an amazing player.
- MARCO WATCH: Why score three points when you can score four? It’s this kind of “expand your brain” thinking that really sets Marco apart from all the wannabe philosopher/poet/explorers of the basketball world. Marco’s four point play in the 4th quarter of Monday night’s game obviously got all of us out of our seats. It’s a great basketball play! He runs from the corner, catches, fires, and absorbs some contact from Kevin Durant’s unfathomably long limbs. He finishes up with a nice little happy baby yoga pose and his teammates rush over to pick him up. This was a wonderful basketball moment, to be sure, but it also felt a little bit . . . what’s the right word . . . normal? Marco didn’t go horizontal as he fired away. He didn’t take the three off one leg or anything. There was never a moment where everyone in the building cried out, “Marco no please no . . . YES!” Taking this shot seemed like a good idea from start to finish and, I have to say, that weirded me out a little bit. It’s like seeing a punk rocker stroll into your office wearing a suit. I don’t think it’s a bad thing or anything, I mostly just want to ensure that Marco doesn’t lose his edge. If the Spurs are really going to make some hay come playoff time, simply doing what’s expected isn’t going to cut it. The Spurs are going to have to get a little weird. That’s exactly why you even hire a Marco in the first place, right?