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What we learned from the Spurs win over the Thunder

Another nice win at home helps the Spurs continue their rebound from a disastrous Rodeo Road Trip.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

I am desperate to take this game, along with the win over the Pistons Wednesday night, and use it as justification to throw a party where I unfurl the giant “SEE? ALL IS WELL!” banner I had made up back in December.

I want to shout from the rooftops that the Spurs are back and the Spurs are fine and the Spurs have never been better. We don’t have a ton of evidence to prove that particular hypothesis but that’s never stopped us before, right? I’m ready to run with it. The losing streak was the aberration and the wins are the normal. Print the legend, as they say.

Of course this is obviously irrational. Two games does not a turnaround make. Holding the Pistons to 93 points doesn’t mean you remembered how to play defense. Beating a Thunder team playing without Paul George is not a particularly impressive mountain to have climbed. If anything, the fact that both of those wins weren’t no-doubt blowouts shows just how wobbly this Spurs team has felt over the past month. If the Spurs are really as good as we think (or hope) them to be, then the past two games should be the expected result. Things haven’t improved, they’ve just normalized somewhat. Maybe.

Still, you can only beat the team that’s in front of you and I think we will all take one in the Win column where we can get it. The Spurs may not have beaten the best version of the Thunder Saturday night, but who they beat is much less important than how they beat them. There was no need for any 4th quarter theatrics, no strange foul calls at the exact right time, and no blown leads that needed to be salvaged. The Spurs were in control from the get go and then steadily throughout. Every Thunder run was neutralized and things never got nervy. The offense was firing on all cylinders and the defense looked like it knew what it was doing.

The one thing that remains true, and has remained true throughout all the ups and downs of this season, is that the Spurs can beat anyone in the league when they put their minds to it. This is equal parts encouraging and frustrating and it will likely continue to be so until the season’s final buzzer sounds, whenever that may be. San Antonio’s identity is that they are an enigma. A shapeshifter. Confidently competent one night, a messy puddle the next. Any hope that Popovich and his crew would be able to iron out some sort of strategy to make the best version of the Spurs stick around in perpetuity this year is probably foolish at this point. There’s just not enough time. The Spurs are the Spurs are the Spurs.

So, for at least one more night all was well. We’ll see what happens next.


  • It just isn’t going to work against a lot of teams but I really like the look and feel of how the Spurs play with Jakob Poeltl in the starting lineup alongside LaMarcus Aldridge. Something about having the two of them out there is comforting. It’s like we’ve jumped into a time machine and landed back in a simpler time when grabbing some boards, setting some picks and knocking down a few mid-range jumpers was all part of an honest days work in the National Basketball Association. None of this fancy pace and space shenanigans. No taking 50 threes in a game. Just good, clean basketball. The way your grandad used to make it. It does seem like having a sturdy backline gives our guys a little more confidence on defense and allows them to be aggressive without worrying about giving up easy buckets. I don’t think it’s a question that this starting lineup is the Spurs best version of its defensive self and it will be fascinating to see how much Pop decides to play it and who he decides to play it against.
  • Thankfully, Bryn Forbes didn’t look any worse for wear after the knock he took Wednesday. It’s been really nice to watch as the season has progressed and Bryn’s flourished without having the burden of running the offense weighing him down. He looks like a point guard, but that position really doesn’t do his skillset justice. It’s obviously great when his shot if falling from deep, but he’s also shown an incredible amount of skill getting into the lane and finishing with touch. He makes this shot from the 4th quarter look easy, but it takes an incredible amount of body control to hang in the air and kiss it off the glass from that distance and angle.
  • The notion that Derrick White is the more important member of the Spurs lineup started out as a whisper and has been gradually growing into a shout recently. There’s simply no one else on the team who can recreate all the things he brings to the table. Rudy can sort of fill in for DeMar. Jakob can sort of fill in for LaMarcus. Patty can sort of fill in for Bryn. No one can go out there and do a passable impression of Derrick. His confidence in his own defensive ability has gotten stronger by the game to the point where it doesn’t seem like he bats an eye at any assignment and his capacity to affect the offense in a myriad of positive ways continues to astound. He’s playing well beyond his years and the Spurs need him to keep doing so.
  • It seems written in the stars that the Spurs and the Thunder are going to see each other in the playoffs this season and, if they do, I think it would be incredible. Both teams play a sort of bruising, semi-throwback style that matches up in very cool ways. LaMarcus and Steven Adams battling it out down low would be fun. DeMar DeRozan and Paul George trading buckets would be fun. Derrick White attempting to tame the monster that is Russell Westbrook would be fun. It all just seems fun, you know? Of course, I mean that from a strictly objective point of view. As a fan, any and all playoff matchups seem hyper stressful, impossible, and pretty much the opposite of fun. Remind me why we watch this sport again?
  • MARCO WATCH: Marco’s best play of the night came in the first quarter when he deftly slid into the lane and super athletically bobbled the ball roughly one thousand times before “passing” it off the backboard into the safety of LaMarcus Aldridge’s hands for an easy layup. Marco is, for the most part, always making things up on the fly and this play was emblematic of the attitude that something good can come out of anything. When life give you lemons out on the wing, blindly drive into the lane and make lemonade. I know this play is silly, and I know it’s crazy to try and assign it some sort of virtue when the “reality” is that an out of control weirdo almost turned it over and the Spurs got lucky. Here’s the thing though. Plays like this give me hope. They buoy my spirit. Basketball isn’t some algorithm where you plug numbers into the formula, sit back, and see what the outcome is. Basketball is sweat and blood and tears. It’s human beings constantly scraping against the limits of their own abilities in an attempt to wrest some semblance of control away form the chaos of life. Marco doesn’t fear the chaos. He is the chaos. He shepherds it into the game and embraces it like an old friend. This play isn’t a series of mistakes. This play is a miracle. Rejoice in it.