In the immediate aftermath of an intense playoff game, it’s sort of difficult to sift through exactly what it was we just watched.
Was that good? Did I enjoy it? Are we having fun yet?
You can’t really nail down the flow of anything and the memories fly around in your head like some hyperactive six year old has gotten a hold of the clicker for your internal slide projector. **click** Jakob Poeltl’s little pick and roll alley-oop was sweet. **click** Marco was sort of stressing me out. **click** Man, the Nuggets couldn’t hit anything **click** IT SURE SEEMS LIKE THE NUGGETS COULDN’T MISS SOMETIMES. **click** Did....Derrick White just end Paul Millsap’s whole career? **click** Wait, is it over already?
It all runs together into a weird little mass of content that I’m sure we’ll spend the next few days untangling, picking apart, and rearranging into something resembling a narrative that makes sense. Should Denver feel good because they missed so many open shots and still kept it close or should they panic because they let one slip away at home? Are the Spurs happy to have gotten a win with their star players not quite at their best or is their substandard play a distressing omen of things to come? The first game of a playoff series always seems to invite more questions than answers and, honestly, it’s pretty rude. We probably won’t be able to tell what we actually thought about Game 1 until at lest two days after Game 2 and by then we’ll have a whole host of other things to worry about. The Playoffs are not easy on the brain of a fan.
In theory, these are the games we live for. We spend all this time watching the regular season and following along during the summer and reading the scouting reports on random 2nd round draft picks all in the name of being here, right now, cheering on a team when the games really matter. This is supposed to be the reward. This is supposed to be fun.
So let’s forget for a second about trying to figure out what we know. Let’s instead focus on how we feel. Are we feeling good?
I think so. I feel good about getting that win. I feel good that the Spurs can just win the series at home now. I feel good knowing that the young guys on this team aren’t even a little bit scared. I feel good that DeMar got to see himself find a way to lead this team to a playoff victory even when he wasn’t shooting the ball well. I feel good that Popovich still has a few tricks up his sleeve.
Last year’s playoff run saw the Spurs valiantly attempting to fire a handgun into a hurricane and, save for a few heroic moments from Manu, it was a pretty sad affair all together. The outcome was pretty much set in stone from the get go and each game was just a steady march through to our inevitable doom at the hands of a juggernaut. Not fun.
This is not that series. Here are two teams that have a lot talent, a lot of heart, and lot of incentive to find a way to win. They are as capable of making incredible, jaw dropping plays as they are of making boneheaded mistakes that cost their teams dearly. These guys are going to battle each other up and down the court for 48 minutes and they are going blow our minds and break our hearts and have us all ready to sit down and do it over again two days later.
The Spurs are up one game in a hyper-competitive series. It feels good.
We’ll figure the rest out later.
- I desperately wanted DeMar DeRozan to come out in this game and emphatically shove every single snarky “Game 1 playoff choker” narrative in the world’s face. I wanted him to drop 50 or snag a triple double or drain a buzzer beater. I wanted so badly for him to have a piece of definitive proof that he could use to lock those memories in a box, set them on fire, and never think about them again. This game was...not that. However! It also wasn’t bad. He didn’t do anything egregiously terrible and he certainly didn’t have an eye-gougingly bad stat line like his buddy Kyle Lowry put up earlier in the day. In a way, I actually think this was exactly the kind of night that DeMar needed to open his Spurs playoff account. He didn’t shoot the ball well, but in lieu of that he was able to assert his will on the game in a myriad of other ways. He pushed the pace, found open guys, was super aggressive on the boards and, in spite of his lousy shooting stats, he still managed to lead the team in scoring. He was a playmaker all night and he was a threat that the Nuggets were forced to pay attention to. Rudy Gay, Derrick White, and Bryn Forbes wouldn’t have been able to go off like they did if DeMar had nervously disappeared into the background. Maybe this wasn’t the emphatic mission statement we were all hoping for, but there’s hope that this performance will to lead to bigger and better things for DeMar and the Spurs down the line.
- I’m at a loss for words to describe how incredible the young backcourt guys for the Spurs were in this game. All season long this team has been forced to lean pretty heavily on the likes of Bryn Forbes and Derrick White and all season long they’ve managed to answer the bell beyond our wildest dreams. But the whole time, there’s been this nagging thought that maybe, just maybe, come playoff time they might not be able to replicate the magic. I think it’s safe to say we can move on and worry about something else. They both came out and played with a toughness and intensity that belies their years and it was breathtaking to watch. If this is what they’re going to bring to the table every game then the Spurs might really have a stew going.
- Nikola Jokic is such a strange human to watch play the game of basketball. He’s so big and he gives off the impression that he’s just lumbering down the court like a bull in a china shop at all times and then...all of a sudden, he shifts into this swift and nimble sprite of a man with pin point accuracy and eyes in the back of his head. Nothing about his game makes sense to me. I finished this game thinking the Spurs did a pretty decent job handling him, only to hear the announcers tell me he’d recorded a triple double and logged 14 assists. 14 assists! One Four! He had 14 assists and, to be honest, if his teammates had picked up even a little bit more of the slack he probably could’ve had 30 without breaking a sweat. What a weirdo.
- MARCO WATCH: I think we were all ready for Marco to go out on the court in the first playoff game and really go bananas. We wanted some of that good old fashioned Folk Hero stuff, ya know? The twenty points off the bench, hair on fire, which-way-is-up type of game. We were ready for that. Instead, we got “bad” Marco. Missing shots Marco. Drifting aimlessly around the court Marco. This was not one of the night’s we’ll write songs about but, if Marco has taught us anything this year, it has been patience. Not just any old patience either, but patience in the face of the absurd, random realties of our own existence on this planet. Why does the Sun keep rising every morning? Why does your knee hurt when it’s about to rain? Why does Marco think it’s a good idea to launch that shot when his feet aren’t set and he has six hands in his face? I don’t have the answers, you don’t have the answers, and Marco definitely doesn’t have the answers. The only certainty we have is that nothing is certain at all. This is the chaos Marco has embraced and this is the context with which we must understand him. He didn’t have a bad game tonight, not really anyway. He simply had another roll of the dice.
- All that said, we do have this: