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What we learned from the Spurs Game 6 win over the Nuggets

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The good version of the Spurs shows up to keep the season alive

NBA: Playoffs-Denver Nuggets at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

At the end of the day, this is really all we wanted to see, right?

We wanted to see the Spurs acknowledge that their backs were against the wall and act accordingly. Lose the game, if you must, but don’t go out there and let them have it. In spite of all the new faces, this is still the Spurs after all. The Fiesta colors are still popping. The Baseline Bum’s are still getting rowdy. There’s five banners hanging in the rafters for a reason. We’ve got mojo, we’ve got history, we’ve got mystique, AND It was Tim Duncan’s freakin’ birthday. The prospect of waltzing into the AT&T Center on Thursday and closing out a series should be beyond the realm of possibility, regardless of who’s donning the Silver & Black. Game 7 will likely be decided on talent, but Game 6 was always going to come down to heart.

The Spurs fought hard in this game. Putting aside any frustrations we might have that, for some cruel and inexplicable reason, we can’t seem to coax this particular performance out of them every single night, this was about as well as the Spurs can play and it’s reassuring to know they didn’t forget how to do it. Our two stars were in their element, running the show and putting up huge numbers. Our role players came through, filling the gaps and hitting their marks. Every person who stepped on the court was hustling and flying around and getting every little edge they possibly could all night. The result speaks for itself.

Even when the score got close at times, largely on the back of an otherworldly showing from Nikola Jokic, this game never felt close. Not really. The Spurs were in control from the jump and finished the game comfortably up double digits. I absolutely hang out on the more nervous end of the Spurs fan spectrum and even I slowed down my anxious pacing somewhere around the middle of the 3rd quarter when it became readily apparent that DeMar DeRozan was incapable of missing shots anymore. They were dominant and it was nice, if only for a moment, to luxuriate in how good this team can be at least one more time.

The fatal flaw of the 2018-19 Spurs team has been, and might always be, consistency. I know it, you know it, and I’m sure the guys in the locker room know it too. They are Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. A few days ago, on this very same court against this very same team, they put up one of the most abysmal shooting performances I’ve ever seen. For about three straight quarters they were allergic to the concept of a ball falling through the hoop. It was madness. Then on Thursday night they came out and shot a ruthless 57% from the field. Their efficiency in the mid-range knew no bounds and they went ahead and knocked 10 threes down for good measure.

It’s probably too late to fix whatever it is that makes the Bad Spurs show up from time to time. That’s going to be an off-season problem. Instead, we’re going to have to just keep riding this wave right up until we fall all the way off it. Either the shots are going to fall or they won’t. That’s life.

I want them to keep playing and keep fighting. I want them to go to Denver and finish these guys off. I really want to see us go toe to toe with the Blazers and I can’t wait to get a crack at the Clippers in the Conference finals. I’m as amped up about the Spurs chances as I’ve ever been and I realize that’s as thrilling as it is ludicrous. Look, I have no idea what’s going to happen in Game 7, but I know that when I think back on this year’s Spurs I will always remember this Game 6. They had every opportunity to roll over and let this series go gently into that good night and instead they came out in front of our fans and put on a show worthy of the name across on their chest.

The Good Spurs didn’t show up for this game, the Real Spurs did.

Takeaways:

  • I’m on the record as not necessarily being a fan of when DeMar DeRozan goes into hero-ball mode, but I should probably go ahead and clarify that it only really bums me out when it’s not working. That was not the case Thursday night. DeRozan’s performance in the 3rd quarter was as enthralling as anything else in basketball. You could see him playing with a little extra jump in his step because he just knew that he was feeling it. Every single shot looked pure from the moment it left his hands. To a certain extent, I can really empathize with DeMar when I see him pressing or forcing the issue like he did at times in Game 5. He can feel the team struggling to score points and he so desperately wants to help in the best way he knows how. You can almost hear him saying, “just let me get hot, I got this, I know I do” because he’s seen it happen before. He knows he’s capable of lighting the world on fire if he can just get a few shots to start falling. DeMar is an amazing competitor and I think he’s made huge strides this year in picking his spots and elevating his teammates. He doesn’t have to be a hero all the time anymore but it’s still pretty awesome when he gets to be.
  • LaMarcus Aldridge has played pretty well in this series and he was incredible in Game 6. It’s almost frustrating how much his night was overshadowed by Jokic’s explosion but, seeing as this is a Spurs blog, we’re gonna go ahead and shine a light on the big fella. Like DeMar, he just has an extra bounce in his step when he knows early on that the jumper is going to be there for him. I love how he’s evolved his game to where, when he doesn’t have his shot, he just gets down low and grinds out positive plays for the team, but a vintage, breezy outing from Aldridge will always be a sight to behold.
  • The most interesting subplot of the game to me was that the Spurs sort of turned Denver’s strategy right back at them. The made Jokic work for his 43 points, sure, but their main focus was to not let any of Denver’s shooters get hot in any way, shape, or form. The whole Spurs defense was busy flying around and getting in their faces just like Denver’s guys have gone out of their way to keep the Spurs sharpshooters at bay. Off the top of my head, I don’t really think I can ever remember watching two teams deploy the exact same strategy at each other in a playoff series and it’s kind of weird. Game 7 is just going to be like watching a two knights in a jousting competition.
  • I’m going to say this right here, right now. Don’t give up on Patty Mills. I know he was the one Spur who couldn’t really get it going in G6, but he was secretly kind of great in this game. He was the poster boy for the amped up intensity and speed that the Spurs bench played with and his pace kept the Nuggets off-kilter all night. His threes weren’t falling but they weren’t bad shots. It was lot of near misses. Once again: Don’t give up on Patty Mills. I don’t know how, and I don’t know why, but I know we’re going to hear from him in Game 7.

MARCO WATCH:

Let’s hear it for the boy.
Let’s give the boy a hand,
Let’s hear it for my baby,
you know you’ve got to understand.

Near the end of the 2nd quarter, with the game tied at 54, Patty Mills grabbed a rebound and raced down the court. As the Nuggets scrambled back to try and prevent an easy transition bucket, Marco sidled up the court with that look in his eye. You know the one. It’s a mischievous gleam that has been largely missing in this series but made a glorious return on this particular play. Patty crossed into the middle of the court and dropped the ball back to Marco out on the wing. Poor Gary Harris, unaware that he was already deep in Marco’s web, instinctively jumped out to try and contest the shot. Marco was already full into his dance though. He caught the pass with a full head of steam, launching himself forward and pirouetting around and through Harris’s outstretched hand having sent the ball flying off on it’s own special journey. He finished the play on his butt, with his back facing the basket and his face beaming up at his flabbergasted defender who was still coming to grips with having given the master the three free shots he so desperately craved. This was more like it from Marco. Obviously we want Marco draining threes, it’s literally why we hired him, and he did that in this game. But plays like this are the edge that he brings to the table. This is the secret weapon.

And Maybe he sings off key,
But that’s alright with me,
because what he does, he does so well,
makes me wanna yell.
Let’s hear it for the boy.