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What we learned from the Spurs win against the Cavaliers

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The Cavs had no answer for the Spurs’ offense, nor did they care.

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The new NBA draft lottery rules give the bottom three teams equal odds of landing the top pick in the NBA draft. With the Cleveland Cavaliers having already clinched one of the bottom three records, they have no reason to tank. They also have no reason to win. Playing a team in this position can be highly unpredictable, as a team playing without consequence tends to play more freely than a team with a lot on the line. The flip side is that there’s no real force driving them to overcome any level of adversity throughout the game.

The San Antonio Spurs, on the other hand, have a lot to play for. They are playing to prepare for the playoffs and improve their playoff position while simultaneously trying to stay healthy.

It’s weird. There’s no other way to put it. I wanted to feel excited about the game, I really did. After all, it was an important game — for the Spurs.

Patty Mills and Bryn Forbes were out there making it rain from deep. Davis Bertans was scoring from all areas of the court, giving me hope he’s realizing that it doesn’t have to be three points or nada. Jakob Poeltl and Derrick White were hosting a block party. For the first time in what seems like forever, the Spurs put together back-to-back games of shooting better than 40 percent from deep. I want to believe all of this means something.

Like, I really want to believe. I know the role players are going to have to perform well in order for the Spurs to have any playoff success. But is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

The Spurs fared much better on the boards this time around against the Cavaliers. To be fair, 28 year old Tristan Thompson wasn’t on the court because he was resting. Resting for what? I’m not sure exactly. Was he resting from the 21 minutes he played on Friday? Is he resting for the playoffs? What year is it again? Did LeBron James decide the West was too hard and he took his talents back to Cleveland?

The Cavaliers were mostly without the services of Kevin Love as well, as he came off the bench and played a grand total of twelve minutes. While this may sound strange, I learned that it was Channing Frye Night at the Quicken Loans Arena, so Frye got the starting nod. Conspiracy theorists out there are already trying to figure out why the Spurs had Manu Night against the Cavaliers and the Cavaliers had Channing Frye Night against the Spurs. It’s hard to take a game too seriously when the opposing team tackles one of their players out of joy towards the end of a game they are getting blown out in.

In fact, the previous two games against the Cavaliers and the Washington Wizards have kind of felt like watching a child make a basket against a father who’s not trying. The child gets to win and everybody is happy, but we all know what’s really going on. Maybe I’m just old school, and maybe this is why I don’t yet have children, but this is how a father should play defense against his son.

The Cavaliers started the game by looking like a team that was trying. They doubled LaMarcus Aldridge in the post on multiple occasions, and the Spurs’ offense struggled somewhat as a result. At some point the Cavaliers just stopped this tactic, because why not? I still haven’t learned whether or not the Spurs can effectively play out of the double-team, and it’s looking like I won’t have an answer until the playoffs.

One thing I do know for sure is that the Spurs have a very good offense and the Cavaliers have a terrible defense, even when at full strength. The Spurs were able to exploit the Cavaliers deficiencies and put the game away long before the fourth quarter began. This allowed the minutes of the Spurs’ starters to hover around 30 for the second straight game. Whether or not the good vibes we’ve been feeling on the court the past couple games will translate in the playoffs, the Spurs have done what they needed to do during this stretch of games. One more win like tonight against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday should at least ensure the Spurs’ players are rested heading into the playoffs.

Takeaways

  • One thing I have yet to learn this season is what constitutes a shooting foul, and now I have to worry about what constitutes a technical foul as well? After watching Pop get thrown out against the Denver Nuggets and Rudy Gay’s technical against the Cavaliers, I’m genuinely confused. The Refs are trying to take back control of the game and are overcorrecting as a result. I blame the Golden State Warriors.
  • So Poeltl can’t make a free throw but he can make this? I don’t play a whole lot of basketball, but I definitely find the short shot from the baseline to be the most difficult shot to make.
  • MARCO WATCH: Only Marco could literally disappear in the first half of a game and metaphorically disappear in the second half. With two straight scoreless games — three counting his DNP against the Wizards — Marco is starting to become too familiar with bagels. Either his hip issue is more serious than we thought and Pop should consider resting him against the Mavs, or he should consider a low-carb diet on game nights.
  • PATTY WATCH: No really, Cedi Osman should have been watching out for Patty.