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What We Learned from the Spurs loss to the Suns

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The Spurs machine got unplugged in the second quarter and it cost them.

Phoenix Suns v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

Consistency is a thing that this Spurs team seems to lack and I’m not sure how to fix that. It’s likely something that we’re all going to just have to deal with for a little while considering how young the core players are in this franchise, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it. If anything, games like Friday night’s loss to the Suns are even more maddening than if they just didn’t play well at all.

This team feels like it’s on the cusp of something special. Maybe it’s not “shock the world” special and maybe it’s not even “win a playoff series” special, but there’s something about seeing a group of guys who are finally figuring out how to play together after banging their head against the wall for so long that feels significant. Learning how to really unlock LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan finally has felt like solving one side of a Rubik’s cube and now everyone is just perilously spinning things around trying to see if they can get the rest of it worked out in time. It can be sort of breathtaking to watch except for the part where, every once in a while, it all falls to pieces for a bit.

The 2nd quarter was really just all the way baffling. It’s unreal seeing a whole NBA team forget how to basketball altogether. The Spurs had a nine point lead with 10:53 left and proceeded to just...not...do...things...for pretty much the rest of the half. Look at this Lead Tracker:

NBA.com

That’s insane. That’s up nine to down fifteen in about eight minutes. You’re almost impressed, right? Nothing seemed to work. The shots wouldn’t go in, the defense couldn’t lock anything down, and it felt like the entire thread of the game had just gotten away from them for good. Spurs beat writer Jeff McDonald provided a nice summation on twitter, “Complete list of what the Spurs are screwing up here over the past six minutes: Basically everything.” I want to say something reassuring like, “this can happen from time to time in the NBA” but it really shouldn’t. Things like this should be unacceptable.

Now, to their credit, the team showed a lot of resolve digging out of this hole for the rest of the game when they certainly didn’t have to. It would’ve been easy to call it a night, regroup, and try again on Sunday, but this team didn’t quit. They picked up the pieces and dragged this thing out all the way to the end. If a few breaks fall their way here and there then they even probably get away with the whole “completely surrender for an entire quarter” strategy. They’ve done it before and, if we’re being honest, they’ll probably do it again a few more timea before all is said and done.

I just wish they didn’t have to.

Takeaways

  • I love about 90% of Dejounte Murray’s game, but the degree to which he can’t figure out how to finish with authority at the rim is going to drive me fully off a cliff soon. It doesn’t feel fair to me that a guy who is so clearly blessed with a boundless amount of bouncy energy seems to be sapped of it right at the most important point of his drive to the basket every. single. time. He’ll make a pretty move, get past his man, and then rise up the rim...and fade a little bit off to the side and either get blocked or angle the shot weirdly off the backboard. I don’t love it. Our esteemed Editor-in-Chief, J.R. Wilco, mentioned to me recently the idea that Popovich needs to sit him down and just show him VHS tapes of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili finishing at the rim and I think it’s the best idea. Frankly, if they don’t have him strapped into a chair A Clockwork Orange style all summer I’ll be upset. Surrender and you’ll find meaning, Dejounte!
  • DeMar DeRozan, on the other hand, appears to have no problems finishing in the lane and I think that’s great.
  • Derrick White is making himself virtually indispensable on defense which has resulted in significantly more time for him on the floor down the stretch paired up with the likes of Dejounte Murray and (sometimes) Lonnie Walker IV. This is exciting! I’m not super into the idea that guys essentially have to force Pop’s hand by exceeding expectations to an unreal degree just to get playing time we all thought they should be having anyway but, hey, we’re all just playing the hand we’re dealt with right now. This block of Devin Booker, one of four he had on the night by the way, is probably the only video from the 2nd quarter that we shouldn’t have burned.
  • The Spurs shot 5-25 from beyond the arc in this one and that’s probably not going to cut it. But! They are continuing to let it fly from out there and they are continuing to run an offense that sets those shots up even when things aren’t exactly falling their way. That’s encouraging news on a night that was somewhat bereft of good tidings. I’ve loved the way they’ve been playing basketball during this recent stretch and the main thing keeping me up at night is this fear that they might get nervous and just revert back to the old-Spurs at the first sign of trouble. Going 5-25 is for sure one of those “signs of trouble” but, for the most part, it seems like everyone is sticking the plan for now. Yay for that. Now I can go back to losing sleep for other reasons.
  • TIM DUNCAN FIT WATCH: Longtime readers of TDFW will know how I feel about Timmy’s black jacket-grey pant combo so I don’t feel the need to rehash all of that here. Suffice it to say, there were no extraordinary fireworks in the fashion department on the Spurs bench Friday night. In light of that, I feel like it’s a good time talk about the pregame look Tim has cultivated. It’s very weird and very specific. Before every game, Tim goes out for shoot around rocking a sleeveless black hoodie over a long sleeve white t-shirt and a pair of the Spurs urban camo game shorts. He has a fascination with these shorts dating back all the way to their inception that honestly has me at a loss. I know the Spurs were wearing the camo uniforms last night, but Tim wears these shorts all the time. He just loves them and I can’t totally figure out why. Don’t get me wrong though, the ensemble itself is actually pretty cool looking. It’s very much the type of thing that can look dumb unless you have juuuuuust the right amount of swagger to pull it off and I think that Tim, for all of his baby-deer-on-ice fashion sensibilities when it comes to wearing suits, is 100% in his element when it comes to more casual, athletic attire. I have the utmost faith that one day he’s going to be sitting on the sideline oozing with this kind of casual confidence in a bespoke suit as well, it’s just a matter of time. Fashion, much like life, is a journey.
Phoenix Suns v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images